NORTH LIMA — Friday marked a “bittersweet moment” for the Mahoning Valley as the late state Republican Rep. Don Manning was honored by friends, family and state Republicans.
Manning, the former 59th Ohio House representative from New Middletown, died in March 2020 of an apparent heart attack. He was 52.
Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday visited North Lima to sign House Bill 191, naming the state Route 164 bridge spanning Interstate 680 as the Don Manning Memorial Bridge. The governor and others who worked alongside him in the Legislature memorialized the Navy veteran and former youth social worker, who “cared deeply about the Valley.”
Manning’s experience as a truancy prevention officer and youth case manager “really gave him unique insight into the issues surrounding young people,” DeWine said. The governor recalled signing Manning’s first bill into law, which created a stakeholders group focused on child behavioral health.
During his time in the state legislature, Manning also oversaw legislation to prohibit mandatory overtime for nurses and to stop park districts from appropriating private property for recreational grounds — the latter of which was crafted in response to eminent domain court disputes launched by Mill Creek MetroParks. Manning at the time met with embattled Green Township landowners and park officials to find common ground.
“He was one of us,” said Tom McCabe, Mahoning County Republican Party chairman. “You could call him any time of day and he’d call you back. It didn’t matter when. If you needed to meet with him, he’d meet you at the headquarters, he’d meet you at [restaurants].”
A bill temporarily banning park districts from using eminent domain for recreational trails recently became law. Its torch was taken up by Manning’s House successor, Rep. Al Cutrona of Canfield, who also sponsored the bridge-naming bill.
“Back here in the district, anyone that knew [Manning] knew he was a man of the people,” Cutrona said.
“Every time somebody here in the district drives past it, drives on it, they’ll remember Don. They’ll remember the legacy he created, that he built, and everything he cared about.”
The bridge is between Manning’s hometown and his childhood home in Springfield Township. His children, Sean and Taylor Manning, attended South Range schools. Sean on Friday showed off the “59” tattooed on his arm and announced his intention to run for his father’s seat.
“I’m going to be running it just as well as my dad did — maybe even better,” he said.
Over the years, Manning made several failed runs at the 59th House seat and various other elected positions in the Valley — but never gave up, colleagues said Friday. Manning’s fiance, Stephanie Razo of New Middletown, said she and Manning were driving over the stretch of state Route 711 named for former Democratic state Rep. Robert E. Hagan, when Manning told her, “I’m gonna’ have a bridge named after me someday.
“I’m like, ‘Oh you’re so pompous,’” Razo laughed. “He said, ‘No, really. I’m gonna’ be the kind of person they name a bridge after.’ … Not just to have a bridge named after him. He wanted to be that person.