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This is an episode from my podcast \"Chasing Change\". In this episode, I interviewed the Mayor of Dayton Ohio, Nan Whaley.

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Young Adult (18-35)


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welcome everyone to chasing change where we followed the lives of individuals who have stepped outside their comfort zones in order to achieve a goal, overcome an obstacle to find ways to improve their community today. We have a very special guest with us. We have Mayor nan whaley. Her career is distinguished by her commitment to public service, civic involvement and interest in local government. First elected a Dayton City commission in 2000 and five, Nan was the youngest woman ever chosen for a commission seat. She was proud to be elected as Dayton's mayor in 2013 by double digit majority. She also ran in 2017 unopposed, making it the first uncontested race in Dayton's history. Nan has been committed to the political process in local state and national elections While in college, she served in the Ohio Chair of the College Democrats. She currently serves as a second vice president of the National Conference of Democratic Mayor's. Additionally, she is a four time delegate to the Democratic National Convention. This interview was actually recorded on March 10. So as we've seen on the news in terms of the virus itself, it's progressed quite a bit. So her answers may not be completely aligned to what is currently going on today. So I just want you to keep that in mind as you listen to this podcast. Welcome everyone. We have a very special guest with us today. We have Mayor nan whaley pronouncing that correctly. Terrific and you are currently a two term mayor. Yes. And how's that going for you so far? Well, it's been a wild seven years. So I've, I've enjoyed it and I've learned a lot and really enjoy this community. Well, I think you're doing a terrific job thus far. Thank you. Mark. What I'm wondering is, how exactly did you get into this? Did you have a passion to get into public service growing up? Well, I was elected city commissioner in, in 2005 and spent eight years as a dating city commissioner and then decided to run for mayor after those two terms. Um, yeah, I mean, I think I've always liked, enjoyed, I've really enjoyed believing that public service can make a great difference. You know, I always wanted to be a leader, so I didn't ever think I'd run for office necessarily, but decided to take the plunge. Uh, almost 15 years ago now. Terrific. What are one of the greatest accomplishments that you would say you've done thus far? I'm most excited about us passing high quality universal pre k for every four year old. We did that in 2016 and it was a vote of the voters where they supported it by 12 points. And you know, to see that in action. It's been really awesome. And what would you say would be one of the biggest obstacles that you've had to come across as mayor. Oh, definitely. Last year has been a big challenge. You know, with all the challenges that came before Dayton has been tough and you know, look, you never know what's going to come your way right now, we're working on the coronavirus and those issues. And, you know, every day is different and dealing with that, would you have any words of advice or any wash your hands, cough in your in your elbow and make sure that if you're sick, you don't come out now for any future young ladies who maybe want to get involved into politics or anything like that. What kind of words of advice or, uh, steps that you might provide for them? Well, I'd encourage them to get involved right? Like I think, you know, don't be afraid to raise your hand and lead. Uh, you know, one of the problems with women leaders is they have to be asked instead of, you know, uh, just pushing themselves out there. I think this new generation is doing more of that. So I just would encourage more of stepping forward and saying like, I want to lead this. Um, I think that's the biggest thing and that's something my generation and the generation before, I didn't really do, let's say that you were trying to get a non voter to actually participate in the voting process. How would you instill to them, like the value of actually, you know, social efficacy and joining the actual process itself. Look, I mean, they used to say this old line, If you don't vote, you can't complain. And people still complain. But I think, um, I think voting is an act of hope and and and and it's an opportunity to really say something about your community. And I think that's really important. And I think when people don't vote, it's really tough because it's this whole idea that they don't believe that they matter or that their voice doesn't really matter. And I think voting can be like, almost is such an empowering action, even when you're your person that you vote for doesn't win. And so I I, you know, I encourage people to take that empowerment. That's what that's what voting is about. Uh and further, particularly for women and people of color, people have fought and died over this, right? That's how valuable it is. And you can see in some places where they're trying to suppress this, right again, because it's so strong. So if you think about it, you have people that you have this power that is so important, that there are people trying to take it away from you, it is best to exercise it at all costs. And so that's that's really my message. I would say, you know, if you see what people are doing to try to keep people from voting, you know, and it's pretty easy to vote here in the in the state like use it because uh if you don't use it, people will start taking it away from you and we're seeing that we're seeing that sometimes here in Ohio with purging, we're seeing that definitely in the south and you know, if it wasn't so valuable they wouldn't be trying to take it away agreed. What is the wisest advice that you ever got from an elder or someone close in your life? Look, I mean, I think that give you the key is like taking the work seriously but don't take yourself too seriously. I think I've tried to live up to that. I think that's really important. And with being mayor, I mean I'm sure you're balancing on a lot of different things at once. How do you manage stress? Well, you know, I take a walk with my dog, I have a dog Louie who is a rescue dog I got last year that really helps me out. I try to make sure that