New Piqua mayor ready to ‘serve others’

New Piqua Mayor Kris Lee, center, receives the oath of office earlier this month from retired Miami County Judge Elizabeth Gutmann while Larry Hamilton, left, looks on. CONTRIBUTED
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New Piqua Mayor Kris Lee, center, receives the oath of office earlier this month from retired Miami County Judge Elizabeth Gutmann while Larry Hamilton, left, looks on. CONTRIBUTED

Kris Lee is proud of his hometown of Piqua, but never dreamed he’d become its mayor.

Lee, a retired Piqua police officer, was elected by fellow city commissioners as the city’s first black mayor in early January.

“I never thought, even as a little kid, that I would ever be the mayor,” Lee said.

His earliest years were in Rossville, located just outside the Piqua city limits, before the family moved into town when he was six. He graduated from Piqua High School in 1983.

His parents, the late Bob and Frances Lee, were great role models, he said. “My dad always told me I could be anything I wanted to be. He always encouraged me to go to school and seek as much knowledge as possible. I do the same thing for my kids,” he said.

Other role models were former city manager Frank Patrizio, father of longtime friend Frank Patrizio Jr., and Larry Hamilton, his high school Afro American history teacher and historian whose research included the Randolph Slaves of which Lee is a descendant.

Lee studied for two years at Edison State Community College before receiving a bachelor’s degree in communications from Wright State University.

He wrote for a time for area newspapers before finding he didn’t like the deadlines involved.

He worked for a time at Miami County Children’s Services, where he was introduced to law enforcement by one of his bosses, current county Commissioner Greg Simmons, through the village of Bradford Police Department.

He went through the police academy and then was hired at the Piqua Police Department, where he spent 23 years before retiring in 2016. He moved on to part time at the Anna police department and now is a full-time safety officer at the Miami Valley Career Technology Center.

Lee has been an adjunct instructor in criminal justice and at the police academy at Edison State.

“I believe that our biggest duty and the biggest thing we can do in life is to serve others,” Lee said. He was on the Piqua Catholic school board, on parish council and was in Lions Club over the years.

After retiring, there was an opening on the Piqua City Commission when a candidate’s petitions were thrown out because of an error. One of four write in candidates, he won.

“The best way I felt at this point in my life that I could serve was to try to get on commission when there was a void. I was pretty nervous,” he said.

After serving on the commission a couple of years, he was excited to become mayor.

“Piqua I believe is starting on the right track. There is a lot of promise here. We have a good city manager,” he said of Gary Huff.

Lee said the riverfront project is coming to fruition and he supports efforts to bring more industry to town. “The more industry that comes here, the better our tax base will be and the better it is going to be for everybody,” he said.

The city pool and utility rates are current topics. Lee said he wants to hear people’s ideas,

inviting people share ideas at 937-414-0452 or ward3comm@piquaoh.org.

A recent trip to the grocery took much longer than anticipated because he talked to probably 20 people while there. It‘s a new normal that Lee said he doesn’t mind.

He and wife, Peg, have five children plus his niece and nephew who came to them when his sister died in 2014. “Family is very important. Piqua is a community that supports families,” Lee said. “I am not going anywhere. I love this place.”

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com