Before the wheels of Air Force One touched the tarmac of John Glenn International Airport, Columbus, thousands of people braved the heat to stand in the long winding lines early Saturday morning at Olentangy Orange High School to see President Donald Trump. One official at the event said his team’s best guess was that 11,000 people attended the event.
The President made the last-minute stop in Delaware County Saturday just days before the special election to help bolster support for Troy Balderson, the Republican entangled in a three-way race to finish the remainder of Rep. Pat Tiberi’s, R-Genoa, term in the U.S. House of Representatives, which expires Jan. 3, 2019. Tiberi resignedfrom his 12th District seat in January.
Wednesday morning as word spread, many area Delaware County support team officials had already spoken with the Secret Service in preparation of the president’s visit. But at the last minute Thursday afternoon, the news came of a venue change from the Delaware County Fairgrounds Coliseum to Olentangy Orange in Lewis Center.
According to Sandy Kuhn, Delaware County Fairgrounds manager, the Secret Service never gave a reason for the sudden change in location. She said she thinks it had something to do with the maximum capacity of the Coliseum only being 1,500 people.
With the sudden change, the preparations for fire, rescue and emergency medical services laid on the shoulders of Chief Matt Noble, Orange Township Fire Department.
“For the very short notice and amount of planning that went into it, we had a very successful event,” the chief said. “It was a whirlwind event of activity until it ended Saturday night.”
However, the chief said he couldn’t go into any details about the preparations that had to be made beyond stating, “We provided support services for the visit of the President of the United States.”
Noble said he would like to thank the departments of Delaware City Fire, Liberty Township Fire, Genoa Township Fire and the Delaware County Emergency Medical Services who all provided emergency medical, standby fire and rescue, logistics and maintained the fire code occupancy for the building.
Noble said not all the numbers are in but other than a few small incidents, it was a success from the standpoint of this team. He said once everything is ready he and his team will sit down to look at what was good on their part and what can be done better in the future.
Chief Jeff Balzer, Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, also said he couldn’t really get into the details of their preparations for the event but did provide a statement.
“As with any large event, our primary focus is to ensure the safety of the participants, attendees, and the community at large. For this event specifically, we worked closely with the U.S. Secret Service and our state and local public safety partners, including those from Delaware and Franklin Counties, to provide a safe environment for the President to address the citizens of Delaware County and beyond,” he said in the statement.
Since the political rally was held at Olentangy Orange, Devon Immelt, Olentangy Local Schools spokesperson, pointed out that Saturday’s event was not a school district event and that the district does not support or endorse any political candidate or party.
“The school’s are public facilities available for public use and they are regularly used for that purpose,” he said. “There is a facility use procedure and it does involve fees. In this case, there was a $7,000 fee involved. This is in keeping with district policy. Specifically, Board Policy 7510 – Use of District Facilities, provides for the use of school property for any certified candidate for public office and any recognized political party or organization for the purpose of conducting public discussions of public questions and issues.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.