Strick’s first year in office

Mayor Richard Strick addresses a crowd of protesters that gathered at the Huntington County Courthouse on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020.
Mayor Richard Strick addresses a crowd of protesters that gathered at the Huntington County Courthouse on Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020. TAB file photo.

Gaining office at the start of 2020, Huntington Mayor Richard Strick hoped to quickly “learn the ropes” of the office and then spend his first year in office strengthening relationships between business owners, city officials and the residents of Huntington.

“Obviously, a global pandemic was not on the Bingo card for any of us,” Strick said. “Nor the economic questions and all of the grief and pain that has come with that.”

Strick recalls that the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic became “real for all of us” with the cancellation of the 2020 Big 10 Tournament games.

“I think it’s fair to say that we all got tossed into the deep end of the pool, myself included in that,” Strick said. “And I think that’s part of the challenge in any level of leadership.”
At the local level, Strick praises the ability of local businesses and congregations to overcome and adapt.

“I am incredibly impressed with how [they] have adapted through the past year. We have collectively had a lot of disappointments and they have continued to adapt and overcome,” Strick said. “Churches are not known for being adaptive and flexible, but they have done that. [They] have stepped up and are having very difficult conversations and are making difficult decisions . . . thoughtfully and in a timely manner.”

Strick also praises Huntington’s schools for the adaptations they have had to make during the pandemic.

“One of my deep sorrows was imagining high school seniors not having the commencements and the graduation parties that I was privileged to experience,” Strick said. “I feel the school corporation has done a tremendous job of adapting to an impossible situation.”

Outside of COVID-19, Strick shares that it is the process of helping people to continue to work together that has been a surprising challenge he has faced while in office.

“I think we are at a difficult time in American history where there is so much cynicism, there is so much hurt and pain and grief, so much anger . . . that we go from zero to 60 very quickly.”

Strick notes that social media often accelerates the feelings, both negative and positive, that people share. He is most shocked by the disagreements that people have on his behalf.

“It’s not just the disagreements people have with me, but watching the way that people try to defend me or defend the things that I agree with . . . how they’re drawing assumptions and conclusions or attacking others.”

In the summer of 2020, Huntington would see a Black Lives Matter protest, and a subsequent counter-protest, brought on by racial injustices occurring across the country. Strick sees those moments as a “beautiful demonstration of American democracy and protest.”

“Folks were watching on the evening news as a great deal of violence was going on in American cities. People were understandably afraid here. . . and to the credit of everyone involved in that, there was no violence. I think a number of folks listened and learned that day.”

A second protest took place in December in response to executive orders. “Some more specific anger involved, but no violence,” Strick said. “And some shared understanding and respect for some things.”

Strick is optimistic for how 2021 will play out, even on the COVID-19 front. He says that it is how the community has supported each other through 2020 that makes him optimistic for his second year in office. He also says that he can see an opporunity for new entrepreneurs in Huntington.

“There’s been quite a few investments in downtown buildings and new ownership,” Strick said. “One of the things I think that will come out of [the pandemic] will be that some of our long-time establishments may be ready to move on and ready to transfer. . . some of them will succeed and some of them won’t. That’s part of the fun of a free-market enterprise. Part of the stress of it too.”

Strick is grateful to his fellow residents and acknowledges the weight of the office.

“Difficult and challenging, yes, but it has always felt like worthwhile work. . . and important work,” Strick said. “Ultimately, the privilege of being the one responsible for the [difficult] decisions is not lost on me.”