Sandusky Tells Its Story As State Leaders Roll Into Town

Apr 4, 2017

Gov. John Kasich is taking the state government on the road to Sandusky for his annual State of the State speech. The city that sits on the coast of Lake Erie is preparing to tell Kasich and other leaders what they need to know about their town. There are many stories to tell, with one common thread.

Lacy Hamilton walks into Better Half Diner, a local Sandusky spot, and sits down at a table with a cup of coffee and the daily newspaper.

You could say this is his regular breakfast spot.

“I come here two or three times a week,” said Hamilton. “Yeah it’s nice, a nice little restaurant.”

Hamilton, who’s been living in Sandusky for 50 years doing janitorial work, leans forward with his coffee and picks up the paper. The headline reads: Kasich In Town Today.

Gov. John Kasich’s traveling State of The State show means more than 100 state leaders, from lawmakers to cabinet directors, will descend upon Sandusky.

Hamilton and many others in the city see this as an opportunity to tell their state government the story of Sandusky and what it needs. The city that sits on the coast of Lake Erie thrives off of tourism and fishing. Ask any local, like Hamilton, and they’ll all tell you the same thing.

“If they don’t do something with the water all that stuff’s gonna go downhill.”

Hamilton wants Kasich, the state House and the state Senate to know that Lake Erie needs to be protected from harmful algae, for the sake of his city and his favorite diner.

“If it wasn’t for the tourist trade, coming down here to fish and boating, sail boating and stuff like that, little restaurants like this wouldn’t exist.” 

Kasich’s visit is the talk of the diner, which sits just a few blocks from the Sandusky State Theatre, the site of the governor's speech. The room is full of conversations centered around politics, water quality and just how busy it’s gonna get.

Two tables away from Hamilton is Scott Adkins, who admits he has strong opinions about Kasich.

“He’s ignored this side of the state for so long it’s come to affect us not only financially but a lot of people emotionally and he needs to see that and come in for a change,” said Adkins.

Aside from keeping Lake Erie clean, Adkins says Sandusky, like too many other Ohio communities, is dealing with a bad drug addiction problem.

As Adkins sees it, Sandusky is missing out on the kinds of services other, bigger cities get.

“Offer some of the programs that he uses in Columbus and uses in Franklin County other residing areas, the poorer areas like Erie County, Huron County, Columbiana, Mahoning all the counties that have suffered. These are the ones that need this financial aid. They need the repairs of streets and the roads. They need the buildings taken care of.”

Travel half a mile east of the Better Half Diner, along the coast of the lake, and Nikki Lloyd will tell you about her own personal Sandusky story.

“Sandusky’s going through a renaissance right now and the city has embraced it and we’re all pulling together to bring Sandusky to its full potential,” Lloyd said.

A few years ago Lloyd and her husband moved back to Sandusky from Colorado and renovated an old building in the city square. They’re now the owners of Hotel Kilbourne, a boutique hotel that has a front row view of the lake.

To Lloyd, many entrepreneurs are flocking to Sandusky to add their own piece to the puzzle. That means new coffee shops, taphouses, wineries, and retailers -- Lloyd says these businesses add depth to its identity as a lake town.

“I want Sandusky to be fun, maybe a little bit weird, a little bit funky but exciting and always something to do.”

With all that’s going well for Sandusky, city manager Eric Wobser says it all hinges on a healthy Lake Erie.

“You always lead with your strength and for us our strength is the lake,” said Wobser.

Back at the Better Half Diner, Lacy Hamilton agrees that Lake Erie has helped make Sandusky a popular destination.

“You can go anywhere, anywhere in the 50 states and if you talk to a few people somebody’s always heard of Sandusky or they’ve been here.”

The Kasich Administration scheduled more than 50 events and forums around Sandusky. Kasich believes this is a way to take state government out of Columbus and bring it to the people.