By Emily Barry
The ice had watered down the once strong Canadian Club and Coke by the time the glass came to rest on the white linen tablecloth. The mixing straw jumped as it was placed and there were four tiny liquid spots that had escaped the straw and splashed onto the table.
I can barely count the number of times I have seen my father, Steve Barry, order a drink, but then again, I can barely count the number of times I have seen him at all for more than 15 minutes here and there in the last 15 months. Tonight was different; tonight it was finished.
My mother, Kathy Barry, persistent and fun loving, cooked a family dinner on Tuesday, June 5, 2011. I was back to working five days a week since school was out and Tuesdays were my long days, days when I could not wait to get home and relax. I had just overzealously dunked a piece of grilled chicken into some Italian dressing when my father announced he was going to run for Summit County Sheriff.
“So. I think I’m going to do this,” he said.
The kitchen was quiet. There had been talk and rumor throughout our household for weeks, maybe months that he might run, but this time it was real. I can still see the look on my mom’s face as if it were a still picture. Her periwinkle blue eyes gleamed in surprise, enthusiasm, excitement, pride, and worry all at the same time. Dinner turned into hours at the table talking, strategizing, and asking questions together.
By August 2011, summer was almost over and my father’s declaration became public. It seems as though the phone has not stopped ringing since then. People and questions came out of the woodwork. Everyday we were asked “So why does your father/husband/son want to run for sheriff?” “Why does he think he is the man for the job?” “Why should I vote for him?” “What has he done that makes him a good candidate?”
“In 1982, after over 3 years as a Special Deputy, which was a volunteer/part-time position, I became a full-time Summit County Deputy Sheriff, beginning in the Corrections Bureau. Throughout my career, I worked as a Deputy, Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain, in the Corrections, Operations, Detective, and Administrative Bureaus, in the Patrol Division, and at the Summit County Jail,” said Barry, “I was also chosen to become the Inaugural School Resource Deputy for Green Local Schools in Summit County, I became a member of the Hostage Negotiations Team in the Sheriff’s STAR (SWAT) unit, became the Acting Chief of Police for Twinsburg Township while their chief was on leave, was certified to teach in law enforcement academies, and for the last four years of my career was the supervisor of a task force for a “special assignment” through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office Organized Crime Investigations Commission.”
At 21, it is easy for me to prove through records, statistics, and colorful memories as to why my father is the best man for the job. However, it is the stories I hear, but do not remember, that illustrate and support that best.
“There was a case Steve worked in which he and three other detectives were looking for a group of armed young men who were robbing restaurants. Throughout the investigation, Steve and his partners were out day and night and I would anxiously await the routine call in which Steve would simply tell me, ‘I can’t say where I am, but I’m okay and I’ll see you soon.’ These young men were finally caught, convicted, and incarcerated. However, one ended up escaping, called the Detective Bureau and threatened to kill Steve, the judge, and the prosecutor. At that point, Steve and I decided, with help from our parents, that I would take our kids, Stephen and Emily, and stay away from our house for the following four days, until the young man was caught a second time,” remembered Kathy Barry, “I always knew that he had a dangerous profession, but this case in particular was when I truly understood the depth of what he did for a living.”
As children, my brother and I do not remember such a compromising time. However, we do remember going to my dad’s downtown office and peering wide-eyed at the mug shots hanging on the wall of the “really bad people” daddy had put away. Though such a memory sounds unusual, we were not afraid; instead, we found a strong sense of pride in what he was doing, even at a young age.
“I remember one photo I used to look at more than the others,” said Stephen Barry, 24, “the crimes were extensive and the sentencing stated ‘200-500 years without the chance of parole.’ I recall trying to wrap my mind around a time period like that and couldn’t.”
Such memories abounded throughout the 15 months of the campaign. Often times they were what reminded us all, especially my father after exhausting days, why we were doing it.
“It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life,” said Barry about the campaign, “I do not enjoy being in the spotlight at all times and I absolutely hated asking people to volunteer or donate.”
