GREENVILLE — With 2020 coming to a close, new and returning elected officials will soon begin their terms in Darke County. In light of this, The Daily Advocate would like to take the time to recognize one of Darke County’s best-ever public servants, County Commissioner Mike Rhoades.
Rhoades will be retiring at the end of this year, following 20 years of service as a county commissioner, and 16 years of service as the senior commissioner. He will be replaced by Larry Holmes (R) effective Jan. 3.
Rhoades was sworn in as a Darke County Commissioner in 2001, and has since made numerous and diverse contributions to the Darke County community. Prior to his stint as a commissioner, Rhoades worked as a machinery salesman for John Deere. He was also a Darke County fairboard member for a number of years. Rhoades credits his time on the fairboard with teaching him the importance of truly listening to the concerns of the general public, and enacting measures on behalf of public consensus. In an interview with The Daily Advocate, Rhoades said he was encouraged to run by his former neighbor and was inspired by his late father, who passed away while running for a county commissioner seat.
Perhaps Rhoades’ crowning achievement has been his work on the Darke County airport — a project he worked on for nearly all 20 years of his service. When Rhoades was first sworn in, Darke County owned only the terminal, fueling area, and runway. Shortly after, the federal government began providing grants for airport improvements, but, partially due to 9/11, county funds for the airport were nearly non-existent. However, as time progressed, Rhoades worked to establish a better connection with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and they began assisting Darke County with the funds necessary to purchase the grounds surrounding the airport, and the hangars on the property.
More recently, Rhoades worked to acquire grants for the repaving of the runway, and an extension to the existing taxiway which currently goes about halfway down the runway. The plan is to extend the taxiway to include a turnaround at the west end, a more than 300 ft. extension. This $3.2 million project is scheduled to be completed at the end of May or beginning of June. As a result of the many developments over the years, a couple small businesses have opened up at the airport. Of these businesses, Rhoades noted that he always stuck to the tried and true theory of, “you build it, and they will come.”
“It has taken a lot of elbow grease and hard work to get these things done, but we see a future in it,” Rhoades said when speaking on the airport, adding, “And it is definitely paying off.”
All in all, Rhoades estimates he has garnered more than $15 million in grants for the airport from the federal government. He stated he is incredibly proud of the work done at the airport, and noted that virtually none of the improvements were at the expense of the Darke County taxpayer.
When asked what he is most proud of, aside from the airport, Rhoades stated that he is proud of how well the elected officials in Darke County have worked together throughout his time.
“I think I’m most proud that myself and my colleagues (other elected officials) were able to work together so cooperatively, and to get people to work with the commission on a number of things,” Rhoades said. “When times got tough, we all chipped in together and worked hard to tighten the belt on the spending in the county. I am leaving on good terms, the county is not struggling and I think we are in good shape.”
As for his retirement, Rhoades noted that he looks forward to spending more time with his wife and grandchildren. He said he plans to work part-time at a fertilizer company, and work on and off on his own farm, but also said, partly joking, “I’ll work when I feel like it.”
To the people of Darke County, Rhoades issued the following statement: “I want to thank everyone for being a supporter for all these years, I am very appreciative that residents have allowed me to represent the county at the state and federal level on numerous occasions. Thank you to everyone.”
For his fellow commissioners, Rhoades offered this advice: “Listen to everybody, try to listen and determine what’s right. Don’t try to change things to be a certain way, just sit back, listen, and pay attention to the public, then go from there.”
On behalf of all Darke County residents, The Daily Advocate offers its most sincere thanks to Commissioner Mike Rhoades for his many years of service to the Darke County community. Best of luck in retirement, and we wish you all the best!