The last two years have been especially challenging in Dayton, with a hate group rally, devastating tornadoes, a mass shooting, and COVID-19. Through it all, Mayor Nan Whaley rose to the occasion to lead her city to become an important progressive voice from the industrial Midwest.
Nan has aggressively focused on ensuring that all of our children have access to educational opportunities that will prepare them for the workplaces of the future. In 2016, on the night that Donald Trump won Ohio, Dayton voters approved her plan to fund access to high-quality preschool for every 4-year-old in the city. Under her leadership, Dayton was proud to become the first major Ohio city to offer paid parental leave for municipal employees, improving economic security for new parents.
When a mass shooting left nine dead in Dayton’s Oregon District, Nan used her platform to reignite a national conversation on gun reform. She confronted President Trump for his inaction. She testified on Capitol Hill and built a bipartisan coalition in Ohio to push legislation. And when those efforts stalled, she worked to build pressure at the ballot box to hear Dayton’s cry to “Do Something.”
After the racial justice protests following the murder of George Floyd over the summer of 2020, Nan built an innovative, inclusive process to reform Dayton’s police policies and make the city a safer place for all residents. She brought together community leaders, clergy, public defenders, judges, and police officers to analyze policies and offer recommendations. This ongoing process has already led to major, systemic changes like body cameras, de-escalations training, and the creation of an alternative responder system.
When Nan took office, it felt like Dayton was in free fall. But as mayor, she has led an economic resurgence as jobs and people move to the city for the first time in decades. Dayton has seen significant economic growth – with nearly a billion dollars in completed investment projects since she took office in 2014. Another $210 million worth of projects are underway, including major infrastructure investment in our neighborhoods. In her State of the City speech in January 2019, she announced a new strategic focus of the city: addressing historical racial disparities to make sure that every Dayton resident, regardless of what they look like, can live in a thriving, affordable neighborhood.
Even before the COVID-19 crisis, Nan recognized that evictions were a major problem in Dayton. So she brought together a diverse set of stakeholders to create a task force to help keep people in their homes. This work led to aggressive new laws in the city that will protect tenants and reduce the number of evictions.
No matter what you look like, who you love, or where you come from, you are welcome in Dayton. Nan knows that future economic growth in Dayton will depend on attracting new immigrants, so she has focused on making the city a place that welcomes all new Americans who want to build their lives in our community.
Although Dayton was hit hard by the opioid crisis and a rash of overdose deaths, our city has proven to be extraordinarily resilient in the face of this crisis. In fact, under Nan’s leadership, Dayton has become a model for other communities in our response. Nan often says that she wants Dayton to be known as the place that figured out how to move past the stigma of addiction and instead treat it like the disease that it is. Due to the great work of leaders from across our community, Dayton cut its overdose deaths in half in a year.