State Representative, District 19
Central, State Legislature
We are proud to endorse Mary Lightbody for Ohio House District 19. Mary has the passion and energy to really make a difference in the Statehouse for women and their families so that all can prosper in a more equitable Ohio.
House District 19 includes Eastern Columbus, Gahanna, and New Albany. Click here to find the elected officials in your district.
Meet the Candidate
Can you tell our members a little bit about your journey to filing as a candidate?
When my husband passed away unexpectedly in 2009, I was shocked and lost in grief for some time. We had been married for 37 years and were profoundly happy. Slowly though, as I recovered my balance after his death, I started finding ways to do more to give back and to help others. Although I have been a teacher almost my whole life and have long been a volunteer in the school districts our children attended, I wanted to find an opportunity to serve others in a larger arena. I became a deacon at my church and accepted a position on the Westerville Public Library board of trustees. As I looked around for additional ways to serve my community, I realized that I could run for the Ohio House of Representatives in District 19, where I have lived for the past 30 years. I started researching what that would entail, got some excellent advice from others about the process of running for office and the work of legislators, and made a firm decision in the spring of 2017 to run for the Democratic nomination for the seat in 2018.
Tell our members about a friend or family member who inspired you to become a leader.
My father, James D. Lightbody, Jr., was a wonderful man who taught his children the value of working hard, wasting nothing, fixing what was broken, and telling the truth always. But his most important lesson, and his favorite saying, inspires me still: “Doing does it.”
His lessons were simple. He went off to work every day Monday through Friday, but made sure that we spent time on Saturdays learning to use hand and power tools to repair whatever was broken or needed attention, to trim trees or mow the grass, to build fences, stone walls, sheds and barns, and to maintain and improve our house. He taught us games and to play fair. We had a family orchestra and played Christmas carols and “Happy Birthday” with gusto. On Sunday mornings we went to church, but Sunday afternoons in the fall Dad organized “Santa’s workshop,” where we made simple wooden presents for family members while we watched the Cleveland Browns on a black-and-white TV.
As a child I knew little of the successes and disappointments in his work as a businessman with engineering firms, nor why the family moved 18 times in 20 years following his career before we settled in Pepper Pike, Ohio for the long term when I was five. As a teenager I admired his determination and entrepreneurial spirit as he launched several successful small businesses. Only as an adult did I understand how scarred he was by the poverty he experienced during the Great Depression, and how the need to earn A’s to keep his scholarship in college limited his course selection to the mathematics, science, and engineering classes in which he excelled. And I came to appreciate that none of his own success on the track team in college nor being elected as freshman-class president over his classmate, John F. Kennedy, ever caused him to think highly of his own accomplishments. He was humble and self-effacing, loving and kind, and gave me all the skills I need to run for office and to serve as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. Doing does it, indeed.
Some of you are military veterans, some small business owners, some professionals, some mothers and grandmothers, some homemakers. How did one of these experiences shape who you are as a person and leader?
I launched my public-school teaching career after I received my teaching license along with my Master’s of Education degree from Ohio State in 1992. I continued teaching while working on my doctorate in Science Education, which I received in 2004. I currently teach science methods classes and media literacy skills to future teachers at Ohio State on the Newark campus and have experience in classrooms from pre-K through college.
For me, teaching in the Columbus schools was one of the most rewarding teaching assignments I ever had, but it was also the most challenging. I had many wonderful and diverse students who worked hard and learned science in my classroom, but I also had students who came to school sporadically, hungry, and/or tired. They had emotional scars from their experiences in neighborhoods where street violence was common and arguments were all too often settled with fists or weapons not words. Their parents faced many hardships, and many were working two and three jobs to support their families.
The lives and needs of my students shaped my teaching and kindled a passion to help others and give back. I did my best to teach lessons that allowed all of my students to learn something new every day. I tried to help my students see a future for themselves where their hard work and knowledge gained in school could help them have a better future with greater stability, health, and happiness than they were experiencing at that time. The experience has given me great resolve to provide a leg-up to those who need it in my district and across Ohio.
The Matriots PAC has a goal to see 50% of all elected offices in Ohio held by women by 2028. What is your vision for Ohio in 2028?
This vision is one that absolutely resonates with me. By 2028 I also envision an Ohio in which district lines are drawn based on natural community boundaries rather than voting propensities.
Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” What are the top-two issues your community or our state face today?
Health care is on the ballot this fall and is a kitchen table topic across my district. The cost of medical care has escalated dramatically, often forcing those without medical insurance to make very difficult decisions about their medical care. With the right set of elected officials Ohioans can expect to have access to good quality health care and affordable health-care insurance options.
The second issue in District 19 is education. Eight years ago, Ohio schools were ranked #5 in the country but have fallen to #22 now. The Local Government Fund (through which state tax dollars are send back to municipalities and school districts) has been steadily reduced while the population in this district has soared. Local municipalities and school districts have had to bring ballot issues forward to residents to make up the shortfall, which puts property tax burdens on residents, especially those who are disabled, elderly, and/or retired.
These are two of the issues I intend to work on as soon as I am sworn into office.
Tell us something personal about yourself.
I have a wonderful standard poodle named White River, who was bred by my aunt and who joined my household shortly after my husband died. River loves nothing more than playing Frisbee in the front yard. She understands the physics of the flight of the Frisbee, and regularly makes astonishing catches by leaping into the air. We use a foam Frisbee sent by my sister in Alaska to prevent further wear on River’s teeth after eight years of daily Frisbee fun, as she shows no signs of slowing down, a trait I share with her.