Meet friends of education running for office

From teachers to school board members, these candidates have backgrounds in education and are fighting for better schools in their communities.

Bob McCollister

Town: Ironton, Ohio

Briefly describe your background: My background is a bit unusual. I have spent much of my life as a high school football coach and a social studies teacher. I taught and coached at Gallipolis, Washington Courthouse and Chillicothe High Schools. In 1988, I returned to my alma mater Rock Hill High School as head football coach and social studies teacher and stayed until I retired in 2017 (I stepped down as head coach in 2003, but stayed on to help as an assistant coach in football and track). The unusual part of my resume is that I took time off from teaching and coaching twice to pursue a master’s degree, and then a PhD in Political Science from OSU. I majored in international relations with a concentration in national security policy studies. My real interest was in nuclear weapons and arms control, and I wrote my dissertation on US-Soviet summit meetings during the Cold War. I also volunteer as a presenter with Vice President Gore’s climate reality organization, and I have presented his slideshow on climate change over 30 times in our area and across Ohio. I told you my resume was unusual!

“I just decided that the time had come for me to take action, rather than to sit back and watch things get worse.”

What inspired you to run for office? I was inspired to run for office because for years I have seen our county slowly decline following the collapse of the steel industry. I have seen my classes shrink in size every year as people moved to places where there were greater economic opportunities. I have seen the opioid crisis eat at the heart of our communities. I just decided that the time had come for me to take action, rather than to sit back and watch things get worse.

If elected, what are your top three priorities? Having researched the places in our rust belt region that have done the best job in transitioning to a new economic model, I saw that they all were able to build public-private partnerships to address their region’s needs. I hope to replicate that model here in Lawrence County on the following issues:

  1. Economic Development: I will work to attract 21st-century industries to Lawrence County, with a special focus on renewable energy. This is the fastest growing economic sector in the US economy, and our county has the greatest solar potential in Ohio because of its geography as Ohio’s southernmost county. I also want to work to build 21st-century infrastructure, including greater access to high-speed broadband and wireless communication.
  2. Education: I want to work with local superintendents and universities to ensure that we are teaching the necessary courses for our students to succeed in the future. Increasing access to Pre-K for our youth is another goal, and I will seek to get the funding for this from public and private sources.
  3. Opioid Crisis: Combating the opioid crisis requires a comprehensive approach. We have begun to create one here in Lawrence County, and I want to build on that progress.

What’s your campaign’s theme song? As of yet, we don’t have a campaign song, but I’m tempted to say “City of Blinding Lights” by U2 because I get nostalgic every time I hear it.

How has your background as an educator shaped the way you run your campaign? My background as a teacher and a coach has prepared me in two ways. First, it taught me that you must be organized and ready for any occurrence. When the game gets tight you have to have thought through every contingency. Preparation makes inspiration possible. Second, over the years I have learned to be an effective communicator. IIf you are going to keep a group of sleepy seniors engaged in an American government class at 8:30 in the morning, you have to be pretty entertaining!

Paul Bradley

Town: Dayton, Ohio

Briefly describe your background: I graduated from the University of Dayton and then began working for Senator Sherrod Brown as his regional representative for southwest Ohio for six and a half years. I currently work at Antioch University as their director of government relations and workforce development. I live in Dayton with my wife, Caitlin. I am a proud member of the Asian American Community (adopted from South Korea) and serve on the plan board and the Human Relations Council of Dayton. I am also a board member of the Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, a member of Dayton Rotary, and an executive committee member of the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

I fell in love with the Dayton region while working for Senator Brown, and this is where my wife and I are building a family together. I can think of no greater calling for me than to serve this region.

What inspired you to run for office? I believe that for all of the ugliness in politics right now, it is still the very best forum in which a person can create positive change for their community. I fell in love with the Dayton region while working for Senator Brown, and this is where my wife and I are building a family together. I can think of no greater calling for me than to serve this region.

If elected, what are your top three priorities?

  1. Improving our public education system. No child should have opportunity dictated to them based on their zip code. We are failing too many children all over this state.
  2. Growing jobs, workforce development and the middle class. These things are all connected and go hand in hand with protecting our labor unions.
  3. Combatting the opioid epidemic. 14 Ohioans are dying every day from this crisis. We need to protect Medicaid expansion and provide more resources to our communities to help with this health crisis.

Campaign Theme Song: “Our Country” by John Mellencamp

How has your background as an educator shared the way you run your campaign? Working at a university, I think my main takeaway has been the importance of focusing on non-traditional students. Whether we’re talking about first-generation students, adult learners or workforce development — the barriers and the access points to high education have changed. We need to make sure Ohio’s education system adapts to these changes and puts students in a position to be successful.

