October's DMO of the Month Gets to Work
American politicians often spend too much time debating old problems instead of taking charge to find real solutions. The news and talk shows are stuffed with minutia and distractions, and it can be difficult to finally roll up your sleeves and get to work. This month we take a look at a municipal official who doesn’t sweat the small stuff. She isn’t afraid to step outside the sphere of endless discourse and start getting things done. Meet Nan Whaley, Mayor of Dayton Ohio, and DMO of the Month for October.
This summer’s influx of child migrants from Central America continues to present problems for state and local governments. The legal and political situation, coupled with America’s history of welcoming immigrants while deporting undocumented workers, means that these children represent a uniquely difficult choice for lawmakers. Mayor Whaley accepted a federal government request to provide housing for these individuals, seeing the move as a form of humanitarian assistance. The matter to her is not only one of compassion, but affording anyone on American soil their due process under law. Some Ohio Republicans have criticized Whaley’s decision as support for "illegal immigrants", and claim the city does not have the resources to shelter the refugees. With citizens coming forward to offer their own homes to these children, many Daytonians have chosen to stand behind their mayor. Whaley points out that these Republicans have had plenty of time to implement positive legislation around immigration. She has decided to take action, refusing to let children suffer while other officials dither. The prerogative of municipal Democrats is to strike at the heart of the issue, and Mayor Whaley has taken a stance that upholds her responsibility as an elected government official.
Dayton has suffered the fate of other post-recession Rust Belt cities. The manufacturing jobs that helped fund the upward mobility of the baby-boomers have taken a serious hit, and the remaining jobs often can't feed a family of four, or support a young worker through college. Mayor Whaley has taken steps to strengthen local industry through her Dayton Regional Manufacturing Task Force, which partners with development organizations, colleges, and the AFL-CIO to promote American manufacturing. She also recognizes how essential it is to think beyond 20th century economic models and grasp the opportunity of developing industries. While it has sustained heavy losses in manufacturing, Dayton has boomed with logistics and warehouse jobs. At the intersection of several highways, the city has the chance to play a different, but still significant economic role. Seizing economic opportunities like these is essential to Dayton’s future as a financially stable Midwestern city.
On the education front, Mayor Whaley recognizes that failures in childhood education result in a weaker workforce. Her “City of Learners” Committee is made up of over 60 local leaders who attend listening sessions and gather information towards building a stronger educational system. Dayton was also selected to work with the Department of Education and National League of Cities to focus on education reform through a community conversation forum. These programs share insights and develop plans around increasing student outcomes, improving schools, and developing a stronger adult workforce. Education and the economy are two sides of the same coin when it comes to long-term municipal growth, and Mayor Whaley is heavily investing in both.
Nan Whaley is not afraid to take on the tough problems. Instead of wringing her hands about whether or not to take action, she simply gets to work. That doesn’t mean she rushes into the fray without preparation. Mayor Whaley understands the importance of listening to her constituents, and attending meetings with peers and policy experts. Leading on immigration, new economic trends, and education, she prefers to solve problems instead of lamenting them. That can-do attitude has garnered her the title of DMO of the Month for October. Her pragmatism and drive to accomplish are setting Dayton up for a strong future.
Mayor Whaley hails from Indiana, but made Ohio her home after attending the University of Dayton. Elected to the City Commission in 2005, Whaley previously served on the Montgomery County Board of Elections and as deputy to the County Auditor. She is a three time DNC delegate, and has taught as an Adjunct Professor at Wright State University where she earned a Master’s of Public Administration.