Mayor Dick Church Jr. said when his seventh term ends in December, the city will mark history in two ways: Seeing Miamisburg’s longest-serving top elected official leaving office and swearing in the first woman in that job.
With no primary in Miamisburg this year and City Councilwoman Michelle Collins uncontested on the ballot to replace Church, the transition for the city’s first woman mayor has already started.
Church said they’ve been attending regional events together: a health board meeting last week; and this week the Dayton Development Coalition Community Leader Fly-In, where he plans to introduce Collins to the Dayton area Congressional delegation.
“I’m giving her an idea and keeping her informed of things that I feel maybe she should be involved in,” he said. “And we’ve got a good relationship. I think she’s going to be an outstanding mayor.
“I don’t know what title to give her,” Church added. “I can’t say she’s mayor-elect because we haven’t had an election. But she is the unopposed candidate and will be the next mayor of Miamisburg on Jan. 1.”
Supported by Church early on, Collins was the only mayoral candidate to file petitions by the Feb. 6 deadline and those documents were certified last month, according to the Montgomery County Board of Elections.
The 52-year-old Chicago native has lived in the city for nearly five decades, is a graduate of Miamisburg High School and operates a real estate brokerage firm blocks from the mayor’s office.
Collins was elected to an at-large council seat in 2015, finishing third among four candidates – including then-incumbent Democrat Charlie Case – in a race for three seats.
Church last year announced his retirement at the end of this term. And Collins said she expected several to vie to replace the man who had gone unchallenged in a handful of re-election bids.
“I joke with people,” Collins said, “saying ‘I wonder what the rest of the world knows that I don’t. Oh boy, what did I get myself into?’ “
Whatever lies ahead, she said her time transitioning with Church has so far been invaluable.
“He’s been super gracious,” Collins said. “He’s been including me on meetings (on issues) he thinks are going to be ongoing – events that are going to transition….to the next person. And that’s been helpful, of course.
“On the way to these meetings, I get (deeply focused) for about a half hour and really dig into what it’s all about, when it started, what I need to know, what I need to progress it to in the future and I’ve appreciated it,” she added.
“There could be some people who just say, ‘Listen, I’ve done my years – with him, 28 – and I just want to retire and be done with it,” Collins said. “But he’s all in and committed to whoever the next mayor is being successful – whether it’s me or someone else.”
Transition with his predecessor is something Church said he lacked nearly three decades ago. After challenging – and narrowly beating - incumbent Mayor Don Lucas in 1991, Church said the man he replaced gave him “no advice or anything.”
Lucas, he said, “didn’t leave me a copy of the marriage ceremony.”
That’s among the reasons, Church said, “I think it’s very important to have a good transition and I want it to be as smooth as possible.”
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