Bittersweet exit for Mayor Fess

PIQUA — With three possible open seats on the Piqua City Commission and Mayor Lucy Fess deciding not to run for re-election, the city of Piqua can expect some changes in the faces of its local government.

“It’s time,” Fess said, adding that she went back and forth trying to decide if she wanted to run again.

“I’ve been hanging around the city for over 20 years,” Fess said. She has served 12 years as commissioner and 10 years as mayor. “It’s time for me to spend time with my family,” said Fess, who serves the fifth ward. Fess said she believed that the fifth ward will be well-represented in her absence.

Fess also worked for the city for five years in economic development, which was one of her favorite and most challenging roles she has played in serving the city. One of the biggest projects that she worked on was bringing Walmart into the space where the old Piqua mall was on Ash Street.

“Every time you could bring a company in … that was exciting,” Fess said.

“It’s my hometown,” Fess said. “You want to see it succeed. I’ve seen … when everything was wonderful and great in the ’50s and ’60s. And then you hit a time where you have industries that have left.”

Fess explained that the industries Piqua lost did not last due to changes in that particular field or technology.

“Like Miller Meteor. They don’t make that type of ambulance anymore, and they don’t process meat like they did at Decker’s,” she said. “Most of it just because those particular industries did not continue on. They kind of lost their place in the world.”

Despite the city having lost some industries in the past, Fess still expresses positivity about Piqua and optimism about the future.

“They’re Piqua people who started their business here and have continued to increase and enlarge it. And they’re very tied to the community. So consequently, they’re there to support projects and things that go on in the community.”

To Fess, economic development “is one of the most misunderstood jobs” in the city.

“There’s many, many [reasons] for the success or not being successful at economic development,” Fess said. “One of the things is that we don’t have shovel-ready land that we control here in the city of Piqua.”

That means that if a manufacturer comes looking at Piqua as a possible location for his or her business, Piqua does not already have the land secured or infrastructure in place. It also means attempting to buy land from farmers who may not want to give up their land or who may want more money for their land than what is affordable.

“We’re working very, very hard on that,” Fess said.

In connection with the economic development aspect of the city, Fess said that she is going to miss being a part of the action as city projects continue to take shape.

“We have so many great projects going on right now that are going to come to fruition in the next year or two,” she said. “And I’ll be gone. I won’t be in office.”

Fess believes that she will be present in some manner to watch these projects unfold.

“Things are really beginning to happen here in Piqua,” Fess said. “I really think that we are on an upward trajectory that I haven’t seen in a lot of years here in Piqua. The projects that are on the table, the things that beginning to happen, and the changes that are coming, I think we’re going to be very, very good in the future.”

From the new Water Treatment Plant being built to the new wastewater facility, Fess stated that Piqua is improving what it has to provide residents. Piqua also turned around the old hospital issue, creating an opportune space for a new school to be built that the Piqua Board of Education was able to make happen.

“We have a lot of things to offer in the city,” Fess said.

Fess said that she also enjoyed working on the commission, considering herself a lifelong “cheerleader” for Piqua.

“It’s nice to be able to represent your city,” Fess said about being mayor. “To have someone contact you with an issue or a problem and to be able to help them solve that, that’s really rewarding.”

Fess has also enjoyed the support of her family throughout her career.

“They’ve been wonderful,” Fess said. About her husband, Bob Fess, she added, “My husband just winds me up and pushes me out the door.”

For Fess, while it may be time for her to spend more time with her family of many grandchildren, step-grandchildren, and a great-grandchild, it was still a bittersweet decision.

“I was born here,” Fess said. “It’s my hometown. I’ve seen over the years the changes, good and bad. And to be able to be a part of making this a great place to live, that, to me, is very important.”

The first, second, and fifth ward spots are open on the Piqua City Commission. Commissioner John Martin is of the first ward, and Commissioner Bill Vogt is of second ward. Those who wish to run for mayor must also be elected to the commission.

Fess encouraged residents to consider running for election.

“It’s so rewarding,” she said.

Fess explained that a knowledge of business would help, but it is still a learning curve no matter the perspective that someone is coming from. What is also important is a person’s ability to connect with the other residents.

Those who wish to run need to pick up a petition at the Miami County Board of Elections Office. Candidates need at least 50 good signatures of registered voters. The petitions need to be turned in Aug. 5.