When the campaign first began, daily breakfast, lunch, and dinner meetings became routine. The online calendar started to fill and time started to crunch. Free time and relaxation soon went out the window. As early as 6 am our home phone and my father’s cell phone rang non-stop some days until 12 to 1 am at night. Sleep deprivation mixed with stress and anxiety.
“I was totally exhausted, day in and day out,” stated Barry, who leaned on and survived due to his one true addiction: McDonald’s coffee.
“Elect Steve Barry for Sheriff” signs, tee shirts, hats, and newspaper ads began to pour into our home, taking up any available empty space. Reporters began to call and phone interviews were often held in our garage, disabling the main entryway into our house at any given hour of the day.
The house, though always functioning on an open-door policy for friends and neighbors, turned into what felt like a hotel or office. Different people checked in and out every single day, my mother, a registered nurse, who had recently taken a new job in which she could work from home, acted as the secretary fielding calls and messages, and dinner was decided on by which delivery menu just happened to be on top of the stack in our “carry-out” folder.
Normalcy was no more.
After 7 months of holiday programs and parades, numerous church services, and continual outreach events, March came. The campaign team pushed the limits by making voice calls, sending out mailers, and working the polls before and during primary voting day. On the night of the 6th, my family, our friends, and campaign supporters gathered at Prime banquet hall on Manchester Rd. The mood was upbeat, but my family was anxious and for the first hour, my dad was not present.
Finally, through the door walked my dad and simultaneously, the party coordinators set up a computer and projection system so we could keep a watchful eye on the results directly from the Board of Elections. I hit the “refresh” button each time I walked by the worn black laptop. The results fluctuated just like stress levels in the room.
Around 10 o’clock the votes were almost completely counted. The website read “Sheriff: Steve Barry (D) 15,389 – Frank Martucci Jr. (D) 11,489.” Tears released the stress that once filled the room as clapping and screaming grew louder through the 250+ audience. We had successfully made it through the primary election.
Wednesday, March 7, I woke up early to listen to my dad talk about his victory on local radio stations. Though he spoke about the excitement that Tuesday night had granted him, he spoke more in depth about the upcoming general election. I realized that the campaign was at another beginning. Then, snapping back into our hectic reality and out of our heightened state, we could already hear the phone ringing off the hook.
Working towards the general election was exciting, frustrating, demanding, and strenuous. The processes we followed for the primary election continued, but at an accelerated pace. We had only 8 months.
“There was a lot of ground to be covered still,” said Mrs. Barry, “things and people and events popped up out of the blue that were necessary to the campaign and victory. Many days were a struggle.”
One main struggle is unavoidable in any campaign: money. I recall a specific campaign meeting held in our kitchen in which the 10 main campaign volunteers and friends discussed a tentative budget. The totaling amount at the bottom of the page aimed for more than $150,000. With this amount, billboards, radio spots, advertisement trucks, and television commercials were possible, but were they attainable?
“We do not have that kind of money,” was something I heard often from both of my parents.
It was obvious we didn’t have that kind of money. How many families can throw out hundreds of thousands of dollars to a political campaign in the midst of house payments and college tuition? We needed help.
Naturally, the next plan was to increase the number of fundraisers. At one point, there were 8 provisional fundraisers and events scheduled for the summer months alone.
“It’s too much. I cannot ask people to attend 2 fundraisers a month. I won’t do it,” stressed Barry.
After numerous exasperated meetings, the team agreed to a smaller number of events and we set out to continue the campaign. My own personal role was to advertise and advertise loudly. I posted numerous Facebook and twitter messages and pictures, hoping the campaign would reach my 921 social networking friends. I wore my hot pink “Elect Steve Barry for Sheriff” shirt weekly and walked in countless parades waving a banner that was twice my size.
Again, my father was gone everyday. Meetings grew longer and handshaking became his best skill. Fortunately, as the summer quickly passed, each fundraiser grew in attendance and donations. I was continually shocked each time at how many people attended the events and helped us spread the word. It was truly rewarding and humbling to see.
