*An earlier version of this story appeared in The Budget’s April 25, 2018, Local Edition.
By Stacey Carmany
Each April in conjunction with National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Tuscarawas County Animal and Child Abuse Prevention Committee presents the Voice of All Children Award to a local leader who has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to supporting area children and families.
This year, the committee chose to honor a man who will soon be retiring after more than three decades of public service but whose impact will continue to be felt within the community for many years to come.
During a special ceremony held earlier this month at the Tuscarawas County Courthouse to kick off the 14th-Annual Pinwheels for Prevention campaign, Tuscarawas County Job and Family Services Director David Haverfield presented this year’s Voice of All Children Award to County Commissioner Kerry Metzger.
“He’s got a long history of support for children and families going back to his time in the Ohio legislature,” Haverfield explained. “He’s also retiring at the end of the year from public life, so everybody just thought it was a good time to recognize him.”
During his 17 years as State Representative for the 97th Ohio House District, Metzger championed a number of bills aimed at protecting children and families including HB 448, which increased protection for children in the foster care system and promoted agency accountability.
After leaving the Ohio House in 2002, Metzger would go on to be elected and serve three terms as a Tuscarawas County Commissioner, during which time he continued to support children and families and the local agencies that serve them.
“I was very blessed to be put in positions at the state level where I could have an impact on public policy surrounding children,” Metzger shared. “The problem with that is you’re one person out of the Ohio House, you’re one person out of the 99, and then once you get a bill through the house, you’ve gotta go over to the Senate and get the Senate to agree. It’s a more tedious process.
“What I find here in Tuscarawas County is that you can have a quicker response to issues surrounding kids here because we’re a three-member board of commissioners,” he continued. “It’s a lot easier to work through the processes and get help to the kids faster.”
Haverfield noted that during Metzger’s time as a county commissioner, he has been a big supporter of all local efforts to help families and children including the work of JFS. “He’s been a big supporter of our agency,” Haverfield shared. “He’s been steadfast financially in making sure we can do what we need to do.”
In addition to his role as commissioner, Metzger serves as the current chairman for the Tuscarawas County Anti-Drug Coalition and has also been a strong supporter of youth-led prevention in the county.
“Often, our students come before the commissioners asking for proclamations on all kinds of different things,” said Jodi Salvo, coordinator of prevention services for Personal and Family Counseling Services and Tuscarawas County Anti-Drug Coalition. “One of the things Kerry is always committed to is really asking a lot of questions trying to understand where the students are coming from and encouraging them, thanking them for their effort, just empowering the kids acknowledging their efforts. He demonstrates the effectiveness of a leader, and he really kind of challenges them to continue the work they’re doing.”
While he was prepared to read a proclamation during the ceremony designating April as Child Abuse Prevention Awareness month in Tuscarawas County, Metzger said that he had no idea that he was going to be presented with an award. “It was a total surprise but it’s deeply appreciated,” he said. “I was proud and honored to be able to receive that award.”
Although he has received similar awards in the past for his work at the state level, Metzger noted that to be honored with the local award was especially meaningful. “Awards like this mean so much more to me because it’s being given in your local community,” he shared. “It means that you have some kind of a legacy that’s affirmed that you actually are helping kids. That’s what it’s all about.”
Although he will soon be departing from his role as county commissioner, Metzger said he has absolutely no intention of becoming a “couch potato.” Instead, his retirement plans include investing more time and energy into his work with Anti-Drug Coalition and advocating both locally and at the state level for Lyme disease prevention and awareness.
“Both my wife and my younger son have had Lyme disease for many years, and they have the chronic form,” Metzger shared. “I figured since I’ve got about 31 years of developing political skills and understanding how the legislative process works, I’m going to spend some time going down to Columbus and trying to find way to bring education and awareness to the legislature and hopefully maybe make some changes in rules and regulations or laws that would have some benefit for those who are stricken by Lyme disease.”
In addition, Metzger also has plans to share his passion for Revolutionary War history, and, of course, he will also be spending more time with his 4-year-old granddaughter.