LWV dinner lauds Valley women

Dr. Amy Acton gets distinguished service award

YOUNGSTOWN — The League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown honored Dr. Amy Acton with its distinguished service award for her work as the director of the Ohio Department of Health during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Acton spoke to the crowd of 120 people Thursday at the Jewish Community Center of Youngstown about how proud she is that Ohioans mostly came together at the start of the pandemic, but also acknowledged that it is a very polarizing issue.

“Our state worked hard. You hear so many of the negative stories, but what I can tell you is the overwhelming way Ohioans were trying to pull each other up on a life raft. It’s that 9/11 moment, but it lasted weeks and weeks, and months and months and continues to this day,” Acton said.

At the beginning of the pandemic, Acton took a trip to the White House, where she said she urged Mick Mulvaney, then-President Trump’s chief of staff, to bring as many people to the table as possible. She said that would be the only way to solve as big of a problem as what the nation was facing in early 2020.

Post-9/11, Acton said George W. Bush studied the biggest threats to the country, and recognized that pandemics are a time when bad actors can take advantage of the situation. Acton said Bush created a “pandemic playbook” to guide future presidents. She said Trump didn’t take advantage of that.

“This was a chance — the Winston Churchill, FDR kind of moment to lead — and I was just so surprised when that didn’t happen,” Acton said. “I came back on an airplane and thank God the governor — he has a very prosecutor-mind. He studied pandemics and he didn’t want anyone to die. So, even in a state that we see can be so polarizing, we really took some bold measures early on, listened to the experts and it really is those first three months that changed our trajectory.”

Acton said her work during the pandemic gave her a crash course in government and the way it works. She also said that women and minorities were targeted during the pandemic more than others. She pointed to the group of protesters, some of whom she said were at the Jan. 6 capital riot, that showed up at her suburban Columbus home.

She said in the times of disruption are the times when the most change can occur.

“There will be a time — and it’s not yet here — when we will fully come to terms with what we’ve been through,” Acton said. “We will need to make memorials after it and grieve what we’ve endured. That time will come. I know we will reflect, but I think the moment right now is calling us for a rebirth of what we want to be, and it can go either way. I was just so surprised by how thin what keeps this world working is, but how very interconnected we are.”

She said LWV is all about giving a voice to everyone and grassroots democracy. Acton encouraged those to do what is right, not what is popular or politically correct.

Acton, who is from the North Side of Youngstown, said she was inspired by the stories of the other local women honored. Seven local women were honored as nomintees to the LWV’s Women’s Hall of Fame, of which, four were inducted.

The four women who were inducted into the LWV Women’s Hall of Fame are:

• Suzanne Barbati, former founding director of OH WOW! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and technology;

• Bonnie Deutsch Burdman, director of community relations and government affairs at Youngstown Area Jewish Federation;

• Lashale Pugh, assistant executive director and research and evaluation director at the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition;

• Vicki Vicars, director of mission, equity and resilience at Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown and director of advancement at Thrive Mahoning Valley.

The following women also were also nominated:

• Anne Harpman, a former special education teacher and member of LWVGY board of directors;

• Roxann Sebest, director of marketing and communications at the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley;

• Sarah Grinstein Wilscheck, executive director of Congregation Ohev Beth Sholom.


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