Former County Commissioner Betty Blair recalls making deals, unifying
Longtime Lorain County Commissioner Betty Blair was remembered as someone who could put aside differences between political parties while working for the good of the community.
And, Blair was also a politician who loved being outdoors.
Blair, a Democrat, served as commissioner for 20 years before retiring in 2010.
Known for wearing wide-brimmed red hats, Blair died on February 25. She was 83 years old.
Current Lorain County Commissioner Dave Moore, a Republican, served on the board with Blair from 2001 to 2005.
“I got along pretty well with her,” Moore said.
He recalled that Blair reminded him of his own mother.
Both women were devout Catholics, Moore said, and Blair regularly attended Mass before commissioners’ meetings.
“I called her mum; I would tease her,” he said. “We used to dazzle each other pretty well.”
Even though the two were from opposite parties, that never stopped them from working together to do what was best for Lorain County, Moore recalled.
“Betty and Mary Jo (Vasi) did what was good for the county and not for the political party,” he said. “That’s why I got along pretty well with them both.”
Vasi, also a Democrat, served for many years as a commissioner.
Blair and Moore moved even closer to their economic philosophy – which leaned heavily toward fiscally conservative politics.
“We had a lot in common,” he said.
Blair was instrumental in creating the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise, or GLIDE, Moore said.
The program, a partnership between the Commissioners, the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce and the Lorain County Community College, “helps northeast Ohio entrepreneurs embed good business practices around good business ideas” , according to its website.
“It’s a great legacy for all three of us, as it still lives on to this day,” Moore said of the Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise.
Ted Kalo, current Clerk of the Courts of Lorain, also served as County Commissioner with Blair.
Kalo said Blair’s ability to communicate with a variety of people from different backgrounds made her a superpower as a politician.
“She had the ability to work with a diverse group of people with differing opinions and bring them together,” he said. “She was really good at bringing people to the table and solving problems.
“That’s what made her so effective as a regional leader.”
Blair could be warm and fuzzy, and also a bulldog, Kalo said.
“She was the most loving wonderful woman in the world, or she could be the toughest woman you’ve ever dealt with in your life,” he said.
Within the community, whether at an event or on the campaign trail, that’s where she loved to be, Kalo said.
“She loved talking to people,” he said. “We spent a lot of time together. I worked on his campaigns before I was commissioner.
“She loved being with people, talking to them and listening to their issues, and discussing what was going on in county government. She was a true chosen one.
Blair, who lived in Carlisle Township, got his start in politics serving as that community’s clerk for 23 years before winning election to County Commissioners.
Voters elected her four more times.
A 1956 graduate of Elyria Catholic High School, Blair was named an “outstanding senior girl” that year, according to her Linkedin profile.
Friends remembered that she liked to eat chocolate cake.
Playing the organ and the piano were also his favorite hobbies.
Blair worked at General Motors, was a member of the Building Industries Association of Lorain County, and was the first local woman to serve on the Ohio Township Association.
While she was commissioner, she began each meeting with a thought for the day.
Before her last meeting in December 2010, she started the meeting like this: “To love what you do and feel that it matters, how can anything be more fun.”
Blair is survived by six children and several grandchildren.
A Christian funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m., March 4, at St. Mary’s Church, 320 Middle Ave. in Eliria.