we scheduled time where I have time alone. I think that's important just to recharge. Uh you know, you can work this job all the time and that's not healthy. So you know, giving yourself some space to to like read. And it's not necessarily just like laying on the couch but doing some different activities that you know, aren't necessarily like directing everything here and speaking of literature, is there any particular books that you would recommend to any listeners know, I mean I love to read. So I read everything from fiction and nonfiction and you know, I just finished Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine, which was a great fast read read, she said the month before that was about the weinstein stuff you know so it was a fiction so you know I read both I mean nonfiction so I read both nonfiction and fiction and I think you know reading a whole bunch of different ideas is great. Do you have any time for television or any shows or anything like that? I watched the March of the marvelous mrs Maisel when it comes out it's on Merit Prime and I've also seen fleabag which is great, I loved fleabag was on prime but I don't like regularly watch stuff. I mean those were like short and they come out at night Benjamin then I don't watch them again. So what about you? Uh currently I started watching Hunters, I know that recently came out and actually has Al pacino in it. So okay I haven't seen it, is it good? It's not bad. They're definitely they leave your cliffhangers just like any other show. So I'm definitely I finished it way too early. I should have took my time with it in the office. I would say The Office is definitely a classic for me. I like any kind of like dry office humor type of thing. Now what is one mistake that you can maybe share with us and your life that you kind of learn from and grew from it. Uh huh I make mistakes every day um I think uh gosh which one do I want to choose? Look, I think, you know, this past couple of years, especially last year, you know, um really tried to find some balance in my life has been really important to me. I've gotten a lot of perspective about, you know, just so much that's going on and making sure that you take the time for yourself. I think it's a mistake that I've done previously and really tried to change that and do more of the, you know, enjoying, you know, my family and those. I love a little more. I think that's really, really important. Absolutely. Outside of being mayor and we talked a little bit about your reading books. What are some of your passions? I like to read, I like my dog, I love my husband, I love my family. I mean that's about what I spend time I like to travel. Okay, what's the last place you traveled to? I was just in England this weekend. Oh, really? Yeah. For a sister city meeting. So nice. I'll actually be in France on monday. Are you still gonna go? It's shaky. But the travel costs are so low right now, are you going for, there's a wedding. So we really just wanted to take advantage of it. Plus I've never been. I know, I hope you get to go? I mean, I know, but it is like there's a lot of anxiety, especially with everything going on right now. So hopefully, Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. In terms of the elections right now, I know we've kind of narrowed it down to two individuals not counting suspended campaigns. How do you feel we're we're currently doing just as a party and like as voters do, do you feel like we should be doing more becoming more informed in certain issues? What kind of your thoughts just overall? Yeah. I mean, look, I mean, I I am am I disappointed there's only like two older guys that end up to be the nominee. Yeah. I mean, I really loved how diverse the whole that tell all the people that came forward were. But I think the focus for us is beating trump in november. And I know that we're all gonna come together to do that. And so I know there's good conversations about both candidates. I like to really bang on the drum about midsize cities in the middle of the country and who's really helping our communities because we've seen, you know, really, four decades of policy in D. C. That's been about, you know, creating these super cities on the coast instead of like really, you know, investing in the industrial midwest. And, you know, there's things that could be really helpful in doing that. And so that's the stuff I'm looking for for the candidates and with that being said, I know you definitely have some experiences that because you created the and correct me if I quote this wrong? It's the Dayton manufacturing task force, which actually, what was over for $600 million in stimulus, we did receive that from, we received this grant from I. C. M. A. The from the Obama administration. But yeah, you know, during the great recession, we recognized that people were like saying manufacturing is over and You know, 18% of the GDP here, it's really important. It's just changed, requires a lot more education and a and a higher skill set. And you know, there are less people working on and manufacturing, but they're producing more than ever before. The output is incredibly high. So, you know, that's what we do and dating ways we make things and we continue to do that. And I thought it was important for us to really, you know, leverage our voice in that effort now in terms of the election going back to that. I know that currently trump and the republican party, they like to talk the economy and how well it's doing. Maybe not this week or the past week, but what are maybe some points that you'd like to counter with that? You know, I know that we like to also use like, you know, this is also a trickle from the Obama administration, all the policies that they put forth. But what are some of the counterpoints that maybe you think the candidates should be using if they were to end up on the debate stage. Look, I mean, I think what we've seen these past four years is we've seen people, you know, the inequities get more wide and so the rich are getting much, much richer with, you know, amazing tax cuts for them and the middle class and poor are working more and making less money overall their dollars not going as far. I think that's what we see in dating a lot. You know, you see people having to have two jobs instead of one. Uh, you can see they're paving incredibly depressed compared to 15 years ago. Uh, and I think that that is, I think that's the big challenge and I think people feel it, you