Former state Rep. Robert E. Netzley of Laura, whose 40 years in the Ohio House was the longest tenure of any member in history, died Wednesday, July 28. He was 87.
The native of Miami County’s Union Twp. was first elected in 1960.
Former Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin, a Democrat who served with Netzley, said he represented what U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill meant by “all politics is local.”
“If you ever went with Bob around in his district, he knew everybody by name. They knew him by name. He was part of that community,” McLin said.
“At the end of the day, Bob Netzley was a gentleman. He believed what he believed. He was always respectful. If you disagreed with him, he agreed to disagree,” McLin said.
Former Democratic Ohio Gov. John J. Gilligan battled with Netzley, a Republican, during his term from 1971-1975
“He was a stand-up guy. You never had to wonder where he was on public issues. He never backed down in the face of criticism. He stood up for what he believed in,” Gilligan said.
Jeff Jacobson, former Republican state representative and senator of the Dayton area, said Netzley was an “inspiration” to young conservatives.
“We didn’t always live up to the standards he hoped to see in all of us,” Jacobson said. “The great thing about Bob... he didn’t hold it against us...he encouraged us to try to live up to the conservative ideals he always professed.”
Diana Fessler of Bethel Twp., Miami County, assumed Netzley’s House seat, serving 2001 through 2008. She met Netzley in the 1990s when she first ran for a seat on the state board of education.
“He certainly was in a class by himself, not just in length of service, but in service to his constituents and in his endurance. He was so diligent,” Fessler said.
State Rep. Richard Adams, R-Troy, now represents the district.
Netzley lived near the village of Laura. His political career is part of the display at the Union Twp. Historical Museum & Quaker Research Center/Union Twp. Heritage Association, in West Milton. The museum houses the Netzley archives.
A Navy veteran of World War II, Netzley was inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in 2006. The section of Ohio 571, which runs east to west through Miami County, was named the Robert E. Netzley Highway in 2003.
His wife, Marjorie, preceded him in death in 2009. Hale-Sarver Funeral Home in West Milton is handling the arrangements, which are pending. A memorial service will be at a later date.