There is a good reason that I stand with Roger Reynolds and David Kern over the recent controversy surrounding Butler County Commissioner, Don Dixon. Before I tell this story remember that I’d rather deal with Republicans who are fighting each other over what’s right than a bunch of collectivist Democrats. But then again, Don Dixon was a Democrat all through the 80’s and 90’s and only decided to become a Republican in the year 2000, when it was obvious that conservative politics ruled Butler County. When politicians use their public office in an abusive way—to obtain benefits for their friends, family, and political allies, right is right—and its not always easy to tell who is telling the truth, or even what “right” is. In the recent case of Don Dixon, he obviously gave his son Brent benefits from his political holdings over the years—to the direct benefit of his family. Don’s angry because Kern and Reynolds called him out on it—finally. Here is the story from the newspaper.
Two board of election employees – including the son of a county commissioner – resigned in the wake of allegations that they were receiving full-time benefits for working part-time jobs.
The county made about $200,000 contributions toward their medical and dental insurance and also paid toward their pensions.
Republican Brent Dixon, 44, and Democrat Garry Hicks, 61, resigned this month after Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser became involved and issued a “cease and desist” letter to the board of elections.
Brent Dixon was hired 22 years ago during the tenure of retired elections director Betty McGary, who has had a long-time relationship with Don Dixon. McGary quit in 2011 after 33 years.
“That’s the most lowdown sleazy, nasty comment I’ve ever heard. If you want to talk about me and you want to talk about my political history that’s one thing. Stay out of my life, out of my personal life. Roger Reynolds doesn’t have a millionth of the integrity she’s got,” he said. “I don’t pick on his wife.”
He threatened to sue Reynolds and Kern.
Don Dixon, who has led a crackdown on county spending since the economic downturn, was outraged that Reynolds had dragged McGary into the flap. He referred to McGary as his wife. He said the allegations were politically motivated.
Don Dixon said county commissioners have no control over the board of elections even though county commissioners approve the board’s annual budget.
Reynolds said Butler County contributed more than $156,000 towards Brent Dixon’s medical insurance over the years. Hicks was hired in 2001 and the county contributed about $35,000 toward his medical insurance premiums. Hicks recently was only taking the county’s dental insurance. Reynolds did not have figures for how much the county contributed toward their pensions.
With changes in the state pension effective Jan. 1, 2014, the 14 percent raises put Dixon’s and Hicks’ monthly wages over the $600 benchmark that enabled them to continue to earn a full month of credit for pension benefits. Before the changes, employees had to earn a minimum monthly salary of $250 to receive one full month of pension credit.
“There’s a lot of questions related to how Betty McGary would go along with this and authorized this as a director when it directly impacted Don Dixon’s son,” Reynolds said.
Don Dixon can cry foul all he wants, but the bottom line is that his son was given help by government through his father which is an abuse of power. It doesn’t mean that Dixon is a bad person, but has simply done what many politicians fall victim to, they abuse their power for personal benefit which ultimately cost tax payers a lot of money. When there are many tens of thousands of people like Don Dixon doing for his son Brent what he did, the cost to tax payers is catastrophically high.
I have some experience with the Dixons that is a bit of a precursor to this kind of behavior which I have never forgotten. Way back in 1979, I was in a Soup Box Derby race with Brent in the finales of the Hamilton Jaycees sponsored event held behind Fort Hamilton Hospital. Back then, the race was a big deal in the Hamilton/Fairfield area and my car The Beast, seen in the picture above dominated the event. CLICK HERE FOR A REVIEW OF HOW “THE BEAST” CAME TO BE. Brent and I raced in what was one of the closest races ever done in that event. We raced three times in the finals which was a climatic centerpiece that had a good part of Hamilton on the edge of their seats. I won the first race convincingly. During the second race it was so close that nobody could agree whether or not Brent won or I did. So we raced a third time. Many believe that the results were much closer the third time than the second—but by rule, they couldn’t declare a tie, so somebody had to make a decision. After 15 minutes of grueling review, Brent was declared the winner to the roar of a cheering crowd. The Dixons were well-known around Hamilton and very politically powerful—so people knew their name. I was an unknown living on a country road in obscurity.
I wasn’t unhappy with the results. I was proud of my efforts. Brent had a slick car that many people believe was built by his father’s people. Brent had a car that was built to win. My car was one that my dad and I built-in our basement and back yard over many months. A lot of sweat and love went into my car and it showed. Brent’s looked professional, mine looked like it was made by an 11-year-old—which it was. But even so, I had won 9 out of 11 races including the final—which wasn’t bad. But my dad swore that I had won both photo finishes as he had placed himself on the sight line. He was outraged.
