50 years and counting
YORKVILLE — The year was 1963.
JFK was still president and Jim Rhodes just commenced his first of two tenures as Ohio governor.
It was also the year Ron Emerson became a Yorkville Village Council member. Amazingly, 50 years later, Emerson remains a councilman, experiencing no interruption of service.
A half century of political duty is rarified air. Not many politicians this side of former West Virginia senator Robert Byrd can weave such a lengthy career.
Emerson’s political life is remarkable, both in longevity and passion. He still, after five decades, wants to make a difference for his hometown.
“I was always interested in politics. A spot on council opened up in 1963 with the death of a council member. Several people wanted the seat, but I was fortunate to get the position,” Emerson said. “Nick Calabria was the mayor at that time. I have served with seven or eight mayors. After gaining my initial appointment, I have won 13 consecutive four-year terms, many times while facing opposition.”
The retired AEP human resources supervisor has no plans to toss in his political towel anytime soon.
“I really like being on village council. I want to help the people of Yorkville,” Emerson said. “My wife tells me I need to stay on council, because I speak my mind.”
Emerson is 82 years of age, looking and carrying himself much younger. He is an avid Ohio State fan, taking in many Buckeyes’ grid games, be it in Columbus or on the road. Emerson and his wife Sarah (DiNapoli) also frequently trek to OSU bowl games. He is an OSU football season ticket holder.
The Emerson home is a virtual Buckeyes’ shrine. Ohio State memorabilia can be found throughout his residence.
Golf is his other passion. In his younger days, he won many an amateur tournament.
Looking back at a half century of sitting on council, you might expect Emerson to recount a few controversies or hot-ticket issues. Not so.
After thinking a short while, Emerson said one of the toughest decisions that council had to tackle during his time was in regard to the construction of a housing project for senior citizens and low-income individuals.
“Some council members wanted to keep it a single-story building while others wanted to make it multi-level. We went with the multi-level building, and so we also had to buy a bucket truck to service the complex. It was well worth it.
“One problem we do encounter though is being a village which is located in two counties (Belmont and Jefferson),” he added. “Sometimes we feel left out by both counties. We have to work hard to get funding from them.”
When asked about some of the highlights during his council tenure, the Warren Consolidated graduate pointed out a couple of community-minded projects.
“The war memorial across from the city building is something that we worked hard on making a reality. It really is a nice memorial,” he said. “Also, the World War II cannon which sits near the memorial is also something I take great pride in,” he continued. “I was basically a one-man committee in securing it from Chambersburg, Pa. The government still owns it, but we had to go get it and haul it back. I did it in honor of my brother (George) who was killed in that war. He was barely 18 years of age.”
While many Eastern Ohio communities are feeling the financial pinch, Emerson says Yorkville is in fairly solid shape.
“We are doing OK, even though the future of the mill is uncertain. Back in 1963, the village was a beehive of activity as the mill employed up to 2,000 people,” Emerson said.
And what about his political future?
“We have a lot of good people on council. We don’t always agree, but we do what is best for the village. I have never given any serious thoughts about giving up my seat.”
Ron has three children: George in North Carolina; Charlene in Tiltonsville and Angela in Westerville.
Kapral may be reached at email@example.com