Village of Galena Mayor Tom Hopper has to deal with a lot of hard questions from members of the public during village council meetings and zoning commission meetings, but he had to answer to an even tougher constituency Nov. 10 when he spoke before a gathering of Hylen Souders Elementary School third grade students.
Hopper started off with the basics when he explained that there are three levels of government — federal, state, and local.
“Locally we have counties, townships, cities, villages,” Hopper said. “A village has a population under 5,000. Galena is a village. Sunbury is a village, but Sunbury will become a city after the 2020 Census because its population will be over 5,000.”
Hopper was asked how he became the Mayor of Galena.
“In 2000 everybody quit and I was on Galena Council,” Hopper said. “Council decided I should be the mayor. Two years later I ran for mayor and have been elected every time since because no one has run against me. I’m coming up on my 17th year as mayor; my current term ends in 2019.”
Hopper also explained the difference between a Galena resident and somebody with a Galena address who doesn’t live inside the village.
“Many folks with a Galena address live in the Galena area, they are served by the Galena Post Office, but they are township residents,” Hopper said. “Your school, Hylen Souders, has a Galena address, but it’s in Harlem Township. Townships don’t have a mayor; in Ohio townships are run by a board of three trustees.”
Hopper said a village mayor doesn’t have the power of many other politicians.
“Galena Village Council controls the village, I can’t spend a dime,” Hopper said. “Every check has to be approved by village council members – they are the ones who look out for the village’s money.”
Hopper explained that, as mayor, he’s in charge of the village staff and day-to-day operations of the village.
“The village staff reports to me,” Hopper said. “We have a fiscal officer, an assistant fiscal officer, a village administrator, maintenance supervisor, and zoning inspector. My job working with them is fun most of the time, but sometimes we get into things that are stressful.
“The hardest part of my job is when village residents have a complaint and they get excited,” Hopper continued. “Sometimes they’re mad when they come in to see me. My first job is to get them to calm down.”
Asked why he wanted to be mayor, Hopper said he enjoys making a difference in people’s lives and helping them out.
“But as a mayor, but I’m on duty 365 days a year,” Hopper said. “When you get a public service job you’re always on duty. I do have flexible hours, I work 20 to 30 hours each week, but they can be any hours, day or night.”
Asked if he lived in a village-owned home like the president’s White House in Washington while serving as mayor, Hopper said when you’re the mayor of a village like Galena you live in your own home.
One student asked how much money he had spent campaigning to be the Mayor of Galena.
“I never spent a dime to run for mayor,” Hopper said. “That’s because no one has ever run against me – and there’s no term limits on being a village mayor.”
Asked if there had ever been a woman mayor in Galena, Hopper said not yet, but he said the young lady who asked the question could run for Galena Mayor when she turned 18-years-old — if she was a village resident.
In the hard question category, one young lady asked if the Village of Galena has had any problems with clowns.
“Not yet,” Hopper said.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.