Janet Garrett

Town: Oberlin, Ohio

Briefly describe your background: I spent 35 years teaching in Ohio’s public schools. I was a member of my local teachers’ union and served on the executive committee, including as president. I was born in Ohio and have loved growing up here, raising my kids here, and being a part of this community. I am a mother of three and I know that we are currently locked into a fight to leave a better, stronger Ohio for the next generation. My life has always been about going to work and getting things done whether in the classroom preparing our children for the future, or at the negotiating table working toward better wages and a more secure future for my coworkers. This get it done attitude is what I will bring to Washington as we fight against a system that has taken too much time to do too little about the Opioid Epidemic, a broken health care system, stagnant wages, and the many problems our country faces.

It’s what I did as a teacher, it’s what I did as a Union President, and it is what I will do when I go to Congress. The time for gridlock is over.

What inspired you to run for office? First and foremost, when I travel across the fourth district, I hear over and over again that people need help fighting against the opioid epidemic. They need resources from the federal government, they need access to programs designed to stop addiction, and
they need the Medicaid expansion which has ensured access to health care in rural areas across Ohio. We do not have representation that even acknowledges this problem. Jim Jordan believes that the opioid epidemic should be dealt with by the churches and the families. Instead of fighting for funding or programs in the district, Jordan has attacked the FBI, attacked Medicaid and fought for Gridlock in Washington. I’m tired of that attitude. Watching this day in and day out for years and years has driven me to run for office. I’m offering an alternative to Jordan. I’m inspired by the people fighting for a better life in every corner of this district and I want to represent them. I believe in going to work and getting things done. It’s what I did as a teacher, it’s what I did as a Union President, and it is what I will do when I go to Congress. The time for gridlock is over.

If elected, what are your top three priorities?

  1. My top priority is dealing with the opioid epidemic. 14 people are dying in this state every day as this tragedy plagues our communities. I will go to Washington to fight for real solutions that will help solve this problem. I will fight to preserve Medicaid expansion. I will fight for access to drug courts, addiction treatment, expanded rural care and increased education about the dangers of opioids and how to help loved ones. I will fight for funding and attention that will bring a spotlight to this issue and you can expect me to continue listening to people on the ground, as I have my whole campaign. These are just a few parts of my plan. You can read more at janetgarrett.com.
  2. I will also work hard to fix a broken health care system in Ohio that doesn’t provide nearly enough options for consumers who struggle to find reasonably priced insurance plans and who go to hospitals where the cost of treatment is through the roof. Everyone should have access to quality, affordable care and that will be a top priority for me in Washington.
  3. Finally, as your representative I will continue to focus on protecting jobs and growing the economy. I believe that good work requires a living wage. I will fight to ensure that those who work a 40-hour week aren’t living in poverty and that those who want work can find it. I will also work hard to ensure that people in this district have access to the best possible education from pre-k to post-secondary schooling. Education is a key component of a competitive work force.

What’s your campaign’s theme song? “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty

How has your background as an educator shaped the way you run your campaign? That’s a great question. This campaign is much more about listening to people across the district as it is about asking people to vote for me. If I don’t understand what people need in every one of the 14 counties in this district I won’t deserve anyone’s vote. After all, Jim Jordan’s unwillingness to address the most pressing issues here is one of the
main reasons I am running. I think that listening to people who are fighting the opioid epidemic or running a small business, or people who are just waking up every morning trying to pay their bills, take care of their kids, and make it through another week is the most important thing you can do when you’re trying to represent people.

Listening and learning is a mentality that has always been a part of what I do. When you’re teaching students, you can’t treat them all the same, you have to understand where they are coming from. But listening alone isn’t enough, a good representative needs to combine listening with action. That’s exactly what I did as a teacher. For example, I always kept food in my classroom as a teacher because I noticed that some of my students came from homes where there wasn’t always breakfast. When kids are hungry, they don’t learn. But you wouldn’t know that if you didn’t pay attention to each kid. In this job that I am running for, I think that you need to listen to and reach out to your constituents or you will never understand what they are going through. And, if you can’t understand what they are going through, you’ll never be able to work for them.

Want to follow along with the songs Ohio Democrats are listening to?

Check out the Ohio Democratic Playlist on Spotify — we’ll be updating this playlist with more songs from our candidates.

Putting #PeopleFirst. As Ohio goes, so goes the nation…