WILMINGTON — The City of Wilmington is once again in the national news as the city is the subject of a profile that appeared in Sunday’s Washington Post.
Post reporter Thomas Gibbons-Neff recently spent several days here, interviewing Wilmington’s citizens and getting a feel for the area — even attending a city council meeting.
The story, which includes several photos and a video, highlights the fact that Clinton Countians overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in the Nov. 8 election, and that the town is rebounding from the local, as well as national, economic slump that began in 2008:
“Here in Wilmington, the phrase ‘Make America Great Again’ is not just a slogan. It’s an expectation. Trump came here twice during the campaign, promising to be the voice of the forgotten men and women of America,” the story states.
Local residents and officials were interviewed for the story including Taylor Stuckert, Mark Rembert, Randy Riley, Guy Ashmore and Norm Allen, who heads local business Custom Molded Products.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff told the News Journal that he normally covers the military for the Washington Post. A four-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, he served two deployments while in the same company and platoon as Wilmington’s own Josh Sams.
“Most people didn’t expect Trump to win,” Gibbons-Neff told the News Journal. “But his message tapped into a lot of people.”
He thought it would be good to “look outward” — beyond the Beltway — at what it was about Trump that connected with small-town America.
He knew that Wilmington had an interesting ride economically the past eight or so years, and he knew Trump had twice visited Wilmington during his campaign.
And he knew Josh Sams.
Gibbons-Neff pitched a story to the Post’s editors: He would visit a small town — Wilmington, Ohio — to not only do an in-depth story, but to follow it throughout the Trump administration.
So the reporter reached out to his old friend Sams, whom he stayed with during a total of nine days here.
“I think the Washington Post article was an accurate, fair reflection of what happened to our community,” said Wilmington Council President Randy Riley. “Wilmington has long been considered to be ‘ground-zero’ for the recession of 2008-2009. The departure of DHL that was announced in May of 2008 and was completed in 2009 gave us a ‘jump-start’ over the rest of the nation. It’s not the kind of designation any community would want, but we had no choice.
“It was interesting to drive through Southwest Ohio just before the November election,” Riley added. “Trump yard signs outnumbered Clinton signs by at least ten to one. However, even with that evidence of Trump’s support, I was still surprised by the outcome of the election. Now, we all need to work together for the future of this community and this country.”
“I am proud to see Wilmington providing perspective on the hopes and concerns of a Trump presidency,” said Mark Rembert, Co-Founder of Energize Clinton County. “Clinton County was the hardest hit county in the country during the Great Recession, and since then we’ve made great progress by focusing on the fundamentals and recognizing our own ability to make our community a great place. It is the daily actions and commitment of thousands of residents, workers, community leaders, and business leaders that make our community great every day.”
Gibbons-Neff, who is originally from Boston, said he enjoyed his visits to Wilmington and Clinton County.
He said the story he wrote was 1,900 words, but he could have written 10,000.
“I love it. It’s a great town and great people,” he said, specifically mentioning his morning workouts at Vital Fitness, eating at Generations Pizzeria and “getting the driving tour from Josh”, with whom he also practiced skeet shooting.
Gibbons-Neff said he plans to return to Wilmington for follow-up stories, especially after the Trump administration passes legislation that could directly affect Wilmington.
Reach Tom Barr at 937-382-2574.