By Patrick Edmunds

“First impressions may be lasting.”  That was the phrase that Mrs. Erickson, my seventh grade English teacher, calmly used to greet her students on a first day of school more than 25 years ago.  It was her cerebral attempt to control a classroom of rambunctious pre-teens, not through threats or punishment, but by suggesting that the way we carry ourselves matters—and that we only get one shot to project a first impression onto others—others who will use it as a glimpse into our true character. While that profound wisdom was largely lost on me at the time, it has stuck with me and proven true in the many years since. But the reflection to follow is not about Mrs. Erickson. It is, however, about another English teacher:  Eileen Washburn—incumbent candidate for the Loveland Board of Education.

Before proceeding, I must admit that the apparent irony of sharing a “first” impression of someone who is already well known by this community is not lost on me. As the only candidate on the November 2nd ballot who will soon have fulfilled a full term of service on this board, Eileen has already been tested. Loveland voters have had four years to get to know her; four years to see her in action. But bear with me.

It’s not Eileen who’s new to the scene. It’s me. 

Having lived in this district for what feels like five minutes (5 months to be precise), I have come to realize the “sticky” nature of this city. Residents love it here. They are from here, and they stay here. Everyone seems to know everyone. To be clear, I love this about Loveland, and I hope this describes my relationship with this community one day.

But for now, I’m still unpacking boxes and figuring it all out. Given the timing of my arrival in Loveland with the impending election, my lens (and conscience) is clear. My perspective is still fresh and unclouded. I see this as a unique strength in assessing the current pool of candidates.

My family and I moved into the district knowing virtually no one in the Loveland community. We have no family here. We have no political connections here. We have no “levy baggage.” For that I am grateful. There is so much I don’t know yet about this district. But for the sake of this discussion, let me share what I do know.

I know that this school district was a primary reason my family chose Loveland as our new home.

I also know that we moved amid a global pandemic and a period of social and political discord unmatched in our nation’s recent history. We are dealing with hard stuff that will fill history books in years to follow. Despite this, we came here still full of hope. We believed that in Loveland, we could give our kids the absolute best opportunity for a premier public education and a bright future. 

Sadly, however, our optimism about Loveland Schools was immediately tested upon our arrival. The strife that greeted us was palpable. The wounds (on both sides) of failed levies were still being licked. The rhetoric was intense, and at times hateful. People who had been friends for 20 years were suddenly no longer speaking. And, people and events that were totally unfamiliar to my family just a few weeks prior were suddenly the only topics anyone we met wanted to discuss; these were seemingly the only things that mattered anymore. The crescendo for us was witnessing the police (yes, the police) respond to help calm the angry crowd at the very first School Board meeting we attended.

In those first few meetings I witnessed screaming. I heard accusations; I heard threats of litigation. I saw a physician flagrantly vote against masks in schools for our youngest students who are still vaccine ineligible. Where did we move, and what is going on here?  Our “welcome” to Loveland was not a first impression that I wanted to last.

So, now back to things I do know and have recognized (it’s not all doom and gloom) as an unencumbered newcomer. First, I know we can still have hope. Second, that hope lies in Eileen Washburn.

I have come to know Eileen over the past few months, and who I’ve met is someone who is thoughtful, calm, and measured.  When Eileen speaks, I hear a clear voice of reason that surmounts the noise around her. I hear commonsense policymaking, not political pandering. We need this now more than ever. 

I know that it can be lonely at the top. Yet, I have seen Eileen bravely break away from the comfort and protection of the crowd, if and when it is in the best interest of the district’s students, families, and staff to do so. Eileen’s morals are unwavering, and her judgment is sound. In decision-making, Eileen chooses what’s right over what’s easy. Her work ethic is unparalleled. 

I know that Eileen cares. As a parent of district students, she has a personal family stake in the success of our schools. As a teacher, herself (in a neighboring district), dedication to students is in her blood. Eileen is the teacher who will stay after school to support a student who is nervous about trying out for the basketball team (true story!). She’s also the kind of person who would never brag about that.

In closing, I want to be clear that I am not writing in support of Eileen because I am her neighbor, long-time friend, or family member. I am not writing this because she asked me to. I volunteered. I sought her out because I was impressed with what I saw in her. I am writing this because Eileen showed up for my family when we needed a leader on the board. I know that in her next term, Eileen will continue to advocate for the physical, mental, and emotional health and safety of my kids, and for their long term scholastic success—just like she has already done during our short time here. I also know that she’ll advocate for your kids too…whether you vote for her or not. She just can’t help it; it’s who she is. 

And that’s my first impression of Eileen Washburn—one that will last a lifetime.

Patrick Edmunds is a resident of Symmes Township