Fayette CDC Recognizes Wayne & Verna Williams, Kenny & Shirley Paison As Citizens Of The Year

Fayette CDC - TK 005 WEBBy: Timothy Kays

Members and guests of the Community Development Corporation of Fayette gathered in the Rorick Room and University Gallery of the Fayette Opera House on the evening of June 25 for the Community Development Corporation (CDC) 2015 Recognition Dinner.

Catered by Opera House Catering, members and guests dined upon Bean Creek Slow Roasted Pork with orange sauce, with zesty green beans, salad and bread, with a dessert of cake.

Mayor Ruth Marlatt came to the podium to speak as the meal was winding down. She decried the current atmosphere of divisiveness in today’s society, stating that what is needed is, “…civil conversation and civic engagement.” She added, “Conversation that shows respect for all participants and encourages public discourse, builds communities. Our objective is to look at a problem, and examine all sides of the issue with open-minded discussion that values the opinion of each citizen.”

Mayor Marlatt went on to recognize several people for the community work that they have done, ‘under the radar’. Dee Ferguson, Dennis Richardson, Bruce Zoldan, the Fayette Tree Commission, Former Mayor Anita Van Zile, Earl Ferguson, Dr. Karen King, the Fayette Business Park Team, the late Frank Roach and Susan Williams were all noted by Mayor Marlatt for their unheralded contributions that have made the village a better place to live.

Tom Spiess, President of the CDC and Fayette Building Investment, LLC, came forward to introduce the 2015 CDC Citizens of the Year, Kenny and Shirley Paison, and Wayne and Verna Williams. Earlier in the year, the CDC sought nominations for the Citizen of the Year, and according to the CDC, the credentials of this year’s Citizens of the Year are sterling.

As stated in the CDC bios, Wayne Williams, “…was a downtown businessman, and later a village employee. In both professions, his performance was marked with professionalism, with special emphasis on service. His efforts brought a new Sohio Station to life on the corner of Main and North Fayette in the 60s, and his later appointment to the Village Work Crew marked a high point in the delivery of village services.”

“Verna (Williams) served for years as the Director of the Normal Memorial Library. In that role, she managed an outstanding staff, and assisted young and old as they navigated the library.”

“Kenny (Paison) joined Wayne on the village work force during that time, and under the direction of Mayor James I. Marlatt, Village Council, and its first Administrator, Leonard Morr, brought the village’s new Water Treatment Plant into full operation.”

“Shirley (Paison), like many others of her generation, was a working wife who raised a fine family, and contributed greatly to the quality of life in her church and community.”

Of note pertaining to the husband and wife teams, the Williams’ are currently working on a history of Fayette businesses for the Bean Creek Valley History Center, and the Paisons both delivered meals as part of the Meals on Wheels program, and are still active in support of the community.

Mr. Spiess then turned the program over to the keynote speaker for the evening, Mr. Keith Burris of The Toledo Blade. An award willing journalist with three decades of experience in the field, Mr. Burris’ has written on politics, government, culture and the arts, but is most recent subjects are based upon community, from civil discourse to community leadership and involvement.

Coming to the podium, Mr. Burris stated that he was not one who liked to speak at length, lest he sound like a lecturer. He referenced the Opera House Steinem-Nyce Series of community development based upon civil discussion and civic engagement, saying, “I thought that I’d just throw out a few thoughts, and we could have a dialogue. I want to start with this Steinem-Nyce tradition that you have here. The topic is community and civility…community and civility. I don’t think that you can have community with incivility. What I mean about civility is conversation, based upon respect. People may well disagree, but they can talk. It seems to me that from what I’ve been told, Steinem and Dr. Nyce who looked at the world very differently, but who were able to be friends, and work for the benefit of the community. That’s what we’re missing in a lot of the country today. We’re in this very polarized situation, where people have taken sides. Left, right, liberal, conservative, this side, that side. It seems to me that when you start in that way, you make civility impossible, therefore the community starts to disintegrate.”

For the next fifteen minutes, Mr. Burris took comments and questions from the audience, opening up a dialogue in the Steinem-Nyce manner. There was a diversity of subjects broached referencing community, all generating civil discourse, and conversation based upon respect. The closing commentary from Mr. Jon Rupp, the Vice-President of the Fayette Community Improvement Corporation, concluded the evening’s events with a look at the strengths of the community of Fayette…strengths that far outweigh the weaknesses, and weaknesses that, through civil discourse, are being addressed by the community.

Timothy Kays can be reached at

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