WILMINGTON — You can watch Mike Curry think, but you won’t hear him do it.
He gets a far-away look in his eyes and will sometimes leave his mouth slightly open, sometimes pursed, but he doesn’t typically think out loud.
“I listen,” he says, pointing to his right ear.
“If we call for public input, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to stand there and tell them my thoughts,” he said. “I think it’s better to listen and try to get a consensus of everybody instead of trying to push something forward.”
That’s a philosophy that has guided Curry through nine years as a trustee of Liberty Township and, at the end of 2016, 16 years as a Clinton County commissioner. After what will be a quarter century of service, he won’t seek re-election.
He thanked his family, the officials he’s worked with and the voters who put him there, but said, “It’s time to move on. It’s time for somebody else to have their shot at it.”
He believes the county is better than when he took office as a commissioner in 2000.
“If you take a snapshot in time, we’ve had ups and downs,” he said. “But I think we’re recovering from the economic crisis that the whole country experienced, the crisis we experienced here.”
Curry, a third-generation farmer by trade, ran for trustee when one of the trustees was retiring.
While there, he said he helped get roads hard-surfaced, began blacktopping roads so they lasted longer and saved money for a new township building, which was built after he had become a commissioner.
Curry ran for commissioner citing a lack of communication between government entities and a lack of agreement between the commissioners.
Curry said he sat down with David Raizk, a then-Wilmington’s Democratic mayor, to improve communication and get the ball rolling on the relocation of Route 73.
When Republican Randy Riley, a former commissioner, became mayor in 2011, Curry kept the lines of communication going. He and Riley worked to form an ad hoc committee of economic development leaders, public and private, that met regularly. That committee continues to meet, four years later.
“We don’t care who gets the credit for it coming as long as it comes, as long as economic development happens,” Curry said. “It’s a good collaboration of everyone working together and trying to get the job done.”
Still, in almost 15 years, he has regrets.
He regretted not starting the courthouse renovations earlier and an issue with a landowner near the county airport involving a consultant and that resulted in a settlement.
Curry said the landowner incident taught him the valuable lesson of applying another set of eyes.
One of Curry’s highest, and lowest, points of pride during his service as commissioner involves DHL.
“This is going to be one that most people would say, ‘Well that’s not a very good accomplishment because it didn’t stick around,’ but we were able to secure DHL to come to the county,” Curry said.
Estimates vary, but at its height, more than 9,000 people were employed at the air park when DHL was there.
“But as we all know, eventually they decided to get out of that business and left,” Curry said. “So, (it’s a) high and low there all in one.”
Curry takes pride in a number of projects he’s been a part of over the years, including housing multiple agencies into the 1025 S. South St. building near Solutions Community Counseling and Recovery Center, the installation of a sewer service for Martinsville and Midland, upgrades to the county’s emergency communications network, aggregating the county’s electricity and the upcoming renovations to three of the county’s buildings, including the courthouse.
Curry also mentioned the sale of the county hospital, which some people disapproved of.
“It was either sell the hospital and maintain a hospital in the county … or it was just going to disappear, and we weren’t going to have a hospital in the county,” Curry said.
He referenced recent changes, like the partnership with The Ohio State University, saying the hospital was headed in a positive direction.
Still, he said, for all those accomplishments, being a commissioner isn’t about taking pride in the big projects with million dollar price tags; it’s about the little things.
“You get a phone call, and you have someone on the other end that’s got a problem, and maybe you can’t help them with the problem, or maybe you can,” Curry said. “But maybe you can guide them in the right direction … Sometimes it’s not the answers they want to hear. But at least they know you care, and you tried to help them.
“That’s what public service is about,” he said. “Helping the people of the community.”
As for Curry, he’s still thinking about what to do after his commissioner’s term expires.
He still has a year and a half to figure it out, but he took away the prospect of Rep. Curry or Sen. Curry.
“Not going to happen,” he said. “I’m not going any further than the county.”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.