Tackett leaves last mark as local hero

SPRINGFIELD — Those who have watched Roger Tackett’s military and political careers say two things can’t be denied. One: he left a lasting mark on Clark County as a commissioner for a combined 28 years.

Two: “He’s an American hero,” in the words of former co-commissioner Jimmy Sheehan.

Tackett dropped out of college in 1966 to join his friends in the U.S. Marine Corps. In the hills of Phu Bai, Vietnam, as his unit assaulted an enemy position, an AK-47 bullet punctured his lung and severed his spine.

Back stateside with a purple heart on his chest, Tackett attended Wright State University because of its renowned wheelchair accessibility. He earned a degree in political science with an eye on public office.

“I wanted so badly to continue to serve my community and country,” he said.

He would eventually serve 28 years as a county commissioner. But he had his share of losses. His first try for commissioner in 1974 failed. He won in 1976, but left office in 1985 after a failed run for state senate. He came back in 1991, then served until his loss this year to Republican Rick Lohnes.

After his last meeting today, he said he’s going into retirement. But he’s confident he won’t be able to stay out of politics. He hopes to stay involved in veterans organizations and work on local, state and national races, though he has no plans to be a candidate — at this point.

“I wouldn’t rule that out, but that’s not what the main idea is right now,” he said.

‘In the middle of the battle’

For a former soldier in the rough and tumble world of politics, Tackett became known over the years as a soft-spoken compromiser. But he took the lead on several issues, including making free prescription drug discount cards available to Clark County residents.

“I never heard him say a bad word about anybody,” said Sheehan, who worked beside Tackett as a county commissioner in the 1990s.

Tackett was a moderate, and often a swing vote. This left him, in his words, “kind of in the middle of the battle.”

County Commissioner David Hartley called Tackett “one of the most caring people I have ever known.”

Over the years, his mark on the county has been indelible. The KTK industrial park literally bears his name (T is for Tackett), and he oversaw construction and renovation of the county administration building, jail, juvenile justice center, Springview Government Center and more.

An advocate for veterans

But veterans issues have always been closest to his heart. As chairman for the last several years of the governor’s advisory council on veterans affairs, he helped frame every veterans issue on the state level. In recent years, this has included elevating veterans affairs on the state level to a cabinet position, and pushing for a pay bonus for Iraq war veterans.

“He has been a tremendous advocate for veterans, not just here at the county level but at the state and federal level,” said Clark County Veterans Affairs Director Doug LeValley.

He has twice been named Ohio’s Outstanding Disabled American Veteran.

As a politician, he has been heavily involved in the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.

As a community leader, he has helped lead the local United Way, Miami Valley Council on Aging and committees dealing with air quality, energy and the environment.

Clark County Clerk of Courts Ron Vincent, who was first elected the same year as Tackett, believes history will remember the former marine well.

“I think he’ll go down as one of the better commissioners,” he said.

Contact this reporter at (937) 328-0374 or jsweigart@coxohio.com.

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