By Meladi Brewer
GREENVILLE — Darke County Commissioner Mike Stegall reminisced as his term as commissioner comes to a close.
“I’m just an ordinary guy who has had an extraordinary life,” said Stegall.
Stegall has been a part of the Darke County Board of Commissioners for 12 years. He said “now it’s time for some younger ideologies,” and Stegall believes it is good to switch people out every now and then because it prevents complacency.
Stegall originally began his career path in radio, and he “was the only person that’s ever had an on the field interview after both practices at Wilmington College with Coach Paul Brown.”
After some time in the world of communication Stegall began looking for a career change.
“I just decided I didn’t like being inside, so I came back to work for my dad. We had a construction and trucking business,” Stegall said.
From there, he began his blue collar career with a “handshake agreement” at Poepelmans. He was told if he showed up to work, he would be able to haul the stone, and Stegall did that for 42 years. When Stegall made the choice to run for township trustee, he did not have any idea what the job would entail, nor did he have the notion to individually pursue the career. He said he was never really a policy person, but he just likes people.
“I ran for township trustee because Bill Kelly was pushing snow one day, and he looked like HELL,” Stegall said. “He had been up for 21 hours and said he needed help.”
Stegall said Kelly said “Mike, I need help. If you run for township trustee – the other guys don’t do much – I will push for you.”
Stegall may not have known what the job would ask of him, but he did know the people he knew needed his help. He ran for the position and was elected to the Board of Trustees.
“That was in January and in August Rosemary (his wife) asked me ‘is this a paying position?’ I said – I don’t know. He just needs my help,” Stegall said.
Stegall went in not knowing whether he got paid or not, or how much he got paid. It was clear Stegall did not pursue politics for wealth. Stegall participated in the Greenville Township for four years, and he helped start the Greenville Township Fire Department. From there, Stegall was asked to run for county commissioner. He joked saying he told them “I’m barely doing this job. I don’t know if I could be a commissioner.” Again, Stegall was told they need his help, and those words touch a soft spot.
“When people say that, it kind of gets to me, so I said I’ll give it a shot,” Stegall said.
He credits all of the people in his life for his success. The community around Stegall pushed him to run for the offices he held, and he thanks them for their help along the way. He said he would do two to three terms before stepping down. Stegall did not want to get to the point where he could say “no, we have always done it this way.”
“I think that is wrong, and I have seen a couple of commissioners in other places say that. I don’t want to do that. Once you do that, the county gets stale,” Stegall said.
He said the county has good people now. Talking about his coworkers and all those in county positions, Stegall advised “they are all really, really good and work very hard to make Darke County a great place.”
“They still have the county’s best interest at heart,” Stegall said.
It was a group effort to get the county out of debt as Stegall advised that was what he wanted to do when he was first elected. He said Matt Aultman had the same goals and was crucial in helping propel the matter forward.
“He is one of the smartest people I know. I am telling the people of Darke County right now, you elect him ever year until he dies because he’s the best. He really is,” Stegall said.
He said he worked with some great people who were willing and able to work together as a team. “You can’t do anything unless everybody rises above it in the same direction,” Stegall said.
“No politician ever does anything alone,” Stegall said. “You do great things together.”
Stegall says the county officials have done that, and that is the reason Darke County is in the shape it is in. He said the success that has happened during his career is “nothing he had done, but it is what we have done.”
“I want people to know that. I’m not just saying that to be nice. I mean that. I have done very little but have been part of it,” Stegall said.
Stegall’s last session will be Thursday, Dec. 29., and Commissioner Elect Marshall Combs will be sworn into office on Dec. 30 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse. Stegall wishes him luck, and is leaving him with a piece of advice – “don’t assume you know everything.”
“Marshall is a smart young man. He wouldn’t have his own business at the age of 29 if he wasn’t. He will do well, and once you get to know him, he is a really great guy,” Stegall said.
Stegall believes Combs will be a perfect match with fresh ideas. He believes he will be fine as long as he speaks his mind when he has something to say and learn. Stegall advised Combs “has a lot of great ideas,” and he cannot wait to see where his political path takes him. Stegall is proud to be passing his position onto Combs come the end of the month.
“It has been a great career in politics,” Stegall said.
He said it’ll now be up to history to say how he has done.
To contact Daily Advocate Reporter Meladi Brewer, email [email protected].