Holding court at McDonald’s

Pat Haley - Contributing columnist

David Bailey is a friend of mine. He is tall, trim and intelligent, possessor of a nimble mind and quick wit.

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, six months before Kennedy, 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 advisor 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.

McDonald’s is Dave’s court, and the second chair on the right his throne. His voice is loud, and turns the heads of customers when he feels inspired to make a dramatic point to a political candidate.

Shortly after winning the commissioner’s election, I asked Dave to ride with me to Columbus where we were going to meet with Larry Long, the executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio. I was going to discuss some of the challenges I might face as a new commissioner.

Dave was soon in his element. He even gave Larry some unsolicited advice.

Dave loves to give people advice, whether they solicit it or not. Once, when I was embroiled in a significant legal battle, Dave called my Columbus attorney over to a corner and suggested, “Sir, I think you should ask better questions for my friend here.”

The attorney winked and smiled. “I think that is pretty good advice, young man,” he said.

Dave is a caring man, but there are two things Dave doesn’t like – taxes and expensive coffee. He is not above negotiating the price of an already steeply discounted second cup of coffee with the McDonald’s server, when the mood strikes him.

He does the same thing with the commissioners when it comes to taxes.

One morning during an election season, I entered McDonald’s and promptly heard Dave’s loud voice. “Pat, I need to speak with you confidentially. Do you mind moving to the last table in the back where no one can hear us?” he asked.

It did no good. His voice could still be heard all over the place, as his voice raised and lowered, like the turbulent sea, when a particular thought struck him.

One morning a candidate asked Dave to join him at a meeting later that evening. “I’m sorry, I can’t join you. Connie doesn’t like me out after dark,” he deadpanned.

One morning as the sun took its first peek of Wilmington over the top of the Buckley Brothers’ elevator, Dave was standing in line for his usual Egg McMuffin and coffee. He was wearing a black shirt and black trousers, and had recently trimmed his white goatee that protruded from his chin.

“You look like the love child of Johnny Cash and Burl Ives,” the man behind him offered.

“No one likes a smart aleck,” he answered in a loud voice.

Those weren’t his exact words — but close enough for government work.

Pat Haley is a Clinton County Commissioner.


Pat Haley

Contributing columnist