City, BGSU regret loss of Buckeye Boys State (updated)

By DAVID DUPONT

BG Independent News

University and city officials this morning are expressing regret by the decision by the trustees of Buckeye Boys State to move the program to Miami University.

The board of the American Legion-sponsored program made the decision Thursday night after a year of negotiations on a new five-year contract. On two occasions this year, people associated with the Legion have indicated the program would be leaving BGSU, its home since 1978.

A press release from Gerald White, director of Buckeye Boys State, stated that the decision was made by a majority vote of the board. The statement described the negotiations as “intense.” The agreement would have kept the mock government program on campus until 2021. Instead the group will convene next June at Miami University.

Dave Kielmeyer, spokesman for BGSU, said that the university had negotiated in good faith and had made several “fair and competitive offers.”

Mayor Dick Edwards, who attended Boys State in 1956 and was a BGSU administrator when the program was brought to campus in 1978, said he was “distraught” over the decision. He said he has “so much of my emotional self invested” in Boys State.

The decision, he said, came from “an accumulation of frustrations” on the part of the trustees and the Legion. “I’m not unhappy with leadership of American Legion.”

He said President Mary Ellen Mazey did intervene in the process to try to save the program. But “it’s been building.” There were concerns about access to certain services and facilities, including the Student Recreation Center. “It was a constant dinging.”

An initial proposal that called for a 41-percent increase didn’t help, even though the university backed off later. “It set the wrong tone.”

Miami University, on the other hand, said “whatever you want, we’ll provide.”

That approach reminded Edwards of his time at the university when BGSU lured the program away from Ohio University. Getting the program here and keeping it here had been a total community effort. Officials like chief financial officer George Postich, who attended Boys State in Illinois, knew the value of the program, he said.

The Boys State release noted several other proposals were made to attach Boys State, but that it came down to Miami and BGSU. “In the end, after a fair and equal presentation to the board of trustees on the merits and disadvantages of both institutions and a report to the Boys State Board on negotiations with Bowling Green State University, the board, by majority, voted to re-locate Buckeye Boys State to Miami University.”

“We appreciate our long standing relationship with Buckeye Boys State and the American Legion and wish them the best of luck,” Kielmeyer said.

BGSU shares Boys State’s mission of developing the leadership in Ohio, he said. The university would like to continue offering a $1,000 renewable scholarship to attendees “if Legion is willing to work with us and provide that information to us.”

“We’d like to support that mission in that way.”

Mazey stated earlier this month that 68 incoming BGSU freshmen had attended Boys State.

Edwards said that one downside for Boys State moving to Oxford is that it is a much smaller city without the services Bowling Green can provide. Also, it is not a county seat.

The county and city supplied a number of services, including meeting with Boys Staters to explain their roles in governments.

It’ll be sad on Sunday, Edwards said, when the event closes to know it won’t be returning to the city for at least another five years. “Maybe we’ll have a chance for it to come back in the future.”

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