“When someone sits on a board for 36 years, it says a lot that that person was elected as Ross Twp. trustee nine times. It speaks to his integrity, his honesty, his leadership ability and most definitely his love for his township,” Yordy said.
“Tom always put the township first, which was best for the township. All resident questions and concerns were never taken lightly. No problem was too small or too big for this question. He responded to the people.
Yordy said Willsey was instrumental in setting up a second fire station in the township – in cooperation with the Village of Millville – after the explosion of growth in the northern part of the township, “to allow to our fire department to provide improved response times for EMS and fire services. Residents always came first for Tom and he knew how to get the job done.
She said there were many other projects he was leading and that he, along with the rest of the board, was trying to responsibly lead future growth. Administrators have recently come under fire from some residents with the Burns Farm mixed-use mega development, due to traffic and a host of other concerns.
The township has worked for three years to try to find a way to protect schools from rapid growth and ensure that the development is as self-financing as possible, according to Yordy.
“Tom could see Ross growing up and knew we had to step up and be proactive,” Yordy said. “We needed to find a way to grow Ross while maintaining our rural style and still being able to give township residents the amenities they were looking for and wanted. He started looking for new ideas to achieve this.
Bass worked with the directors as a consultant on the project, and he said Willsey approached this issue as he did with all the others.
“What always struck me with Tom is that there was never a spur-of-the-moment decision made by Tom,” Bass said. “No matter how great the need for speed was, Tom never sacrificed the integrity of the decision for speed. He wanted to make sure he thought it through and looked at all the different angles. It was just the nature of the way he did business.
Trustee Keith Ballauer has been on the board since 2018 said ‘it’s amazing’ everything Willsey has touched in his life, ‘it’s going to be a hole in township government and Butler County, he was a great voice.”
Everyone who knew him knew he was no shrinking purple and when he thought something was wrong — like Butler County charging the township for dispatching 911 — he spoke up.
“He was a good guy, I consider him a good friend. You always knew where you were at and that was good,” Butler County Commissioner Don Dixon said. “Deal with the facts and move on.” thing, you could do it with him. A lot of people if you don’t agree with them, they get mad and just exclude you from the issues you’re talking about. Tom was never like that.
Another friend of more than 20 years, Paul Bricking, said he met fires and joined the Ross Lions Club around the same time in 2001.
“He did everything there, he was our president in 2004 and 2005 and a key factor in every fundraiser, every benefit we’ve ever had,” Bricking said.
Ohio Township Association executive director Heidi Fought said he served on that board from 1998 to 2017, 10 years as a trustee and another decade as an officer, “no one was a better civil servant than Tom Willsey.”
“He selflessly served and helped grow his township, county township association, and the Ohio Township Association…” Fought said. “His smile and ease appealed to me and was probably the main reason he was such a wonderful township administrator.”
Visitation will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Charles C. Young Funeral Home, 4032 Hamilton Cleves Road, Ross, OH 45014. Funeral services will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. with interment to follow at Venice Cemetery.
Memorials can be made at Ross Township. Fire Department, Township of Ross. Police Department, or the Ross Lion’s Club.