Delaware County Commissioner Tommy Thompson will leave office at the end of the year but promises he'll be a fixture out and about in the county for years to come.
"On any Saturday morning in Delaware, you'll see me at Beehive Books or the Hamburger Inn or at the farmers market," he said. "I just think Delaware is a great community. There's always so much going on."
Thompson, who was Delaware's mayor from January 2000 to May 2002, was elected to the Delaware County Board of Commissioners in November 2008. He lost his bid for re-election to Gary Merrell in March's Republican primary and will step down at the end of this year.
"More than anything, I am going to miss the people," Thompson said. "That and being able to serve."
He said his wife of 45 years, Carlene, long ago got used to having her dinners out interrupted by county residents.
"Someone would approach me at the table and ask, 'What about this? What about that?' And his or her friend would say, 'Leave the man be -- he's here for dinner, not to talk county politics.' And Carlene would say, 'Go ahead. He always does this. He loves talking to people.' "
As Delaware mayor, Thompson was responsible for spearheading the U.S. Route 23-42 and South Sandusky Street interchange project to provide better traffic flow into and out of downtown Delaware. He also promoted the city through the Vintage Auto Club Cruise-In and worked diligently to support its fundraising efforts on behalf of Hospice.
Prior to serving on Delaware City Council, Thompson spent eight years on the Delaware City Planning Commission and seven years on the Board of Zoning Appeals.
He moved to Delaware County in 1985 to become the director of curriculum and instruction for Buckeye Valley Local Schools and followed that with three years as the principal of Buckeye Valley East Elementary School.
"Commissioner Thompson is a true, dedicated servant to the people of Delaware County," fellow Commissioner Dennis Stapleton said. "He gave his time and effort to the local school system, the city of Delaware and Delaware County. He cares about the people, and his work effort over the years has certainly proven that to be true."
During his tenure on the board of commissioners, Thompson's signature issues have included the ongoing renovation of the Strand Theatre and the maintenance of the Delaware County Fairgrounds.
"I guess my interest in the Strand has to do with my experience as a child growing up in a small town in Hardin County and loving our movie theater," he said. "There's just so much history wrapped up in the building, and I think it can also serve as an anchor for an arts and cultural corridor in downtown Delaware."
Thompson served as county commissioner during the worst economic downturn the country had experienced since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
"It's been extremely challenging, but we have a tremendous staff and they do a fantastic job," he said. "But I was also very fortunate to be a commissioner in Delaware County. In Marion County, they shut down the government every other Friday to conserve money. In Morrow County, if you wanted a copy of a record, you had to provide your own paper. We didn't face those sorts of choices here."