Dick Church Jr., who served as mayor of Miamisburg, Ohio, for 28 years, died Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, after a brief illness.
Church was administrator for the Mound Development Corporation (MDC), an agency working to redevelop the former Mound Laboratory in Miamisburg. The facility produced nuclear weapons components and supported energy and space missions during the Cold War.
Tiffany Drake, who became the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Legacy Management (LM) Mound site manager in 2021, said the first person she learned about was Dick Church.
“Dick was a steadfast advocate for his community and helped provide a much-needed perspective on the impact of site closures and the need for a local government voice within DOE’s process,” Drake said. “He changed how DOE approaches stakeholder engagement. I will miss his presence at meetings and always appreciated hearing his perspective and stories.”
Church was elected mayor of Miamisburg just after the announcement that the Mound Laboratory — the largest employer in the city for decades — would be closing. Church was determined to soften the economic blow to the community. After years of engaging with DOE over future use of the Mound site, Church led the effort to redevelop the property, which is now a business park. The federal government spent more than $1 billion on Mound site cleanup.
As the Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) chairman, he led the nonprofit organization’s involvement in addressing environmental cleanup and economic impacts of DOE activities in local communities.
“Mayor Church was more than a leader at ECA. He was a founding member that led the organization through transition and helped it grow from an idea into an organization that works for and assists municipalities around DOE sites,” ECA Director Seth Kirshenberg said as tribute to Church.
Church, along with Miamisburg community leaders, created the Miamisburg Mound Community Improvement Corporation (MMCIC), a community reuse organization that negotiated the cleanup and acquisition of the DOE Mound facility. MMCIC later became the MDC as Mound site cleanup was completed and redevelopment began.
“He always said that he never wanted to get involved in DOE matters, but after the closure of the Mound site, he (as the newly elected Mayor of Miamisburg) became a leading voice for municipalities on environmental cleanup, the workers at the sites, and reuse of former federal facilities,” Kirshenberg said.
For more than half of his 28-year term, Church visited Washington, D.C., every six weeks to lobby for cleanup of the DOE site in his community, as well as others across the nation, Kirshenberg said.
DOE Environmental Justice Program Manager Melinda Downing said Church will be remembered and missed. “Although [I’m] sad to hear of his passing. I can personally validate Mayor Church’s dedication and honesty for all things related to the good of his community,” Downing said. “I had the pleasure of being in his presence many times during the closure of the Mound site, and in his role with ECA. Very few community advocates of his kind exist today. He was truly one of the good ones.”
Miamisburg City Manager Keith Johnson said Church’s influence on the community extended far beyond the city. During his career in public service, Church served as chairman of four Montgomery County, Ohio, committees: the Solid Waste District Policy Committee, Solid Waste Advisory Committee, Emergency Management Executive Committee, and Regional Dispatch Policy Committee.
“He was the region’s mayor,” Johnson told the Dayton Daily News.“I don’t know how many trips he made to Washington, not just on behalf of the city, but on behalf of the region.”