By Dedra Cordle
The village of Urbancrest recognized seven individuals who have achieved professional excellence while maintaining personal exceptionalism during its 8th annual Black History Month Celebration on Feb. 26.
Among those honored were two former mayors who had a profound impact on the vitality of the community.
The first former mayor honored was Kenneth Penn Sr., who served in that capacity from 1966 until 1969.
Despite only serving one term, Penn was able to bring about major changes to the village that reverberate to this day. Under his leadership, the village of Urbancrest became the first municipality to receive a complete water distribution system and sewage collection system through a 99 percent federal grant-in-aid.
Current mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. commended his dedication to bringing a water and sewer system to the village and said he can only imagine how many doors were closed in his face as he tried to bring about an improvement of that scope to the village.
“During that time, the African-American community had not yet been recognized for their value,” he said.
Barnes said Penn deserves all the credit for sticking to his vision and enriching the lives of those in the past, the present and the future.
“I don’t know how the complete water system works, but I know when I turn on my faucet, it works because water comes out,” he said.
Barnes said that is all thanks to the efforts of the late Kenneth Penn Sr.
The second former mayor to be honored was Marlin West, who served in that capacity from 2000 until 2007.
Under his leadership, the village established many new programs to improve the lives of those in the community, such as the implementation of the Property Maintenance Assistance Program for senior citizens and a School Intern Program. West also began issuing licensing fees for wireless telecommunication facilities in the village as well.
Barnes said the former mayor made an impact on the community.
“Mayor West was a leader who helped developed pathways for us to follow now and into the future.”
The recipients of the Distinguished Service Award were Christine Bailey, Mattie Ruth Hill, Marvin Mitchell Sr. and Herbert Ziglar Sr.
Like all of the recipients, Bailey was a native of Urbancrest who felt compelled to give back to her community through governmental service. In 1999, she was elected as the clerk-treasurer and served in that capacity until she was elected to the village council in 2006. She held that seat until her death last year.
Barnes said Bailey was blessed with insight, compassion and a strong desire to make life better for the community.
“She had a great zeal for what she did,” Barnes said.
As a long-serving village official and a member of the board of public affairs, Hill was commended for her willingness to always lend a hand to those in need. Barnes said she has always been and will always be a respected member of the community.
In the early 2000s, Mitchell became the village’s first code enforcement officer. Barnes said that when he took the job, Mitchell knew he wouldn’t be the most popular person in the village, but he took his duties seriously.
“He never bent the laws,” Barnes said. “He even wrote a citation for me and we often ate lunch together.”
Mitchell’s wife Sonjia, accepted the award on her late husband’s behalf and said that Marvin was always happy to serve the community.
As a long-time member of the board of public affairs, Ziglar Sr. was known for his knowledge of the village sewers and their location. He was also credited with providing mentorship to those in the village.
“He has helped guide me and others in so many ways,” said Barnes.
Receiving the Mayor Ellen Walker-Craig Jones Community Service Award was Robert Quinichett, who was honored for his continued support for the village where he was born.
“He is a giant of a man to me and so many in the village,” said Elberta Barnes.
Upon graduating from The Ohio State University in 1961, Quinichett worked for Rockwell International where he helped design parts for the Apollo lunar module. In 1977, he founded his own company, Sterling Systems Inc., which designed and programmed data systems for computers. He later sold the company in the early 1980s and turned his focused toward philanthropic endeavors.
Quinichett said his childhood and his experience growing up in the village is what shaped him into the person he is today.
“This was, and is, a community where everybody has everybody’s back,” he said. “I have travelled a lot, and I have never seen or experienced anything like I did here.”
Barnes said these seven individuals were chosen to be honored because of their belief in the community and their willingness to give back to the community that helped them along the way.
“There is nothing wrong with going forward or wanting success,” he said. “But once you get there, you have to reach back wherever you think you can help and make a difference.”
He said Bailey, Hill, Mitchell, Penn, Quinichett, West and Ziglar are all examples of those who have attained success but given back to their communities.