Mark Wagoner has been interested in public service ever since he was a student at Ottawa Hills High School in Toledo. So when he saw that the 46th House District’s incumbent state representative had reached his term limit in the lead-up to the 2004 election, Wagoner decided it was now or never. “It was time to throw my hat into the ring,” says the Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick litigation attorney.
So he hit the campaign trail in early October, more than a year before the election. “As a first-time candidate, you have to work harder,” Wagoner says. “There’s fundraising, interviews, candidate forms — starting a campaign is always a challenge, and it can be pretty intimidating. But you just try to win the campaign each day and focus on that. If you work hard enough, by the end, hopefully it pays off.”
Wagoner felt good about his chances in the election. “We’re in a pretty strong Republican district — it has a 56 percent Republican index,” he says. “So we knew all along that we were in pretty good shape.”
Wagoner enjoyed himself. “I love going door-to-door,” he says. “It’s the best way to hear from people. I personally knocked on 8,000 or 9,000 doors.”
While meeting that many people, Wagoner was bound to have a few memorable experiences. “You get everyone from people opening the door in a bikini to someone who’s a Democrat trying to stall you,” he laughs. “For the most part, though, people are nice.”
Wagoner’s hard work paid off — he carried 62 percent of the vote.
Wagoner knew that serving would be challenging. “There’s a steep learning curve,” he says. “I’ve learned that you campaign in generalities, but you need to govern in specifics. I didn’t expect the politics to be as intense as they are, and positive change doesn’t come around as quickly as you’d like.”
Wagoner’s legal skills have helped the freshman rep keep his head above water. “[Being a lawyer] has been a tremendous help,” he says. “A lot of being in politics is speaking, and being a courtroom lawyer helps smooth the transition.”
Juggling a legal career and public service can be challenging, but Wagoner takes it all in stride. “There are a lot of real early mornings and late nights,” he says, “but a lot of it is just discipline. You make sure that you’re using your time as best you can each day.”
A year and a half into his term, he’s already accomplished many goals; he’s most proud of his involvement in the merger of the University of Toledo and the Medical University of Ohio. And he always manages to find time to spend with his wife, Merideth, and their 2-year-old son, Mickey.
Wagoner is seeking re-election this fall — “My wife might have a say in my term limits,” he says with a laugh — but for now he’s enjoying the ride. “No two days are alike,” he says. “You spend most of your time learning new things. For a curious person, this is a perfect job.”