WILMINGTON — The death of longtime former Clinton County Commissioner David Bailey was publicly announced Wednesday morning during a session of the current county commissioners, appropriately enough. A moment of silence was held by the approximately 16 people there at the commissioners’ office for the proceedings of local government.
Bailey was first appointed to the Clinton County Board of Commissioners at age 33 in January 1976, when the county’s Central Republican Committee named him to fill an unexpired term. He went on to serve as a commissioner from 1976 through 1992.
He also was the executive director of the Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) for 20 years.
Even as a youth, he was active in the Republican Party, serving as president of the Wilmington High School Young Republicans Club and later as an officer of the Ohio State University Club. He was state chairman of the OSU Mock Republican Convention and a six-time delegate to the Ohio League of Young Republican Clubs conventions.
As a college student, he served three years as a legislative aide for the Ohio House of Representatives.
Later, he served as chairman of the local Republican Central Committee and as a member of the Executive Committee.
He taught government, history and economics at Wilmington High School, and was an instructor at Southern State College.
Former Clinton County Commissioner Pat Haley wrote a column for the News Journal in April 2017 in which he reflected on his long friendship with Bailey. Haley wrote, in part:
“Our professional relationship spans 41 years, and my acquaintance with him even further — to his time as senior class president, in the infancy of my underclassman days.
“On a warm evening in May, the graduation speaker in 1960 told graduating senior David Emmett Bailey and his Wilmington High School classmates, ‘Go to college to be equipped for the coming age of specialization and automation. The better educational background you have the easier it will be for you to make a livelihood.’
“Dave took the speaker’s advice and journeyed to the banks of the Olentangy, to the holy fields of the Horseshoe, where he majored in economics and embraced student politics and the fruits of campus life. His politics were Republican, his faith was in politics, and in fact, he had pictures of Nixon in his dorm.
“One fall afternoon as the orange leaves fell and the fragrance of football dabbed the air, Dave was sitting on a campus bench as a young girl from Oakwood walked by. She was the prettiest girl Dave had ever seen. Words could not be found by the articulate man from Wilmington for a few moments, his breath had been taken away.
“Finding his voice and good sense, he asked the pretty girl for a date.
“‘Connie was the best thing that ever happened to me,’ Dave always says. The two students from those carefree days in Columbus have enjoyed a loving and joyous marriage, a union that continues to blossom and flourish to this day.
“Life brought Dave and Connie back to Wilmington. He sold real estate alongside his father, Emmett Bailey, and taught the fine points of government at Wilmington City Schools, Blanchester High School, and Wilmington College, where he became a beloved teacher to his students and a practical joker to the teachers.
“It wasn’t long before Dave entered politics. I was a young deputy sheriff, and one frosty morning in January, I rolled down my cruiser window after a man called my name from across the courthouse parking lot.
“‘Pat, my name is Dave Bailey, and I am a county commissioner. I look forward to working with you,’ he said.
“The year was 1976, and I always appreciated Dave’s overture. We became good friends.
“A student of politics and government, Dave is a sought-after adviser when the political season rolls around. Many aspiring local Republicans come with hat in hand to seek Dave’s counsel and endorsement, and if victorious, frequently return for advanced lessons in government. He has proven to be a wise counselor. …”
At the courthouse on Wednesday, current Clinton County Commissioner Brenda K. Woods recalled that Bailey was one of the three-member Board of Clinton County Commissioners who gave Woods her first opportunity to work in local government as a clerk in the commissioners office.
Clinton County GOP Chairman Tim Inwood said Bailey was “a great man who did great things for Clinton County. He will be remembered with great fondness. He was a colorful character, and a dear friend. I will miss him deeply.”
Bailey was known as a vigilant watchdog on behalf of local taxpayers. So in September 2019 when he came out in favor of a new Clinton County Joint Recreation District tax levy, it surprised many.
At a community luncheon he quipped, “Normally my reaction to levies is a bad case of hives. I’ve spent most of my life fighting the damn things, but I really believe in this.”
Nancy McKay, who knew Bailey her whole life, remembers him fondly as a server to the community, a letter writer, and a family man.
“On my first day working in the commissioners’ office … David said to me ‘you’re here to serve the public.’ That has stuck in my mind to this day,” said McKay, adding she still practices the message.
She also spoke about Bailey’s nack for letter writing.
“I believe everyone in this county has received a handwritten letter or note from him,” said McKay.
And she recalled how much Bailey loved his daughters and wife.
“He adored [his wife] Connie,” she said. “Right before lunch in the commissioners’ office, he’d call up Connie to see how she was.”