At each of the successful fundraisers my family would often hear supporters and Summit County Sheriff Deputies stating that we had “nothing to worry about” and that “everyone knows Steve is going to win because he is the only man for the job.” I recall even one person saying that we could “stop all efforts at this point because it would not make a difference- he is going to win.”
While encouraging, we were still nervous, not to mention that my superstitious mother and I were afraid that if we had that mentality, we would certainly jinx ourselves. Though we had such support, we were too far into the game to stop now.
Finally, August and the beginning of class came. For me, this meant time to get out of the house and away from campaign-talk for a couple of hours each day, something I was extremely thankful for.
With everyone back into individual routines, time flew by. Before we knew it, my family was two weeks away from Election Day. Like in the primary, it was crunch time and we were all out day and night spreading the word and encouraging our friends, family, and other Summit County citizens to vote.
During the week before November 6, our greatest goal was literature drops. My father and his campaign managers orchestrated teams to go out into certain areas of Summit County to drop mailers into individual paper boxes each night.
My mother and I became a united team and saw this time as a chance to get out of the house, blare some music, have some girl time away from the rest of the over-stressed teams, and bond over McDonald’s hot chocolate and Taco Bell enchirito’s. The fact that it was 2 a.m. on Election Day and we were exhausted was forgotten.
After not getting much sleep, though certainly more than my parents, I woke up on the sixth, ecstatic for the party that was going to be held that night at Raintree Country Club in Green. However, I was surprised when I got ready and went to class. I was able to focus on my papers and quizzes and truthfully did not think about the campaign, until I went to vote. Apparently, I was not nervous.
Filling in the little circle next to my father’s name in the voting booth filled me with a sense of joy and pride and I felt optimistic when I left the polls.
This feeling only increased as my family and I got to Raintree. People poured through the doors as the night grew late. Again, my father was not present for the first hour. Instead, he relaxed a bit before the party and I again saw the patterns that had been so familiar in March.
At about 8 o’clock, my father arrived and the mood was light, positive, and exciting. Results began to come in earlier than expected and at first look, percentages were listed with my father having around 64 percent of votes, while his opponent, Randy Rivers, had 36 percent.
While I was ready to jump up and down screaming and yelling, I noticed something that I found to be uncanny. Though partygoers were excited, not one of them seemed to be surprised. When speaking to a friend of our family, Jen Kline, I remember stating that I was starting to get anxious for the results to come in. Her immediate response was “Why? You know he’s going to win.”
With that being said, I continued to watch others around me. Everyone was in good spirits and people were coming together and already beginning to celebrate.
As time pressed on, my father’s numbers jumped to the seventies, back down to the sixties, back up to the high seventies and so on. I realized there was reason to celebrate; the results were totally in our favor.
Around ten o’clock, the majority of precincts were counted and my dad was still in the lead. As the refresh button was hit for a final time, 298 of 298 precinct results had been counted. The results stood.
“Steve Barry (DEM)…. 147,068/63.77% – Randy L. Rivers (REP)…. 83,569/36.23%”
It was a landslide.
Celebration again commenced and though tears poured through the room, they were different than those shed at the primary election. It seemed as though we cried happy tears, not tears of nervousness or anxiety. I then embraced my father in a tight hug and told him how proud I was of him as he made his way to the front of the room to the podium.
As he began to give thanks to all of our friends, family, and supporters, I found my mom in the sea of clapping guests and held her hand as we watched.
“I cannot thank everyone enough for the continued love and support for myself and my family,” my father began, “it has been a long 15 months and we have come a very long way. I could not have done this without each and every one of you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am ready to begin working and rebuilding the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and I am honored to be your next Sheriff. This is just the beginning and I’m ready to hit the ground running…”
I leaned over and pressed my head to mom’s shoulder as she squeezed my hand, “Here we go,” she whispered.