Worthington News

Pollution prompted Goorey's political aspirations

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Lou Goorey was a young pediatrician with an office on High Street back in the early 1970s, when a father brought in his young son who had fallen into Worthington's Rush Creek.

They boy ended up with a serious infection caused by E. coli, a bacterium that often is found in feces, either human or animal.

With concerns that the creek was polluted, the young doctor approached the city manager and did some research of his own. He found that several homes were discharging waste directly into the creek. He knew he had to do something.

"I thought I would run for council one or two times, but something always came up," Goorey said.

He finally ran and was elected -- and re-elected again and again.

For the past 40 years, he has sat on council. For the past 18, he has been president. Monday was his final meeting.

Goorey was born and raised in Columbus, attending University High School, where he sang in the boys choir with Worthington Mayor Harvey Minton. He graduated from medical school at the Ohio State University at age 25.

He was a practicing pediatrician for 40 years, treating many families in Worthington and loving his work.

He is a member and past president of the Academy of Medicine of Columbus and Franklin County.

Like his concern about the pollution of Rush Creek, his interest in health care and safety always have been an undercurrent on council, bringing to the city ordinances what other cities addressed on the surface only or after required by the state.

Those issues include tanning beds, smoking, driving while texting, trash collection and more specific cases, such as a day care center that once planned to operate in the middle of the city's industrial area.

The McConnell Arts Center probably was Goorey's biggest contribution to the city. He and his wife, Dr. Nancy Goorey, were the driving forces behind turning an abandoned school building into a vibrant regional arts center.

"Nancy was tenacious," he said.

He also was the co-chairman of the city's grand bicentennial celebration in 2003. He rode on the wagon train, danced at the ball and was part of every meeting, arts event, party and fun event.

He also helped launch Healthy Worthington as part of the bicentennial.

Goorey also has worked quietly, sometimes behind the scenes, to make sure Worthington prospered and was a great place to live, work and raise a family.

One day in 1973, he had lunch with a city intern named David Elder. On that day, some political and real estate deals were being made behind closed doors. Those deals resulted in the city becoming landlocked.

Not having an opportunity to expand has hurt the city's tax base but also has forced officials to concentrate on making it the best small city in the world, he said.

A commercial base was formed early on, thus saving Worthington from becoming a bedroom community like Upper Arlington.

His quiet work and even-handed, ever-listening style of running council meetings have become legendary over the years. When asked for advice by new council members, Goorey tells them to take a year to learn and then try to never micromanage, he said.

"Even after 40 years, it is tough not to do that," he said.

He said he learned much from his mentor, John Coleman, who was the only other council president in Worthington the past 45 years.

He also has enjoyed working with city managers Elder and Matt Greeson and some of the old-time staff members like Steve Gandee, Dave Groth, Bill Watterson and Bill Poling.

Some of his favorite council members have been Dick Savage, Jim Lorimer, Lou Briggs, Tom Dietrich and Jack Wilbur.

He also has enjoyed the weekly community prayer group and the annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, as well as attending the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

He is a Freemason, active in the Aladdin Shrine, and a charter member of the Rotary Club of Dublin-Worthington.

It was Goorey's early experiences as a Jaycee, however, that taught him about politics and the importance of contributing to one's community.

He was president of the Ohio Jaycees in 1965-66 and was vice president of the U.S. Jaycees the following year.

From that experience, he said, he learned to not be a one-issue public servant, to address all of the issues as they come.

He expressed a pride in his city: "The neat thing about Worthington is, when there is a need, someone steps up and does it."

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