Finding Family in the Archive

The following post was written by public history graduate student and Dayton Daily News Archive student worker Marcus Manchester, who stumbled upon some fascinating stories about a family member while working with the files of the DDN Archive:

A few weeks ago, I was filing something away, and I came across a folder of pictures entitled “Women Mayors.”  None of the people in the folder were recognizable to me, but I suddenly remembered that my aunt was once the Mayor of Fairborn.  So when I had a few minutes to go look, I went and found her folders [in the DDN Archive]. Her name was Georgia Hale, and she was the mayor from 1983 to 1987.  I remember her as my aunt, but in reality, she was a very close family friend who was very involved with my father when he was young.

From what my father told me, Georgia became involved in the city’s politics through her Church Council and other community activities through Fairborn.  In the late 1970’s, she ran for and was elected to the city council, which had been male only for a few years before that, according to one Dayton Daily News article that I read.  There are not many articles about her during her years as a councilwoman, but she was quoted in one article regarding the opening of an adult bookstore, which was an controversial issue for Fairborn.  The resistance to the store wanted it to be disallowed, but when asked her opinion she said, “[It] Smacks of censorship.  Who is to decide the prevailing morals of a community? …It is the responsibility of Parents and the Church to help children choose intelligently.”  She was for free speech, even if it was something that she disagreed with.  Eventually, the council created zoning restrictions for the store, placing it in an area where children did not commonly walk and restrictions for how close a store store could be to a similar establishment.  When Carl Eichelman was elected mayor, he chose Georgia as the deputy mayor, but Eichelman later died of cancer, elevating Georgia to the post of mayor a few months before the election.  In November of 1983, she was elected as the first woman mayor of Fairborn.  The next two years are rather quiet, there were few articles of interest and it did not sound like anything important was going on.  But in 1985, Georgia was elected to her second term as mayor.

The year 1985 also saw a new Councilman elected, Jack Mattachione, whose platform stated that the council was not listening to the people of Fairborn.  One of the things that I noticed at this point, right at the 1985 election, was an increase in editorials about discontent with the city council.  From the looks of the election results, this was a minority, but a significant one in Fairborn.  One editorial said about my aunt, “She has decided the city of Fairborn no longer have Freedom of speech at council meetings,” which is in direct contradiction of the quote from Georgia earlier, it also contradicts the recollections of people who knew her, who would say of her that she always heard out an opposing viewpoint.  Mattachione had the second most votes of any of the new council members. In council meetings, Mattachione would bring ordinances and provisions that the council had not discussed nor had they seen. The stated view of the rest of the council was that they would not second these motions because of the disregard for the procedure of the council; they had not worked on together in a council work session.  Council meetings with him often descended into yelling matches and the animosity grew on the council.  Nor did this change after Georgia left office. She was ineligible to run for mayor again. Councilman George Gehlauf and Mattachione ran for the office of mayor. Gehlauf won, and Mattchione retained his council seat.  The issues between Mattachione and the rest of the council continued. Gehlauf even gave a lecture on what procedure was supposed to be in the council. There were days when the council had scheduled for public discourse, but that was being disregarded for many of these provisions and ordinances.

Now, after reading as many of the articles that I could get my hands on in the archive regarding this issue, I must say that I understand where Mattachione was coming from, I understand that he and a significant minority of Fairborn’s population felt like they were not being listened to and Mattachione was the one who said that he would speak up for them and he did.  But, I think Mattachione would have gotten far more done to solve the issue if he had worked respectfully within the system in place.  The council’s procedure was to work on ordinances and provisions in work sessions, then discuss them at a public meeting  and then take a vote; this way the council knew what was coming before them. Mattachione though would bring forward provisions and ordinances that the council had not discussed or even seen, that he had written himself, which to the council was a slap in the face.  He would also bring in citizens sympathetic to his viewpoint, who would speak up and cause problems when the council did not listen to him.  To work in this manner, creates and widens rifts, it does not solve them nor does it unify the people of the city.

As I read the articles of this saga, I knew this was an interesting story, and it went beyond my aunt (the reason I found it to begin with).  While working on this, I first found my aunt’s file, then I found Jack Mattachione’s and George Gehlauf’s, and if I had more time to research, I had three or four other names that I would have gone searching for in relation to this.  In many cases, there are repeats of the same articles between these people as they are interrelated by the issues at hand, but there was plenty of information to draw from.  I learned much about my aunt that I did not know before this. She died almost 10 years ago. I wish I could talk to her about this, because it is fascinating, but all I can do is talk to the few people I can find who were close to the issue.  It shows the amount of information and the interesting stories that are waiting to be found in the Dayton Daily News Archive .

~Marcus Manchester

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