COLUMBUS, Ohio – Rennes Bowers, the retired firefighter and chief vying for the Mayor’s Chair in Dayton, ousted former Mayor of Dayton Gary Leitzell to earn his spot in the race against institutional Democrat Jeff Mims in the November general election that will determine the next mayor in Ohio’s sixth-largest city.
In a phone interview just moments after the final results from Tuesday’s primary election were revealed, Bowers told The Ohio Star:
It feels really good. I am very, very happy and thankful my neighbors in Dayton have put this trust in me. The Lord answered prayers, we’ve been praying since February and our friends, family and neighbors were praying all day.
I’m truly humbled. Tonight, there was a light voter turnout. It won’t be that way in November.
I also recognize that both Mr. Mms and Leitzell are coopting our talking points – they must have known they resonated well. You know, the highest form of flattery is imitation, so I’m grateful. – Rennes Bowers, on his primary election win
According to the Montgomery County Board of Elections website, Daytonians logged 2,145 votes for Bowers (26%), 4,865 votes for Mims (58%) and 1,320 votes for Leitzell (16%).
Last week The Star interviewed Bowers and asked him what he believed separated him from his competitors:
I’m not a politician. I’m a crisis manager. Neither of those guys have anything in their background that demonstrates they can handle crisis and actually solve problems. Long on talk, short on action.
I don’t have all the answers– in the fire service I didn’t either but was very successful. I brought people together who did have the answers and we worked together.
Before 911 I was asked to lead a project responsible for developing an eight-county terrorist preparedness plan. Frankly, I didn’t want to do it but I threw myself into it.
We had to prepare and plan for all kinds of attack situations – biological, chemical, radiological, explosive; basically, whatever a terrorist could come up with.
I reached out to leaders in law enforcement, hospitals, businesses, leaders at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, as well as inside the FBI, local universities, health departments and emergency management agencies.
I invited all entities in eight counties. I cast the vision – then arranged them in their areas of expertise. They caught the vision and ran with it.
After six months the plan was submitted to the federal government. The plan was distributed. We had a tabletop exercise. Then, we had a full-scale exercise – the largest ever in the area. The plan was recognized by a journal that named Dayton in the top 10 of U.S. cities for preparedness.
I am a uniter and have been successful assembling teams and turning them loose. I’ll bring that same skillset to the Mayor’s office. We will unite the City Commission. I don’t want to be at odds.
I hope to become friends and work together with both Leitzell and Mims.
But as far as track record, Leitzell was mayor for four years but did very little. He’s a nice guy, but the City Commission was not behind him – to his credit, he’s an independent and they are Democrats who pushed back on everything he wanted to do.
Mims is a Democrat and has the party behind him. He boasts that he was president of the teacher’s union but we have been rated as one of the worst school systems in Ohio and have been in crisis for years. That’s not a positive to me, it’s a negative. He’s been on City Commission for eight years and people are unhappy.
Democrats have been in power for so long – during that time NCR moved their Headquarters and so did Mead. Six GM plants were lost and two good hospitals; unemployment has risen on their watch.
Tuesday night Bowers said, “I know I came in second. I am surprised – Mr. Mims got approximately 60% of the votes – that is formidable. I think the Lord has been preparing me for this my whole life – 30 years in crisis management and leadership. Sending firefighters into builders requires trust – there has to be a lot trust from the firefighters in their chief. As we build our coalition and message we will work, the same way, to earn that trust.”
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Jack Windsor is Statehouse Reporter at The Ohio Star. Windsor is also an independent investigative reporter. Follow Jack on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Rennes Bowers” by Rennes Bowers.