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Published: Wednesday, 3/17/2010

Ujvagi takes his leave from the Ohio Legislature

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - As he headed for the door of the Ohio House chambers for the last time, Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo) yesterday reminded his colleagues of where he came from and where he believes the future of Ohio and America lies.

"Some of us came to these shores by ship by choice," said the man who immigrated from Hungary at the age of 7. "Some came on ships by force, our African-American brothers and sisters. Some of us came here, in my particular instance, in an airplane by some choice, having to leave the country of my birth.

"But the greatest strength that America has truly is its diversity,'' he said. "The fact of the matter is that that continued wave of immigrants who are willing to do anything, who are willing to do any job, continues to build this country."

It's wasn't the first time he spoke of his ethnicity on the floor, but it was likely his last. He had used his background in the past to challenge his colleagues at rare times when they acted on what he considered to be anti-immigration issues.

Mr. Ujvagi's resignation officially takes effect today.

Faced with term limits that would have forced him from the chamber at year's end anyway, he's leaving early to become Lucas County's new administrator.

He left with bills still in the pipeline, some of which are likely to become law in his absence and others that will not. Among those moving closer to reality is a measure authorizing larger counties like Lucas to form land banks to acquire foreclosed properties to prevent them from deteriorating and dragging down local property values.

More recently, he's had a series of bills related to military veteran issues that have won his colleagues' support.

Last year he steered passage of the state's transportation budget, his first real experience in a new Democratic majority after six years under Republican control.

On the floor, he was honored by a Republican, Rep. Ross McGregor of Springfield, with whom he'd occasionally had issues but also sometimes collaborated.

"We all know Lucas County is just a fine, smooth-running machine, and he'll slip right in there,'' Mr. McGregor said, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "He'll have it all tuned up in no time at all.''

Several of Mr. Ujvagi's family members watched from the balcony as he took his leave. His daughter, Suzy, a divinity student at Union Theological Seminary in New York, gave the opening prayer on his last day in the chamber.



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