know, frankly, and you know, people are tired of having to work more hours to get further behind and that's definitely dating is not a wealthy town and um, I think the people of date and see that and feel that. And another thing in terms of like student loans, for example, how do you really, how do you stand on that in terms of like is a student loan cancelation or do you think maybe if certain families can afford it, that they should be able to afford? Yeah, I mean, look, I think there's, there's system, like I definitely think state education has gotten too expensive and the federal government invested in, you know, our, you know, our talent, I think that would be smart. Um, but I don't necessarily think like we should have, you know, free college for everybody. I think so, I think the associate degree should all be free for community college. I think all community college should be free nearly as here in Dayton. But I think, you know, I don't necessarily want to pay for a millionaire's um, kid to go to an ivy league school, you know, I'm not interested in that. Yeah, no, absolutely. Uh now in terms in something that I've dealt with personally is whenever you do go into college, you know, an 18 year old, you don't really understand the financial process. Absolutely. Right. What is some advice that you would give to an 18 year old going into college? Oh man. I think that's such a really good point. When I was, I took loans when I was in college. I'm very lucky because I was, Uh, I was in the era before it got so high, I really didn't understand what I was doing. And so I came out with only $27,000 in debt, which is nice. Um, paid it off all like the week before I turned 40. Uh, so, um, but that is a really big deal. And I mean, I think it's also not, I mean you're 18, you're coming out of your parents house. Do you really understand? I don't think you do. And so I think that there needs to be a lot more work of an understanding of, you know, what does this this career mean and how much money it's going to mean for you long term rather than just getting the college experience. And I think that's something we're continuing to work on here in Dayton mostly with like fast with completion. So people are able to pull down the most amount of money they can, uh, and you know, make sure that they have every opportunity shown to them, but also show like what the true cost of each opportunity is too. So I think that's really important and going along with that, have you guys ever looked into like any kind of financial literacy programs that can be introduced into high schools or even probably earlier than that just to instill those types of like ideologies and two young students? Yeah, I mean, I think the school system is doing that and so we're trying to do that. Um, you know, I think there's a lot of more work to be just, needs to be done. Uh, you know, we started working on the fast for programming where we, you know, get all of our kids in dating public to fill out the faster regardless of where they're going to school. And so we've been trying to like instill some of that work, we know that that actually increases college attendance in college completion now as mayor, What do you think are some of the more challenging aspects in terms of like budgeting and just making sure that the money is allocated in the appropriate regions. What do you mean whenever like your, because I'm sure that you kind of decide where things may go, How do you uh kind of get to that process of deciding where is this going to allocate? Is it depending on merit or is it depending maybe on like is there a particular criteria that you might be looking at? Yeah, so I mean, you know, we have to make sure first public safety and um, and people are safe and you know, so police and fire get a lot of the money that we put forward in our taxes and then, you know, making sure we invest in our community with roads and bridges and making sure that they have quality services, you know, so making sure we have good water and good trash pick up, you know, because those are the kind of services that people want to live that the local government is the government closest to the people. And so it's the, it's like if it doesn't work, people notice. And so I think that that's what's really important about it. We have to make sure it's protected and that is run efficiently and effectively. Uh, now I know that we recently, uh, we spoke a little bit about the opioid crisis that's been going on. Um, and I think you've handled it terrifically because I've also interviewed another individual who spoke about how it's declining Marcus Kincaid, he was a firefighter and E. M. T. Here in Dayton and he spoke about all the awareness programs that are going on. So first kudos to you for doing a terrific job and everyone, but how exactly did you go about tackling that issue? Look, I mean, we recognize that it was an issue and went to public health and public health convened uh amazing table with a thomas and you know, really started what we call a collective impact model where everybody is engaged. And so I think there were over 200 different organizations that came together to say, Hey, this is in our community, what are we gonna do about it? And I started like rowing all in the same direction. And I think that makes a big difference. Uh we were able, you know, with Medicaid expansion being the basis of it. So people could get treatment, you know, we want to make sure treatment was available. That was a big issue Early on in 2014 and 2015. But making sure we have that treatment available and that people can enter it no matter what, regardless if they have a job or don't have a job because honestly, if you're addicted and you want to get help, you're probably not gonna be keeping your job for a bit and you have to get that focus right. So uh yeah, so that's the work, you know, we're really proud of in 2018 we were able to cut excellent overdose deaths in half. We don't have it figured out. Uh, and you know, we're trying to treat addiction like the disease that it is. And I think that's what I want dating to be known for is that, you know, we're trying to figure that piece out and take the stigma away around addiction so we can really deal with the disease. And you know, we've had some successes, but we still have a lot more work to do now in regards to, uh, I know that we, we had like a little bit of a rally not too long ago. You know, the city for the most part, and it was great