On March 8, 2020, attendees at the Gala could not have anticipated what the next eighteen months would have in store for us. But after the historic 2020 campaign, culminating in the election of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, as well as months of lockdowns, masks and finally vaccines, Butler County Democrats were finally able to gather again and celebrate. The 2021 BCDP Gala was held at The Benison, a new venue for the occasion, in downtown Hamilton.
The evening started with a private reception outdoors, where attendees networked and met some of the local candidates in attendance.
The event moved indoors where both Executive Committee Chair Brian Hester and Central Committee Chair mariann penska commented on the state of Democratic politics in Butler County. Political Director Kathy Wyenandt reported on the work her committee is doing, both with a strong slate of candidates for local elections this fall, as well as recruiting and prospects for the 2022 statewide elections.
We were also honored to have 1st District Court of Appeals Judge Marilyn Zayas as keynote speaker for the evening. Judge Zayas, who is running for Ohio Supreme Court in 2022, spoke of the importance of people in politics, and how she will be looking to areas like Butler County to help in her campaign next year. U.S. House of Representatives Congresswoman Joyce Beatty, representing the Ohio 3rd Congressional District, provided a video message for Butler County, featuring commentary on what the Democrats are focused on in Congress.
The evening was also an opportunity to honor Democrats in our community with several awards.
In the awards recognition, there were two lifetime achievement awards. Mayor Ann Antenen received the Catherine Stoker Public Service Award. She served as Hamilton’s vice mayor and beginning in 1978 she had the distinction of being Hamilton’s first and so far only female mayor. As an architect, she was instrumental in the restoration and preservation of historic buildings in Butler County. These restorations were an inspiration for the more than 35-year rejuvenation of the downtown area and the city of Hamilton’s 17 neighborhoods.
The BCDP Lifetime Achievement award was presented to longtime governing board member and former Executive Committee chair, Ronnie Wardrup. As a staff representative with the United Steelworkers (USW), he acted as a liaison between organized labor and the BCDP keeping us aware of labor issues and representing the BCDP with all of organized labor.
The Democrat of the Year award was presented to mariann penska for her service to the BCDP as Central Committee chair, governing board member, work with several committees in addition to being instrumental in the creation of the East Butler County League of Women Voters. In her spare time, she member of the Butler County Board of Elections. (Please be aware that mariann does not capitalize her name and as a courtesy neither do we).
The BCDP Regional Chair of the Year award was presented to Don Daiker as chair of the Western Region. He has also served as a past Executive Chair of the BCDP and is a governing board member.
The BCDP Volunteers of the Year awards were presented to Carolyn Allen and Michael Albrecht for their dedication and service to the BCDP during 2020-’21. Our thanks and congratulations go out to all the volunteer award winners. We couldn’t support democracy without you all.
We thank all who attended and made this evening a great success. In particular we want to thank our table sponsors: Kathy Wyenandt, Eric Corbin, Frank Cloud, Hamilton Municipal Court employees, IBEW, UFCW 75, Don & Vicky Daiker, Stephen & Bernita Hightower, and Gretchen Fisher in honor of Robert & Cleo Emhoff. We would also like to thank the fundraising committee, chaired by Brittany Maloney, and members Tammy Cuevas, Sue Fuson, Pam Gattermeyer, Amanda Schuster and Monica Weber.