County Column: Commissioner Shayne Thomas

This submission is part of a regular series of columns in The Advertiser-Tribune that features county voices. The series allows a direct, unfiltered message straight from county officials to our residents.

Today’s column was submitted by Seneca County Commissioner Shayne Thomas. The piece was printed in the A-T on June 10.

Lady Justice: Standing over Seneca County

Thomas poses for a photo with the statue of Lady Justice before it was placed atop the Seneca County Justice Center.

The sun is shining brightly on downtown Tiffin with small fluffy clouds occasionally casting shadows, there is a spring fragrance from the recent flower bloom. People from all over Seneca County gather on the courthouse square and are filled with anticipatory chatter. The sidewalks along Perry Street are overflowing with fathers pushing strollers and bicycles ridden by kids of all ages. In front of the main doors rests Lady Justice draped in a fresh flowing white cotton cloth waiting to be revealed following her recent cleaning.
Several rows of chairs line the sidewalk near the entrance of the building, each one filled with elected officials, dignitaries and special guests. The concrete under the chairs has been freshly replaced and reflects bright white. Behind the elected officials sits a group of senior citizens, their white hair echoing the concrete. They represent residents who were in attendance when the time capsule was locked away in the Justice Center 50 years ago and now they are on hand to witness its opening.
A school group reclines lazily eating a snack under the shade of the now ancient Christmas Tree. Its edges are starting to burn orange with age, but it still stands proudly all the yearlong on the courthouse green. A large screen has been erected facing Washington Street and one at East Green down the street. The master of ceremonies approaches the podium and simultaneous video is projected onto the screens. “Today, Wednesday, May 23, 2068, we will open the time capsule placed here upon the construction of the Justice Center to be open 50 years hence. Today is that day.” Curiosity forces the crowd to fidget with expectation and the students on the lawn become alert turning to the screen. Down the street groups wander out of the tulip gardens to get a better look at the screen. “The community came together fifty-some years ago to collaboratively build this hall of justice”.” Only the back-row nods intently. “There was much discussion and even dissension at the time. But they did what was necessary to reclaim the center of the county seat. It was their intention to send a message to us in the form of this time capsule. They wanted us to know what life was like in 2018.”
She looks into the front row as if to invite the featured speaker. “In order to reflect on the past fifty years, I want to invite to the podium our keynote speaker, a notable product of Seneca County.”
Laying her device on the podium the speaker projects her speech into the air with a wave of her hand. Looking over her shoulder the screen behind her starts to scroll the contents of the time capsule. After a moment observing the contents, she looks up at her notes digitally floating in the air. “I was a senior in High School when this building was constructed, I remember being disappointed that the ice-skating rink had been moved from the site.” She laughs and a few in the back acknowledge her reference. “I remember being incredibly impressed as it began to take shape, but I was young and was anxious to go off to college and didn’t pay it much attention. I left town and thought that I would never think of it again. Images of the cupola lights would occasionally pop up and give me a tinge of homesickness, the pictures would appear in what in those days was known as my Facebook feed.” In the distance, you can see students asking their teacher about the book of face. She shushes them and tells them they can ask their history teacher.
The speaker then looks over her shoulder at the covered statue and begins anew, “this place, these lights on this building, that statue, this symbol of our community has stood resilient in good times and bad.
I clearly remember being called home during the pandemic of 2020 and thinking that all had been lost, it was a confusing time for all of us, yet Lady Justice stood tall and the lights shined on. We have gone on for the last 50 years growing and improving our community through social unrest and protests, recessions, booms and just regular times. At each and every epoch the heartbeat of our community was there to serve as our beacon.
A beacon of free speech, a beacon of justice, a call to service and a place to gather and socialize.” She turns and nods to cue the removal of the drapes and lady justice is re-revealed to applause from the crowd. “As we peruse the contents of the time capsule unlocked today, let’s reflect on how far we have come in the past 50 years. How our resilient community has adapted to each of its challenges and how we can lay the foundation for the next fifty years.”