Living Large in Northeast Ohio
March 5, 2016
By: Mark G. Mangie
(Editor's Note: Ralph Meacham is the first Republican to be elected to a Republican Mahoning County administrative office in over 30 years. As a journalist, I had my doubts as to just how interesting Mahoning County's Auditor could be. Afterall, he is a CPA...an accountant. It turns out Ralph is probably one of the most interesting people in local politics. I was able to trace his family back to England in the mid 1600's and follow his family to Connecticut in the late 1600's, through the Revolutionary War, and to Trumbull County in 1803 as part of the Western Reserve land grants to those who fought in the American Revolution. His genes contain the history of our great nation. His family's story and his personal story are both fascinating and interesting. We hope you enjoy the interview. YE)
Mark: Ralph, it is really good seeing you. Thank you for agreeing to talk to Youngstown Eats. Let’s talk a little bit about your background where you were born and where you were raised.
Ralph: Born and raised in Warren, Ohio. My father was born in the Warren area…West Mecca. My parents moved back here after the war in 1948 after his discharge from the Army Air Corps. He was a physician established his office on Youngstown Road in Warren setting up his medical practice in the first floor of a house not too far from the old Sanitary Dairy.
Mark: Was he a GP kind of a guy?
Ralph: He was OBGYN, but in the military he was the base doctor, that sort of thing. We lived upstairs above his office…we being my two older sisters and myself. I was born in 1950. Then we moved off to Genesee Ave. and that’s where my childhood was…where I really grew up. I went to St. Mary’s Grade School and JFK High School. Was the first class 6 years through high school…opened in 63 -64. It was supposed to be Annunciation High School but John F. Kennedy was assassinated and the diocese pulled the old cornerstone they laid a month before. They renamed it John F. Kennedy High School as a pre-empted strike so the public high school being built in town couldn’t claim the name!
Mark: What’s your ethnic background?
Ralph: Well let’s see the Meacham’s came to the new world in the early 16- 1700’s.
Mark: Oh wow! You’re a DAR kind of a guy.
Ralph: Yes. Yes. – Never rich. Never famous. They settled in the Connecticut / New York area - Mostly in Connecticut.
Ralph: English. Meacham is an English name. But over time, most notably with my grandmother, and others they intermixed with the Germans, and Swiss. In 1803 they took a Conestoga wagon from Connecticut to Kinsman, Ohio. Because they were part of the winning side of the Revolutionary War they were granted a land grant, the Western Reserve, the Great Western Reserve Land Grants which of course come right across here. They were farmers in Kinsman from that day until my grandfather’s generation. In Kinsman, Ohio, there are graves up there for my great, great, great, grandfather and family. My one grandmother didn’t make it she died near Buffalo so they buried her next to the side of the trail. I think that was the year 1803 and that was the year after Ohio was granted statehood. So the Meacham’s have been here since Ohio became a state.
Mark: Geez! You’ve got a lot of family history going back to this area.
Ralph: And about 100 years later my grandfather, my dad’s father Charles, ran for Trumbull County Sheriff unsuccessfully. And then about 100 years later (about) I ran for county auditor. Every 100 years of so we do something I guess.
Mark: Do you remember Esther Hamilton
Ralph: No I don’t.
Mark: She was the gossip columnist for the Vindicator.
Ralph: Oh sure, sure – but we were Warren people we didn’t read the Vindicator we read the Warren Tribune Chronicle. Yes it was real divided, you know that Mark between Trumbull and Mahoning County. Not so much now as it used to be but we had almost separated worlds.
Mark: Do you think it’s getting any better?
Ralph: I think it’s been forced by economics. There was a time we each had our own Boy Scout Councils and they were put together, our own Red Cross and it was put together. The merger of the hospitals with Forum Health we are blending the two. Yes it’s much less but we have much less so we have to cooperate more. The same thing as we do in county government. We have to do more with less and be more efficient.
Mark: How did religion work coming from England to over here? What denomination prevailed?
