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Halloween decision drove Bias' City Council career

Athens’ Halloween extravaganza sparked Bill Bias’ political career and, consequently, led to the Athens City Council president’s shaping much of the city’s culture.

“(Halloween) was an illegal street takeover,” said Bias, who was first elected as an at large councilman in 1989. “And the mayor at the time believed that arresting everyone was going to be the way to stop the whole party.”

Bias fought to turn Halloween into a controlled, annual event, believing it would both make the weekend safer and keep the culture of the event intact. In fall 1990, Council and members of the community gathered to usher in what we know today as “Halloween weekend” in Athens.

In Bias’ 22 years of service on Council — eight as an at large councilman, four as city treasurer and 10 as president — his dedication to Athens’ personality has kept his passion for debating the city’s issues alive.

Preserving Athens’ cobblestone streets and constructing and expanding the bike path were both issues Bias said he was more vocal about.

The battle for brick roads between Bias and former councilwoman Peg Cohn occurred during his second term, and Bias said his victory marked the first time Cohn had been on the losing side of a vote.

Bias also helped adopt many ordinances that have helped turn Athens into a more tolerant and accepting city, particularly 1997’s Community Relation Ordinance, which outlawed discrimination against the LGBT community.

Athens became the second city in Ohio — behind Yellow Springs — to add sexual orientation to its list of protected categories, Bias said. The add-in passed by one vote.

Other categories protected include race and religion.

“We had people lining up at the city building protesting this ordinance,” he said.  “It was a knock-down, drag-out fight.”

Along with debating about issues with the water-treatment plant, balancing the budget and income tax, Bias has worked with nursing homes and rehabilitation centers throughout Ohio and the Midwest for more than 30 years.

Bias served as regional director of Extendicare and believes his experience with nursing and rehab facilities has helped shape him as a member of Council.

“I am so fortunate to have been able to work so closely and understand the needs of our elderly community,” Bias said.

“It has been an honor to watch new members develop, see how passionate they become, and it has been tremendous to watch the process unfold.”

After the November elections, Bias hopes to begin his retirement by spending more time with his family, traveling and, hopefully, reading.

“I have a few Harvard classics — leather-bound — that I would like to tear into,” he said.

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