Athens’ new Democratic chair hopes to inspire student engagement

John Haseley, the newly appointed Athens County Democratic Party Chair, still has Pete Lalich’s phone number memorized.

“I called him so many times when I was in college here (at Ohio University),” he said.

Lalich, the party chair from 1980 to 1994, was the primary reason Haseley got into politics.

“I came to OU thinking I was going to be an English major and write books,” he said. “He got me involved, and I realized I was more excited about the political process than reading Shakespeare.”

Now, after years in Washington D.C. and Columbus working as an aide to Sen. John Glenn and as chief of staff to Gov. Ted Strickland, Haseley is taking over his mentor’s old role.

Haseley was elected as chair by the Athens County Democratic Central Committee and Executive Committee on Thursday, after former chair Alan Trout stepped down.

Assistant county prosecutor elected as new Athens County Democratic chair

Forty-four members of the county’s Democratic Central and Executive committees met Tuesday night to nominate and elect John Haseley, the 52-year-old assistant county prosecutor, as the new par…

Haseley said one of his primary goals as party chair will be to inspire young people in the same way Lalich did for him.

“For us to be successful in Athens County, it’s going to require a lot of involvement from College Democrats,” he said. “And there are a lot of young people in the county who have a lot to contribute who are not necessarily engaged with the party, and I’d like to encourage them to be engaged.”

Haseley, who grew up in Athens, has spent several years working his way back to his roots.

“I’ve seen things at the national level … and at the state level, and I’m really anxious to connect on the local level,” he said. “I really like being back home and I want to contribute to where I grew up.”

Haseley got his first job in politics working at Ohio Gov. Dick Celeste’s Washington office, entering at the intern level in 1985.

After graduating from law school at George Washington University in 1991, he went to work for Senator Glenn, where he was able to work closely with then-Rep. Ted Strickland on issues related to Appalachian Ohio.

In 1996, he became district director for Strickland and later his chief of staff — a position he held after Strickland became governor in 2007.

In 2011, at the end of Strickland’s final term as governor — in addition to opening up a consulting firm in Columbus — Haseley took a job as an assistant prosecutor to Keller Blackburn working on the community justice agenda.

The program works to prevent Athens citizens from becoming addicted to drugs and stresses treatment opposed to prison time if people do get addicted.

Haseley said he’s had several discussions in the past about the possibility of him serving as party chair, even before Trout stepped down.

“I felt like everyone should do their part,” he said. “I believe in what they’re doing. I think there are really good officials in Athens County who are worth supporting, and shame on me if I’m not willing to do my part to support them.”

Trout, the former party chair, expressed his support of the appointment.

“I think it was a good choice,” Trout said. “John has lots of contacts both local and statewide. … He should have a lot of knowledge of how an election is run.”

But Haseley said in spite of his state experience, the person-to-person contact offered by local politics is what really drives him.

“I guess because I went to Washington right out of college, I’ve always had this desire to see (people) face-to-face,” he said.

Lalich said he thinks Haseley will “regenerate” the Democratic party.

He said he expects Haseley to bring in more OU students to bolster the party, in the same way he did 24 years ago.

“He understands how important young people are to the (political process),” Lalich said. “They’re there and they want to be involved, but they don’t know how to be involved. I don’t think young people have changed that much in that regard.”

And that’s what Haseley plans on doing.

“We’ve got to give them every chance to get involved,” he said. “It’s on us to make sure they’re aware. … Sometimes people may not be involved because they may not be aware. I want to tear that wall down.”