FAIRBORN — Exiting Fairborn Mayor Dan Kirkpatrick said his favorite television series is “The Andy Griffith Show.” And it makes sense, as he said the program highlights life in small-town USA.
“I always told my wife as we were moving around America that ‘I’m looking for Mayberry — I want to end up living in Mayberry,’” Kirkpatrick said. “Fairborn is the closest I’ve ever come to that.”
His service to Fairborn started just less than a decade ago. Kirkpatrick initially served as a council member for four years, followed by another four years as mayor. But before he served the city, he served the country in the Air Force which is what brought him to Fairborn. On his first day of being stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in 1979 as a first lieutenant, he was instructed to report to a captain in staff development. That captain, Norma Richardson, would later become Kirkpatrick’s wife. Just two weeks later, he was introduced to a lieutenant colonial who would become his best friend, Art Myers.
“We (him and Norma) always liked Fairborn the best,” Kirkpatrick said. “We had three assignments here and after the second one in the mid-1990s, we said ‘Fairborn is home.’”
His career in the Air Force would take him all over the country and the world, including communities in Texas, Colorado, Florida, Maryland and Japan, among other areas. He started in the Air Force reserves and enrolled in nursing school. Upon graduating in 1975, he joined the Peace Corps and lived on an island that included approximately 250 permanent residents and no electricity or running water.
“Once per month, a boat usually would come out and drop off supplies [and mail]. It was totally isolated,” Kirkpatrick said. “They were the poorest people I ever been around, but they were the happiest people I’ve ever been around.”
When he returned home, he entered active duty and was initially assigned to WPAFB. When he retired from the Air Force in 2007, he began teaching mental health and disaster preparedness courses at Wright State University. He retired from teaching in 2015 so he could free up some time to focus on activities as the mayor, events within his local church and youth to guide as a Boy Scout leader.
Just one month into his time as mayor, Kirkpatrick started the regular citizen forum meetings. It invites citizens and city leaders to gather in a less-than-formal setting and discuss a particular topic that is impacting the city followed by time for individuals to discuss concerns of their own. The idea stemmed from town hall meetings Kirkpatrick observed as he served the military and gave birth to Fairborn citizens taking the lead on solving some community issues.
“In March or April of 2014, there had been a lot of complaints about feral cats in Fairborn,” Kirkpatrick said. “We held a citizen forum to focus on that and there was 120 people who showed up. Most of them were there saying ‘we don’t want to kill the cats, we want to figure out a solution.’ There was a small minority who’s attitude was ‘feral cats are a health hazard and danger to the community. We need to get rid of them.’”
“A group of citizens stepped forward and we now have Fairborn Trap, Neuter, Return program, TNR,” he added. “It is privately ran by citizens in Fairborn and they’re doing very well. That’s an example of taking a community-wide problem and challenging citizens to come up with a resolution and they did.”
As mayor, Kirkpatrick also saw the land annexation of the Fairborn Cement Company (known as CEMEX at the time), experienced the hiring of a new city manager and faced an increase in blight removal efforts, among others items. This past spring, Fairborn City Council received the President’s Award from the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce. It was the first time a council had received the chamber’s president’s award and is something he is proud. He said it is a demonstration on how well the group was able to work together.
“I believe everyone is working toward the betterment of Fairborn,” he said.
Moving forward, Kirkpatrick will continue to serve as the president of the Boy Scouts Tecumseh Council, co-chairman of the Fairborn Military Veterans Memorial Committee and will soon chair a community effort that will result in Fairborn having a sister city. He also plans to become involved in the Dayton VA.
“I’m looking forward to a smooth transition,” Kirkpatrick said. “Paul Keller is an outstanding person and he will do a great job.”
Although Kirkpatrick’s life has afforded him to move around, see the world and grow as an individual, being a member of Fairborn City Council still allowed him to continue to learn many lessons.
The most valuable?
“How important it is to work together — that is absolutely key,” Kirkpatrick said. “It doesn’t mean you always agree, but you work through it and you talk about things … The question is, what do we do to make it work for the good of most of the people?”
Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.