Ralph: I don’t know. They started over. My grandparents moved to West Mecca. Route 88 is the causeway at Mosquito Lake and my grandfather is a builder with his hands of churches and houses and a farmer. There was a Methodist Church on the corner of Bazetta Road and 88 – and that was my father’s church growing up. So he was raised Methodist. The other side…my mother’s family…came from Ireland. Tracing back to Athlone, on the Shannon River mid-way between Galway and Dublin. The Dease family were the land owners. Their manor house was given over to a nunnery. It is a convent now. Young Tom Keagan married a Dease young lady. Keagan was just a farmer…tenants on the farm. They moved to Nova Scotia. While in Nova Scotia they heard about this wonderful place for warmth and growing…just a beautiful climate. And so as the family history goes, the women had woven 6 bolts of fine Irish wool. And they sold it because they didn’t need it where they were going. So they picked up and moved from Nova Scotia to the land of milk and honey…Monroe, Michigan!
Ralph: …on the shores of Lake Erie. So that’s where the Irish Catholics come in. They were Keagans and my mother’s father, Oliver Keagan, married Sara Rupp. So German, English and Irish.
Mark: Where did you go to college?
Ralph: John Carroll University
Mark: You have a degree in accounting and…
Ralph: No I don’t have a degree in accounting. I never took accounting undergrad.
Mark: Alright, what’s your undergraduate degree in?
Ralph: I started in pre-med biology and it wasn’t quite working out as planned.
Mark: You are full of all sorts of surprises!
Ralph: Yes. John Carroll started 120 in their pre-med/pre-dental program and graduated 12. I was one of the 108 who fell along the wayside to majors. So I went from pre-med to English and then my first semester junior year – what I did was I was moving between schools between sciences and arts. Then I took an Economics class with Father Mike Lavelle. He was a Jesuit a specialist in social economics. It was sandbox Economics. I liked it and I liked him so I made Economics my major. So my last 3 semesters at John Carroll were a load of econ courses. I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics.
Mark: How did you get into accounting?
Ralph: Between my junior and senior year of college, I got a job at Second National Bank of Warren like a fill in summer teller. So I graduated from John Carroll and they offered me a job at Second National. I worked at the branches for a while and then they brought me to the main office into the loan department for several months. The controller Ward Baker, a gentlemen from Youngstown, brought me into the accounting department. I was his assistant controller at Second National Bank, and that’s where I got my first taste of accounting and auditing. And then from there I left there to go to the Niles Banking Company for about a year where I was a platform officer. I left there after about a year and I decided what I really needed was my Masters Degree so I left there and went to Case Western Reserve to get an MBA in Banking and Finance. Case at that time was only an evening MBA program. Case is a great engineering school. The MBA program was to teach their engineers the charms of business. It was like charm school. So most of the guys there, and it was mostly guys, were engineers taking MBA classes. I was not. At that time I got a job during the day at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. So I got up in the morning and took the transit downtown Cleveland to the Federal Reserve and worked until like 4:30 or 5 and then took the transit back to Case and went to classes from like 6 to 10 Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Then I studied and crashed all weekend. It was a full time program and it took me two years. I took classes all summer. That’s when I took my first accounting classes and capital budgeting, and basic accounting and things like that. That’s how I got my formal accounting training.
Mark: So your MBA is in business?
Ralph: Banking and finance.
Mark: When did you take the CPA exam?
Ralph: I interviewed on campus at Case with Ernst and Ernst. That was a big accounting firm in Cleveland. I wanted to get into some form of bank consulting because I had the experience at the Fed, Second National and Niles Bank. So I interviewed and foolishly started my job at Earnst a month before I graduated; burning at both ends. At Ernst, I reported for work the first day and they said they would me like to go to their national office. They had an opening. I told them I didn’t really know much about it. I said sure and I worked at the national headquarters in the Mergers and Acquisitions Department. While there I took the Becker CPA review course, and there is where I got more of my accounting training. So I passed the equivalency exam which gives you the ability to sit for the exam and that’s how I got my CPA.
Mark: Have your careers been mostly accounting?
WALKING THROUGH HISTORY
MAHONING COUNTY AUDITOR