Naturally, I thought that my dad was just cheering for his son the way all proud parents do who believes that their children are the best at everything. Brent’s dad Don was near my father with his entourage of ass-kissers and of course Don believed that his son had won. The two dads were looking at the situation from opposing positions. I didn’t care. I was happy to have done well, but my dad was furious on the way home. The entire time we loaded my car onto the trailer and drove home he talked about Butler County politics and declared that the race was so close that politically the officials gave the win to Brent because of who his dad was. I wasn’t so sure, but what he was saying made sense.
Afterwards, the media seemed more interested in my story than Brent’s including the Journal News story seen above—because I was the underdog and as the reporter declared, people like the underdog. People liked my car, they like the David and Goliath story, they liked reading about Hoffman versus Dixon—where obviously Dixon was Goliath. As the reporter concluded his interview with me and took his pictures at a spot that is now a sports bar where my home used to be located, he winked at me and said…………”you won kid. I was there………I saw it with my own eyes. But politics is more powerful than heart. You have a lot of heart, just not enough politics.”
I watched that reporter leave and thought hard about what he said, and it likely sent me on a journey that has been over 30 years in the making. I value my heart and the products of my mind over the connections that I could make kissing ass through politics. I have avoided politics my entire life, likely because of my experiences against Brent Dixon at the Hamilton Soap Box Derby in 1979. I’ve watched Brent grow up in the shadows of his father his entire life and I would never trade positions with him. Brent has to look in the mirror every day and know that much of what he has obtained in life he gained through his father—whether it was the decision of a photo finish victory against me, or a cute little job with the Board of Elections and all the perks that came with it. If I live a hundred more years I would never wish to trade places with Brent Dixon.
When I was 11 years old and my soap box derby car was parked next to Brent’s slick black and gray professionally constructed Dixon winning machine I wouldn’t have traded him my car for his—even though they were both equally as fast. The reason is that I built mine with my dad with a lot of hard work and that made my victories that day much more cherished. Brent won in the end, but like many things in his life, he won with the help of politics, which cheapens such victories to the point where they’re worthless.
Now many years later, on the fallout of a Lakota levy election loss where the politically connected won over the rag-tag efforts of those standing against tax increases, I wouldn’t trade places with those people for the same reason that I wouldn’t trade with Brent. Dixon the son won at many things in life because politics helped him get over the top. I have watched this happen to many people, and I have fought against it as I always will. It didn’t surprise me at all to see that Brent had eventually found himself in trouble over such a thing because it wasn’t the first time. What did surprise me is that David and Roger stood up to a respected Republican Commissioner who has his roots going back decades into Butler County politics. The fact that they did speak out against Dixon speaks volumes about a wave of politics that is about to hit Butler County in the years to come—a political system that the levy supporters will not like, and the power brokers like Dixon who have spent a life-time nurturing their name so that they could help their loved ones with looted money and resources gained through government offices.
I have been in many photo finishes, and many of them were lost the same way that my rendezvous with Brent Dixon ended—with politics defeating raw heart. But………..in the end, even after all these years the results of two lives shaped by a Soup Box Derby race proved drastically different because one found their life shaped by who their dad was and the other shaped by the kind of man their dad allowed them to be. That subtle difference leads to winning a war by letting the battles go to the politically connected and otherwise manipulative causing a result that always ends with self-destruction over a span of decades. A war won is more valuable than battles shaped by political influence, not for what the spoils of victory can give to pad a bank account, but for what it brings out truly in a heart and soul. Battles are won by people like the Dixons. Wars are won by those with heart…………..and a mind that still feeds it. In confronting Dixon, Reynolds and Kern showed a lot of heart, and I admire them for it. David Kern specifically has spent a life-like the biblical David, overlooked and quietly residing in the background for the most part. Commissioner Dixon represents all the high-profile prestige of the Biblical Goliath, who expects to use his power and prestige collected over many years to crush his enemies. What happened over the board of elections scandal is that an actual David named Kern cast a single stone against Goliath, and the results were predictably epic. Because the David of Butler County—Kern and Roger Reynolds are out to win a war—as they have for years endured the battles won by Don Dixon. And if Goliath was not guilty to begin with, the single stone would have had no effect.
In the end, heart crushes politics. Sometimes it just takes decades to achieve victory. Most of the time, it takes more than a photo finish, but enough time provided for Goliath to overlook a single stone that could bring him down, and the will to cast it when the rest of the world believes it to be unwise. That is what I learned in my race with Brent Dixon in 1979 and the lives of two people who moved from there into radically different directions.