Worthington has been blessed with the presence and undying commitment of a public servant who served 52 consecutive years as an elected or appointed official with the city of Worthington until his retirement at the end of 2019.
After serving in World War II and a stint as an FBI agent, Jim Lorimer and his wife, Jean, moved their young family to Worthington in the 1950s when Lorimer took a position with Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co.
His career with the city dates back to 1967, when he was appointed as mayor, a position he held for a total of 14 years. He also was elected to Worthington City Council in the 1980s and has served as vice mayor of Worthington for the past several decades. I often chuckle to myself in amazement when I think I would need to live and serve as mayor until 2066 to tie his record!
Lorimer was a competitive high school athlete and knew the personal rewards that could come with training and hard work. He became acutely aware, however, of the unbalanced resources available to female athletes during an international track competition between the United States and what was then the Soviet Union. There he witnessed the lack of training resources for female track athletes on the U.S. squad and saw how it deprived them of the ability, in his words, "... to give full expression to who they are."
He decided to do something about improving athletics opportunities for female athletes, so in 1959 he founded the Ohio Track Club Girls Team.
He recruited high school athletes in central Ohio from all backgrounds, including Melissa Long of Worthington, and gave them earnest training and coaching, found sponsors for uniforms and often drove the team members to and from meets. Through the determined efforts of the athletes – and to the great joy of their coaches – the Ohio Track Club Girls Team went on to set records and win a national championship.
Lorimer went on to serve as secretary and chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee for Women's Track and Field throughout the 1960s. His dedicated work helped pave the way for Title IX, which gives female athletes equal opportunity in sports at public educational institutions.
All of this was accomplished while working at Nationwide, beginning his life in public service for the city and with his wife, Jean, raising their children, Kathy, Jeff and Bob, in Worthington. He and Jean celebrated their 71st wedding anniversary in January.
Another of Lorimer's greatest accomplishments has brought thousands of athletes of all ages to central Ohio and pumped millions of dollars into the local economy.
It all started in 1970 with a young bodybuilder from Austria, whom Lorimer asked to come compete in the Mr. World competition in Columbus.
Arnold Schwarzenegger said yes, and not long after, the two shook hands on a partnership that would lead to the creation of the Arnold Sports Festival, which is in its 32nd year and includes 85 sports in competitions on six continents across the globe.
At Worthington City Council meetings, Lorimer is known as a poet laureate for his eloquent and inspiring presentations recognizing youth sports champions. These presentations have included his joyful gift of framed news articles and other memorabilia for the honorees.
Lorimer has recognized hundreds upon hundreds of athletes and other young people for their achievements in sports, academics and other pursuits.
He often shares his motto: "You get back from every aspect of life in direct proportion to what you put into it."
We are all so grateful for Lorimer's unselfish support, knowledge and dedication to his city colleagues, the young people and all citizens of Worthington and the larger central Ohio community.
On behalf of everyone in the community, we thank you, Jim, for 52 years of dedicated public service to your community and for continuing to make such a positive difference in the lives of so many people.
Scott Holmes is mayor of Worthington.