MEDINA — Five Medina High School students will get the chance to attend Gov. John Kasich’s State of the State address this evening.
The students won a lottery held by social studies teacher Simon Spelling and will receive tickets provided by state Sen. Larry Obhof, R-Montville Township.
Medina Councilman Brian Hilberg, 1st Ward, and at-large Councilman Bill Lamb came up with the idea.
“Brian and I both discussed the limited public seating a few weeks ago and agreed that school students would probably find it thrilling to have the opportunity to attend.” Lamb said. “We contacted state Sen. Larry Obhof and he agreed and provided us with five tickets.
“High school government teacher Mr. Spelling helped us by holding a lottery for interested students in his classes.”
The speech is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Medina Center for the Performing Arts, on the east side of the high school campus. Afterward, the students will have an opportunity to meet Obhof.
Only 50 tickets were made available to the public to attend the speech, which by law must be given to the entire Ohio General Assembly.
Those who couldn’t get tickets are invited by Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell to a live “watch party” in the gymnasium at the west end of the high school.
Parking will be available at Sydney Fenn Elementary, the Kindergarten Center and Claggett Middle School. Doors open at the B3 entrance at 5:30 p.m.
The mayor thanked Kasich and legislative leaders for bringing the State of the State address to Medina in an open letter Friday.
“This will permit our wonderful city to be showcased in the state spotlight, as well as share the many positive and appealing amenities that our city has to offer,” Hanwell wrote.
Kasich has said he selected the location as a tribute to GOP House Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, who’s winding up a 46-year career in public service this year.
Kasich’s State of the State address last year was in Lima, in the district of Senate President Keith Faber. He began the tradition in 2012 with a speech in the heart of Democrat-heavy Steubenville after losing a contentious battle with unions that would have turned back collective bargaining restrictions.
Medina city officials and area business and civic leaders are working to take advantage of the spotlight Kasich is bringing to the community.
The Greater Medina Chamber of Commerce has arranged tours of local manufacturers for state lawmakers, along with private receptions at area restaurants ahead of the speech.
Debra Lynn-Schmitz, president of the Greater Medina Chamber of Commerce, said the organization estimates that about 250 to 300 legislators, their staff and guests will be visiting the town. She said she hopes they leave the city with a better understanding of the community and what it’s done for its businesses.
“If we can create some interest in the community itself that’s going to help our businesses in the long run — it’s a good thing,” Lynn-Schmitz said. “It’s commerce.”
One legislative committee planned to hold its meeting at the Medina Hospital’s conference center.
Members of the governor’s Cabinet also scheduled area events and roundtables. The directors of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency planned to highlight efforts to plug vertical oil and gas wells that are no longer in production. The abandoned wells from oil and gas drilling pose a risk for groundwater contamination if left unplugged.
Kasich’s visit also is drawing protest from environmental activists, unions and women’s groups who are planning rallies for 5 p.m. today outside Medina High School.
The labor-backed We Are Ohio organization plans to discuss Kasich’s policies, which they argue have made it harder for working- and middle-class families. The group led the successful 2011 ballot repeal of collective bargaining restrictions for public workers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.