If Jack C. Hunter found it hard to believe that he had won the 1969 election for mayor of Youngstown, so did a great many people in this region. After all, he was a Republican challenging a well-entrenched, politically savvy Democratic incumbent, Anthony B. Flask.
Indeed, here's what The Vindicator had to say about the Flask-Hunter race in endorsing the mayor for a fourth, two-year term: "Needless to say, Youngstown is a Democratic stronghold and there is little prospect of any change in the pattern at the polls Tuesday." Not only did we predict a Flask victory, but we also suggested that the Democrats would continue to dominate City Council.
We were wrong -- and are glad we were. Hunter's defeat of Flask, and the Republican takeover of council was, in retrospect, one of the best things that has happened to the city of Youngstown.
Hunter, who died Saturday of cancer after a lifetime of service to his community, his state and his party, brought a touch of class to this region's politics, which often have been sullied by those elected officials who have no class.
His eight years in the mayor's office was a testament to his abilities as a chief executive officer, his political astuteness and his firm belief that public service is a calling to be taken just as seriously as medicine or the priesthood.
Education: Never once did he betray the trust the voters placed in him. After four terms as mayor, he stepped down and went back to the private sector. Four years later, in 1982, he easily won election for a seat on the Ohio Board of Education representing the 17th Congressional District. He served with distinction until 1991. He ran again for the board in 1998 in a new eight-county district and was still serving at the time of his death.
It is unfortunate that the residents of the 17th District could not overcome partisanship and demonstrate their trust in Hunter when he challenged Charles Carney in 1976 for the congressional seat.
Had he won, we believe that he would have served in such a way as to become unbeatable -- sparing the Valley its present embarrassment of having to acknowledge James A. Traficant Jr. as our member of Congress. Even though Traficant defeated an incumbent Republican, Lyle Williams, in the 1984 election -- Williams had defeated Carney in 1978 -- we do not believe he would have had the same success against a Jack Hunter. Hunter personified the best of the Mahoning Valley.
As Harry Meshel, long-time Valley politico and former administrative assistant to Mayor Flask, put it, "He [Hunter] was viewed as a decent person, clean, with no political vices."
After he completed his first term as mayor and sought re-election, The Vindicator was enthusiastic in its support of him. This is what we said on Oct. 25, 1971: "Mr. Hunter comes from a financial background. He knows what it costs to run the city and is aware of the void in service that would be created if money becomes unavailable. He is not a man of political promises. He pledges only another two years of effective government. He deserves re-election. The Vindicator believes there can be no better choice."
The Mahoning Valley has lost a true public servant.