November 2007 Issue
Ohio's Best Hometowns 2008 - Miamisburg
Residents of Ohio's Star City shine with spirit and pride.
“You give us a lemon, we’re going to make lemonade.”
Mayor Dick Church, Jr., knows the resilience of Miamisburg residents. At first glance, this community, located just south of Dayton on the banks of the Miami River, has the tranquil appearance of most river towns. And while its residents possess many small-town-America qualities — like waving to strangers and slowing down for pedestrians — their spirit, goals and development rival those of any big city.
Church has lived in Miamisburg his entire life, and he’s been mayor for 17 years. Back in 1991, at the beginning of his term, he was immediately hit with a lemon. Mound Laboratory, a high-security defense production facility and the city’s largest employer, was closing. After an initial attempt to keep the facility open failed (46,000 signatures were collected and delivered to the White House), the residents began working on a plan to convert the site to a light-industrial and high-tech business park. Although nearly 2,000 jobs were lost, more than 5,000 were created.
“Everybody in this community, we work together to make things happen,” says Church. “I like to say, ‘Great things are happening in Miamisburg.’”
And that’s more than just a slogan. From the renovation of the Baum Opera House, a historic landmark that had fallen into disarray, to the expansion of the Kettering Medical Center–Sycamore, a facility that includes a hospital and retirement center, the community gets behind projects that help make Miamisburg a great place to live.
It’s one of the reasons William H. Nelson, Jr., city manager, decided to move to Miamisburg. “What I saw was a community that had just an abundance of assets,” he says, noting its historical downtown, excellent school system and variety of housing and recreation options.
Nelson realizes that the positives are a result of residents with real spirit. In the ’90s, citizens decided that it was time to change the image of their city. A state-of-the-art golf course was developed with the first new, upscale housing in the area. They also decided to take advantage of historic Main Street, a rarity in the suburbs. Subsequent efforts have breathed new life into Miamisburg in the form of new businesses, and have brought additional publicity to annual events, such as the Turkey Trot five-mile race, held Thanksgiving morning.
It’s the combination of spirit and growth, of old traditions combined with new beginnings, that keeps people in Miamisburg and turns newcomers into longtime residents. “Miamisburg people tend to live here forever, and if they don’t, they come back,” says Bobbye Sweny, who is in charge of children’s programs for the Miamisburg Historical Society, who has lived in the area for 60 years.
Those who can’t stay take a piece of Miamisburg with them. Just outside the mayor’s office is a framed City of Miamisburg flag, a gift from Staff Sgt. Noah Ryan Burnett, who requested the flag while he was serving in Iraq. He carried the flag for three years as a good luck charm, and used it to teach local children about his home. After returning to Miamisburg, he presented it to the mayor.
“That is another — just a small story — about sense of community,” the mayor points out. “Here’s a young man who wanted to take part of Miamisburg to Iraq.”
Location: Approximately eight miles south of Dayton
Population: Approximately 20,000
Size: Approximately 11.5 square miles
Type of government: Mayor/council (8 members)