seeing the city actually come together the diverse groups and against like the hate rhetoric that was actually going on. And I saw recently they were actually trying to get back and create another. How exactly did the process go? Because I saw you take active steps to kind of keep that from, Well, you know, the county denied the permit and we're grateful for that. I'm sure they'll try to come back, you know, and reapply and you know, we'll continue to fight. They're not from here. And what they do is basically economic terrorism, which it costs the community a ton of money. Uh, and you know, spews rhetoric that, um, causes our community be unsafe. I mean, when you see last year, while there was no arrest, we had a ton of police out and there were 75 assault weapons, you know, with people just wandering around downtown with assault weapons. It's not safe. And so, you know, we want to and that doesn't happen normally and it does when someone like that comes into your town. So, you know, we're trying to make sure our community stays safe and that's our biggest priority, as I mentioned before now, in terms of, let's say, like if you were not in public office or anything and you have to dedicate your life to one social, cause what's something that kinda sticks on top of your head there? Um I think I would dedicate my time to uh the advocating for women and Children. I think that there's still a long way to go on that work. And typically, particularly Children are forgotten quite often and we don't give um we don't let women make their own choices enough in this country. And so and also women's leadership. So I think that would be with a place that I put my effort in now. What is just to kind of spin it a little bit, What is a quote that kind of stands out to me? It may be your own quote or quote that someone may have said to you that really sticks out. Um look, I keep quotes in the back of my book. I think my favorite quote right now is from teddy Roosevelt. It's, you know, it's not the critic who counts. It's about, it's a really long quote. Um but it's about being in there. No, I don't like the whole page, but it's about being in the arena. I mean seriously a whole page, but it's about like basically it starts with it's it's not the critic who counts, but it's about the people that decide to fight and even if they get beat, um they were in the arena and that whole idea that, you know, Spectators can point and say you did this wrong or that wrong, but if you unless you were willing to put yourself out there and really fight for what you believe in and that's really all that matters. And so, you know, I think that's that's one that I definitely resonate with real. It's very real now. What do you think is the most important topics coming up in the general election that people in the local community should be focused on? Look, I think it's I don't like I'm not going to tell people what to focus on. I think what they are focused on is getting better pay and making sure that their costs aren't going out of control, like healthcare costs or costs of prescription drugs, like, you know, that eats into the little money they have anyway, so I think that, you know, getting paid better and then keeping costs down on those kind of um those kind of things that you have to, you have to buy like prescription drugs or insulin etcetera. So I think those are the big issues and for young people, I think it's you know, not starting out so far in debt that um you don't even wanna, you don't know how to ever get ahead or buy a house, you know, and really put down roots. So I think those are the two and it all has to do with getting paid well for both. Uh no matter what age you are and making sure that um you don't have to go in debt to live and I think those are the big issues. What are some of your favorite places here in Dayton? I love all of Dayton. So you know, I try not to say this is my favorite place. Okay. No, I didn't want to put you on that one. Alright, well is there any message that you want to send out to anyone? Uh I know that you kind of touched on exactly what people should be focusing on, which I completely agree. But is there any departing message that you'd like to leave with anyone who may be listening? Yeah. Life advice. Yeah. I just would say like especially in this year's election, like no matter you know what you decide to do, like make sure you vote. I mean it's just completely here. You have a group of people that are trying to take that right away, use your voice and I recognize some people say, well not voting as an action to, but you know, I think especially for young people, it's, you know, there's a lot of big decisions that are made in the next four years and whatever decision you make on who you vote for, I think you should really make sure that uh you're part of the collective that makes that decision. So that that's what I implore people to do. Okay. And I just have one more question uh for anyone who may be looking for factual information out there, whether it be online or because there's so much conflicting information, how would you advise them to go about doing? So look, I think make sure that you you take your media from a trusted news source and that could be, you know, the new york times, it could be um you know, your local news station, that is the better way to get your news and know that every every news thing hasn't, there is no non bias, there's always a bias, but that doesn't mean it's not factual. And I think that that's I think what's really important, Please do not just read that you read it on facebook somewhere. Like look to see where it's coming from and true. Like, I mean, I read stuff from the new york post. I take it with a different grain than if I read it from the new york times, you know, uh and then also I would say support local journalism. It's really important to our community that we have local journalists looking on issues that affect people the most, which is their local community. And so like read the Dayton Daily News, subscribe to the Dayton Daily News. Pay attention to your local journalism. Thank you so much. Thank you. Thanks for coming over. I appreciate it. Okay, Thank you for joining me on another episode of chasing change. If you or anyone, you know, have a story, you'd like to share a message me at Shimano 89 on Instagram and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Have a blessed day and I wish you luck and the change you were chasing. Mhm, mm hmm.