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Lessons In Life From Local Leaders

Four of the region's most high-profile leaders share their wisdom, lessons in life and advice for the future

John Boehner

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

Even in his retirement, John Boehner travels in the fast lane. Three years after resigning from Congress, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives is still prompting news headlines. His prominent career has taken him all around the globe, but Boehner calls West Chester home.

“My wife and I moved to Kingsgate Condominiums in 1974, and we never lived very far from there in 45 years,” he says.

Our notable neighbor is known for sharing what his staff calls “Boehner-isms.” Many of these important life lessons stem from Boehner’s humble beginnings, when he was a boy, observing his father.

“It doesn’t cost anything to be nice. You can disagree without being disagreeable. These are things I learned growing up in my dad’s bar,” he says.

“I watched my dad,” Boehner continues. “Everybody who walked in the bar got treated the same. That one nasty guy could be sitting at the bar all night long. You might not agree with him, but you don’t want to fight with him. So, you have to find a way to disagree with him without being disagreeable. It’s probably something that helped me in my political career more than anything else,” he says with a chuckle.

Boehner shares another life lesson, often called upon in Congress.

“If you do the right things for the right reasons, the right things will happen. I’d tell my colleagues, whether you vote yes or no, somebody is going to be unhappy. You might as well just do the right thing and be happy with yourselves.”

At the top of his list of personal accomplishments is Boehner’s marriage of nearly 46 years to his wife, Debbie, and their family. Professionally, he was honored to welcome Pope Francis to Washington, D.C.

“I tried for 20 years to get a Pope to come to the U.S. and address a joint session of Congress—it had never happened before,” Boehner explains. “In September 2015, the pope came. For a guy who grew up in a Catholic grade school, high school and university and was an altar boy, it was a big deal.”

Boehner is passionate about helping children. While in Congress, he spearheaded education legislation and locally, he and his wife support Boys & Girls Club of West Chester/Liberty.

“One of the real keys to a society is ensuring that kids get a decent education,” he says.

Boehner’s sphere of influence now extends far beyond West Chester, where his political career first got started. The exciting journey continues, with more life lessons to bring home.

“This entire episode in my life never crossed my mind. Never. Ever,” he shares. “On July 4, 1977, my neighbors got me involved in the Lakota Hills Homeowners Association. A few years later, I was president of the homeowners’ group. Next thing you know, I am Speaker of the House. It was a journey that I did not expect to take.”

Matt Miller

Superintendent of the Lakota Local School District

You would be hard-pressed to find a more engaging, down-to-Earth or humorous leader than Matt Miller. After spending time with the superintendent of Ohio’s eighth-largest district, it’s obvious that he’s the real deal and the district is lucky to have him.

In just two years since stepping into the position, Miller has made strides in improving district communication, the use of technology in schools, and creating innovative programs and opportunities for students. His most proud accomplishment, however, has been elevating student engagement.

“We’ve amplified the student voice in this district—it’s been huge for us in making decisions,” Miller explains. “Our kids are empowered; we’re listening and we’re helping push what they want to do. That’s been the highlight of the last two years is getting our kids out front.”

He adds, “Through the positives of social media, I have seen students become more vocal and engaged. I have kids who reach out on social media every day, and 95% of it is positive.”

It’s his social media connection and use of technology that Miller has become known for in the district. In fact, he recently won the Communication Technology Award for Superintendents from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA).

Although his accomplishments are impressive, Miller is quick to give the credit to his Lakota team.

“You cannot do this job, or probably any leadership role, by yourself. I’m blessed with a really good team who I get advice from daily.”

With each decision he makes comes both the supporters and the critics, and Miller has learned to keep a level-head with both.

“I try to be humble and have a sense of humor,” he says. “You have to take the good with the bad.”

As for a life lesson he would share, Miller advises, “Go with your gut. Listen to the voice inside your head when you make those tough calls, and always admit when you make the wrong call. It’s important to understand that no one is perfect.”

Joe Hinson

President and CEO of the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance

As a local leader for more than 20 years, Joe Hinson has witnessed, and played a significant role, in the drastic change this region has undergone—from farmland to business epicenter. As president and chief executive officer of the West Chester-Liberty Chamber Alliance, Hinson’s enthusiasm for his role exudes out of him.

“Supporting West Chester Township as it developed from its infancy to an epicenter for business, and now supporting Liberty Township through similar growth and development—how often in one’s career do you get a chance to participate in the growth of not one, but two communities from the beginning? It’s exciting, to say the least!” Hinson exclaims.

The passionate leader says he isn’t surprised to see the massive growth this region has achieved in a relatively short amount of time and looks forward to its continued development.

“Our outstanding location and accessibility along I-75 is priceless, and with our high-performing Lakota School District, people are attracted to West Chester and Liberty Townships,” Hinson explains.

Although the region’s economic development is high on the list of accomplishments for Hinson, it’s his engagement with business owners and community members that he finds most rewarding on a daily basis.

“You can’t put a price tag on it, but it’s very gratifying to help someone stretch outside their comfort zone to achieve their goals.” 

Over the years Hinson has learned to leverage people’s individual strengths and to never ask employees to do something you, as the boss, wouldn’t do.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Hinson explains.

When faced with challenges, Hinson advises being decisive, accountable and honest.

“I pride myself on acting with integrity. Employees seek leaders and organizations that are honest and meet their commitments,” he says.

It’s this mindset that has led Hinson to successfully lead one of the largest Chambers of Commerce in the region.

Tom Urban

Former president, CEO and north market leader of Mercy Health

Tom Urban’s life is a balancing act: work and play, family and community. Only weeks into retirement from 42 years in healthcare, the most recent 26 of those years as the president, CEO and north market leader for Mercy Health, Urban is adjusting to a new lifestyle.

“I was really blessed to be a part of Mercy Health for 26 years,” he says. “I am adjusting to a new cadence.”

“But I like it,” he quickly adds.

Family is a top priority for Urban, a husband and father of three adult children.

“I am most proud of my family—of marrying Nancy and raising three kids,” he says. “I’ve tried to be as good of a father and husband as I have tried to be a hospital administrator all of these years,” he says.

Urban’s life lessons are about leading a full life, instead of just having a full schedule.

“Sometimes you can get so consumed in one role or the other, the professional or personal side,” he says. “You’ve got to stop and smell the roses. Enjoy life to the fullest.”

“I’ve tried to live my life in the model that my mom and dad taught me—with humility. I try to enjoy everyone I come into contact with, both professionally and personally. I don’t know if that’s a headline grabber, but it has worked for me.”

Urban urges us to recognize what we have here, in our own backyards.

“There’s an abundance of opportunities in West Chester and Liberty for people to live, work and play in a great area,” Urban says. “We were blessed to move here 26 years ago.”