My husband, Mark Manley, is running for community council in Over-the-Rhine. It was only a matter of time before he decided his debates were no longer working on us, and most whom he debated with have long since moved out. And in my writings about a “gap year,” he never proclaimed to have had one. His mind was always moving forward.
I have read blogs and postings about residents who have been called “unofficial mayors of OTR.” And with friends, we often talk about Mark’s aspirations and joke that Manley rhymes with Cranley, offering convenient political slogans. But he has no intention of running for mayor.
As a matter of fact, Mark shies away from that term, which has so many political implications. But I will tell you, after walking side by side with this man, for nine years, one of those here in the city, Mark is the most unabashed ambassador of OTR -and the city in general – I have ever met.
Long before our transition, when in conversation with others about our move, Mark was the one whose explanations went deep and long into the reasons behind our move, his rationale filled with passion and excitement and engagement, and a real desire to be a change agent – if and when needed. Whereas, I, in charge of the family calendar, was simply trying to get to, and get through the move.
And now, as time has progressed, while I am out making stories, he is making connections. Whenever he is met by a Streetvibes vendor, he always stops to listen and read their word, despite the fact that more than once we have been given old copies. He knows the names and the corners of the vendors. He walks purposely up to the many streetwalkers (I am uncertain if they are homeless or panhandlers) and calls them by name, whereas I at times, wanting to be in my own world, acknowledge and walk by. He doesn’t offer money, but he offers his ear and an acknowledgment that they are equally a part of the fabric here, as are we.
One day, on a walk to Kroger, he stopped to ask a neighbor, a long-time resident we have gotten to know, if he needed anything from the store. The neighbor said, “Yeah, a Sprite.” Mark was expecting maybe toilet paper, or coffee, but obliged and bought the man his Sprite.
Some days, one can catch him out in the courtyard, milling about. Passer-bys stop to comment or ask about the neighborhood and the yard. The lawn hardly takes time, but he pushes to keep it green, as the most impactful comments have come from tourists and long-time residents who say, “Its good to see green here.”
Mark understood this principle so much that he suggested we support the OTRCH senior housing courtyard in honor of my father. A nod to the past, a nod to “silent work to think, wonder and grow.”
He is equally at home conversing with 3CDC, as we purchased our home through their development, as he is with long-time non-profits and residents of our neighborhood. He has worked at understanding the long-standing debate between development and gentrification while also bringing a fresh set of eyes to the discussion and is not afraid to challenge those in authority or the status quo. He shops at Findlay more often than I do. As I trek through the city on my walks, he comes along, and whereas I see stories, he sees life.
He hasn’t missed a day of work since I’ve known him, for 12 years, and he hasn’t missed a party or social invite either. He hasn’t missed the opportunity to be there for his family and friends and friends of family (he doctoring is not limited to the hospital) and other volunteer obligations, but he has also never missed the opportunity to deeply listen. He shows up for events, in which he is the only male (OK, maybe this is planned), and has been doing so, since raising three girls on his own for a number of years.
While he has plenty of credentials to be voted on any council, his most remarkable claims are long-time listener and candidate for hope.
Though I am the one often writing about the city, and sometimes friends suggest perhaps I should run (Bill and Hillary, part two, they could call us Markette), Mark is the one most at home with conflict, debate, and resolution. His viewpoint is broader, and his perspective and ears are wide open to the horizon of possibilities.