Over 20 years before she was elected mayor of Dayton, Ohio, Nan Whaley was already developing her leadership skills.
The 1994 Immaculate Conception Academy (now Oldenburg Academy) graduate recalls, "I was class president every year and vice president of Student Council senior year. I also was active on the student newspaper." The daughter of Joe and Ann Whaley lived in the dorms while attending school there as she was from Mooresville.
"My favorite memories were being in the musical 'Godspell,' and I also found my love of 'Pride and Prejudice' in Mrs. (Monica) Yane's English literature class. I also loved playing viola in orchestra."
"I attended the University of Dayton (Ohio) and earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry. I earned my master's degree in public administration from Wright State University," which is also in Dayton, Ohio.
Her interest in politics stemmed from her parents' involvement. "My mom was always politically active. When I was a freshman at ICA, my mom ran for state auditor and was the clerk-treasurer of my small town. My dad was active in his union. Their activism in policy and government helped me understand the difference you can make by getting active.
"While in college, I started the UD College Democrats and was the president of the organization. During that time, I was the state chair of the College Democrats of Ohio. After college, I worked as the assistant to the Montgomery County auditor and the executive director of the Montgomery County Democratic Party. When I was 29, I was the youngest woman ever elected to the Dayton City Commission, where I served two terms before being elected mayor."
Whaley has lived in Dayton, which has a population over 140,000, for about 23 years. "I was elected mayor ... in 2013. I'm proud to be Dayton's second female mayor, and I'm the first mayor in Dayton's history to run unopposed for re-election" this year.
"Being mayor of Dayton is the best job in the world! I love Dayton, and it's been the thrill of a lifetime to work hard every day to make our city more competitive, more inclusive and an even better place to live and work."
"We turn our challenges into opportunities. For example, just like so many Midwestern cities, Dayton has seen a decline in our traditional manufacturing industry. So we established a manufacturing task force to develop and identify high-tech manufacturing opportunities and build upon our legacy of innovation. Now we're attracting the high-tech jobs of the future."
She reveals some of her accomplishments:
• "We cut Dayton's unemployment by half by spurring over $1 billion in investment in our city and creating jobs;
• "We passed an initiative to provide high-quality, universal pre-K for every single 4-year-old in Dayton; and
• "We were the first city in the state to provide paid parental leave for our city workers."
The 41-year-old says she enjoys every single day. "On every street and at every meeting, I talk to and work with the people I was elected to serve. Improving the lives of people in Dayton is what drives me. It isn't just my job, it's my passion."
She has also taken on a new venture by throwing her name in the hat for governor of the Buckeye State. "Too many Ohioans feel forgotten, invisible and ignored by their elected leaders in Columbus. Ohio needs a governor who takes action, leads with her values and takes a stand on what matters most to our communities ... (and) who's ready to act boldly, who gets it done and who isn't afraid to face our challenges head-on."
"Growing up, my dad worked at the GM plant that sent trucks to Dayton for final assembly. My mom was always active in our community and served as an elected leader. I am very close with my family and enjoy spending time with my parents; my brother, David, and his wife, Emily; and my nephew, Teddy; and niece, Abby.
"I met my husband, Sam, in 2002 when we were both volunteering on a political campaign. Sam and I recently celebrated our 10-year wedding anniversary.
"My husband and I love to travel. We also like to play games like bridge and mahjong."
The mayor's advice for high school students is "get involved in your community, and you can make a lasting and positive impact. The sooner you take action, the more opportunities you'll have. Your opinions, insight and voice truly matter."
She adds, "Look before you leap, but leap anyway!"
Diane Raver can be contacted at email@example.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 114.