By Joan Baxter
The lady who had the honor of becoming the first woman to be elected to the office of Greene County Commissioner had a great number of other responsibilities before she assumed that position.
Kattie Kyne, as she was known in her early years, was a native of Greene County, born of Irish descent in Spring Valley Township on Christmas Day. Her parents were Bernard and Margaret Murphy Kyne.
She stated that she was raised as an only child for five years in a sparse rural area, and as a result, developed a close attachment to animals – dogs, cats, a pony, “black” lambs and “runt” pigs who were often treated as outcasts by their mothers and siblings. Her dog and pony were always very special to her.
When she was a little older, she was given a horse, which she enjoyed riding bare-back, galloping down their long lane and into the woods.
Eager to learn, she began to attend school at the tender age of five, in a one-room school with sixteen other students, three of which were her cousins. She recalled seeing her teacher driving a horse and buggy to school each day. Her teacher was so kind and patient and not given to “spanking” children. Instead, she insisted that the errant child stand in a corner facing the wall for an appropriate length of time. Kay later said that she had been so inspired by this teacher that she vowed one day to become a teacher as well.
When she met her future husband, Robert A. Hagler, he was a Navy officer, home on leave having served three and one half years in the Admiralty Islands in World War II. Upon his discharge, he entered Western Reserve Law School. They became engaged and were married January 31, 1948.
The couple settled in Greene County where he began his law practice and she began her teaching career. She taught for a time at what was then known as the Ohio Soldiers and Soldiers Orphan’s Home. Her students learned not only typing and shorthand, but all skills necessary to become successful office secretaries. Her students were certainly sought when there was an open position requiring such abilities. Later, she moved on to the Xenia High School, again teaching business courses.
Her husband, now a practicing attorney decided to throw his hat into the political ring in 1952 as prosecuting attorney. He won the primary, but lost in the fall. She had campaigned for him, and was of course, disappointed at the loss, but found she had enjoyed meeting so many Greene County residents. Once again, he decided to run for office, this time as Municipal Judge. Once again, she put on her walking shoes and campaigned throughout the county for his successful election.
Eventually, she retired from teaching, and after her husband’s death in 1976, decided to throw her own hat into the political ring. She stated that she had considerable support from friends and former students, so decided to seek the office of Greene County Commissioner. The opposition was negligible, she stated. She remembered that one man did not think a woman could handle the job and another made the comment: “What makes you think that just because you were a high school teacher you are qualified to be a commissioner?”
Obviously, the residents of the county felt she was well qualified because she served in that capacity for many years. She was a member of the Regional Planning and Coordinating Commission for 20 years and a leader on the Executive Committee for 14 of those years.
Robert Schroeder, former Regional Planning C omission Director, recalled one particular January. “It was budget time, revenues were low, and needs were high. Mrs. Hagler sat in my office, in an exhausted utterance said, “I’ll never run for office again.’ That was January 1983 – twenty years ago. During those twenty years her service as commissioner to the people of Greene County was really a continuance of her initial contributions as a teacher. She taught us much.”
Fortunately for Greene County, she changed her mind.
I, as many other residents, had the pleasure of working with Kay from time to time on various projects. She was always ready to listen, no matter how large or small the concern might be. She was a tall lady who carried herself well, and enjoyed speaking with old friends and the new friends she easily made.
Most folks who knew her would have described her as “a lady”.
And so, she was a woman who decided at an early age that she wanted to be a teacher. She went on to become a very supportive wife when her husband ran for public office and she was a wonderful mother.
Most assuredly she became one of the leading ladies in the history of Greene County.
Joan Baxter is a long-time historical columnist and Greene County resident.