State Rep. Michael Sheehy, recently appointed to fill the seat of former State Rep. Matt Szollosi, said he had big dreams of being a public servant as a child.
“Some kids want to be a quarterback. I grew up wanting to be a congressman. This is almost a dream job,” said Sheehy, who was on Oregon City Council for nine terms before his appointment to the state legislature. He will serve the 18 months remaining in Szollosi’s two year term representing the 46th House District, which encompasses Oregon, East and South Toledo, Maumee, Springfield Township and Holland.
As the years went by, Sheehy said his high aspirations to serve in Congress started to dim. Even the state legislature seemed beyond reach.
“It was something that I pretty much accepted would not happen in my lifetime. Matt came along, was capable, Teresa Fedor was very successful as a senator. So there was no place for me to move. I just accepted it. I had a good career,” said Sheehy, a former CSX railroad conductor.
“The people in Oregon have been good to me,” he continued. “They always sent me back to council. Then this opportunity came along, and I thought I probably wouldn’t get it. So I put my hat in the ring. If I get it, fine, if not, then life is good anyway.”
Sheehy was one of several people interested in the seat, including Oregon City Council President Tom Susor and Oregon Councilman James Seaman.
Sheehy was interviewed by phone by the screening committee for about 30 minutes, he said.
“Then a couple days later they sent me an e-mail, indicating I had made a good enough impression. They wanted to know if I was willing to come to Columbus for a face to face interview that would last about 30 minutes. I let them know I would be interested. Then a couple days later, they said the House Democratic Caucus had met and had voted unanimously in my favor. I didn’t know what to say. I was just really speechless. I really had to sit down. They said can you be in Columbus tomorrow at a given time. I was going to meet the members of the caucus, and then the next day I was sworn in. So once the caucus made the decision, things happened very quickly,” said Sheehy.
“The role of a legislator is a very important part of the political process, so you have the opportunity to make a greater contribution with a greater number of issues,” he said. “In municipal government, you’re mostly dealing with parks and recreation, roads, sewers. But you get to be associated with a greater array of issues when you work in state government. Instead of municipal, now I’m discussing state issues that have local and national ramifications,” he said.
Among the issues he is interested are possible changes in the Homestead Exemption, which senior homeowners have benefited from for years.
“The Homestead Exemption issue is a break for people who get a reduction in property taxes. Well, that’s going to go away for property owners who make over $30,000 and are at least 65 years old. If I’m turning 65 next year, and I’m drawing Social Security benefits of $30,000 or more per year, I won’t be able to avail myself of this exemption anymore. Maybe that means instead of retiring at 65, people will have to retire at 70. I’m interested in those bread and butter issues, tax issues,” he said.
Szollosi, who served on Oregon City Council for four terms, left during his fourth term as state representative to take the executive director position for Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) of Ohio in Columbus. ACT is a 501c3 organization created to facilitate economic development opportunities and industry best practices for skilled trades in Ohio. Szollosi and his family have already sold their house in Oregon to move to Columbus.