Councilman doubles as OU Frisbee coach

Athens City Councilman Kent Butler maintains that he is an Athenian to his core.

Though the First Ward Democrat grew up in Kirtland, just east of Cleveland, when he stepped foot on campus at Ohio University in 1988, he said he felt a deep connection with the town he now helps govern. 

“I think a couple things drew me to remain in the area: the beautiful countryside, the rolling hills, the friendly nature of people in the community, this sense of extended family that Athens often casts over people,” Butler, 44, explained.

For Butler, Athens exudes happy memories for him, many of them connected to ultimate Frisbee, a club sport which Butler coaches at OU. He’s not even sure if he’d be sitting on council had he not picked up a disc some 25 years ago.

“What partially kept me in Athens all these years is ultimate, and the joy of coaching and the joy of interacting with up and coming college students,” Butler said.

During his sophomore year of college, fellow students living in Sargent Hall on West Green introduced Butler to the sport that would change his life. Not only did Butler spend the next 25 years immersed in the game, but he met his wife on the ultimate field during his college years.

“I have a soft spot for the South Green fields,” Butler said fondly, adding that he and his wife later got married on campus at Galbreath Chapel. One of Butler’s players on defense, junior Lloyd Furuta said the councilman has “seen it all” since the 1980s.

“He’s definitely someone to look up to,” Furuta said. Michele Papai, D-3rd Ward, said that knack for connecting with college students makes him an invaluable resource on council. 

Papai’s son, Will Drabold, is the campus staff editor at The Post.

“(Butler’s) a younger voice on council and makes us remember the younger generation, and makes us pay attention to the 20 and 30 year olds,” Papai said.

When he’s not manning his squad and planning for the next match, Butler isn’t always enveloped in the political side of things. He is a part-time drug counseling instructor at Hocking College and has a Master’s degree from OU on the subject.

Throughout high school and college, Butler said he always thought of himself as an artist and got a bachelor’s degree in fine arts at OU.

“Artists look at the world in a unique or different perspective,” he said of how that education benefits his work as councilman. Saying he’s invested “specifically in the arts and parks and recreation,” Butler hopes his constituents share in his mindset.

One of his current interests is the Essence of Athens project, a project that, according to Mayor Paul Wiehl, was made in the hopes of “making Athens more Athens-y.”

“The Essence of Athens…is a unique endeavor and could help put the community on the map if we implement the ideas and thoughts and creativity that is suggested by that project and book,” Butler said. “I see part of council, what we can do, is help leave the place a better community than we found it.”

Both hailing from the west side, Butler and Wiehl often ally themselves on city matters, like the recent city council debate over proposed changes to the city’s Garbage and Rubbish Ordinance. Neither thought that the amendments were necessary nor relevant, despite sizable opposition.

Wiehl was the First Ward representative on council before Butler’s election in 2007. Councilmembers earn $7,537 annually.

“He’s a fellow west-sider, so he understands some of the nuances and the challenges of serving,” Butler said.

Butler describes his relationship with Wiehl as “good and amicable.”

On occasion, Butler said, they’ll even walk home from council together and discuss the happenings of the night’s meeting. 

“I periodically try to pop into the city building…and check in,” Butler said, adding that “council has a huge amount of interesting facets.”



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