Thursday, January 04, 2007

Harry Kessler, 1927-2007

I didn't know Mr. Kessler very well - I'd only talked with him a couple of times. But those times were impressive.

After he served as Mayor, he was the Clerk of Toledo Municipal Court. He retired from that position in 1992 and his replacement had to run for election in 1993 for the balance of the term. That's the year I ran and won the seat. Shortly after the election, I got a phone call - it seemed that Mr. Kessler wanted to know if I'd be interested in meeting with him to talk about the Clerk's office. I accepted the invitation, but was extremely apprehensive as to why one of my predecessors - and a Democrat, too - would want to talk to me.

He invited me to his house on a sunny, but cold, day. He was warm and welcoming and said he just wanted to share some information with me.

First, he said, the job of Clerk was the best in the County. And, after having served there 9 years, I agree. Second, he said that there were deputy clerks in the office more interested in politics than in being clerks and they needed to go - but there were deputy clerks more interested in being clerks than in politics and they needed to stay. No, he didn't tell me which were which, but said if I was astute enough to win the election, I'd figure it out soon enough.

Third, he said that he'd hired a man (Pat O'Connell, who is still with the office) to help with the computerization of the office and that 'Integrated Criminal Justice' (tying all the law enforcement, prosecution, courts, jails together electronically) was the way to go. He hoped I'd embrace the idea as well and work toward that as a goal. He said it was my decision as the Clerk, but I'd be dumb not to. (I did - and today our NORIS computer system is the example people look to when they want to develop a completely integrated system.)

Finally, he told me to keep an eye on the money - which is always good advice - and to remember that just because I have money in the budget doesn't mean that I have to spend it. This, especially, struck me because it was the same thing my parents would say.

He was kind in the way he offered this advice to a political newbie, and it didn't matter to him whether I was a Republican or Democrat. As he explained, the campaign was over and now I was a Clerk. But then, he was one of the "old time Democrats" who understood that campaigns are campaigns and afterward, there's the business of running the government. I was grateful and honored that he shared this advice with me - and that he cared enough about the office he held to do so.

Over the years, I'd invite him to come by the office (retirements, Christmas potluck) but he always declined. He said he didn't want to be a distraction for everyone. I think it was more than in the unspoken rule that past presidents didn't criticize the current one, I think he was trying to be respectful of the change in office holders. While I accepted his response, I still wish he would have stopped by on occasion.

Mr. Kessler certainly served his community with honor - as Mayor, Clerk of Court, School Board Member, president of the Toledo-Lucas County Convention & Visitors Bureau, and president of the board of trustees of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library for five of his 26 years on that board. While this great but humble man will missed, his legacy continues in the advice and words of wisdom he imparted.

Rest in peace, Mr. Kessler.


historymike said...

I never met Harry, but he seemed like a good man.

Lisa Renee said...

That was a very wonderful story, Maggie, thank you for sharing it.

Do said...

I only got to shake his hand once, but the stories I have heard about Mr. Kessler have been nothing but positive. He certainly has left a legacy that will be a shining star for Toledo and Lucas County.

While his family mourns his passing I hope that they remain ever vigilant of the great respect and admiration that Toledo holds for Mr. Kessler.

Hooda Thunkit said...


"As he explained, the campaign was over and now I was a Clerk. But then, he was one of the "old time Democrats" who understood that campaigns are campaigns and afterward, there's the business of running the government."

Old time Democrats much like old time Republicans all used to be that way, God bless 'em.

It's just too darn bad that has been lost in recent times, with the rising party animosity and all that comes with it.

We need a few more good old-fashioned politicians to teach these modern ones about how politics used to actually work, for "We the Sheeple" instead of "They the Party..."

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