Meet the Mayor: Diane E. Whalen has deep roots in Florence, high hopes for her community

FLORENCE - How well do you know the top man or woman of your town? Our new weekly feature will introduce you to the people charged with keeping Tri-State municipalities ticking.

Diane E. Whalen (b. November 1955), Florence

Elected: 1998
County: Boone

Population: 29,951 (2010 Census)


Founded: 1829



Claim to fame: Florence Y'all water tower

Diane Ewing Whalen is serving her fourth term as Mayor of Florence, Ky., the eighth largest city in the state and the second largest in Northern Kentucky. She was first elected to city council in 1997, serving two years as Vice Mayor, and then elected to the position of Mayor in 1999. She follows in the footsteps of her father, C. M. "Hop" Ewing, who held the post from 1961-1981.

A lifelong resident of Florence, Whalen attended Northern Kentucky University after graduating from Boone County High School. She worked as the bookkeeper and Assistant City Clerk for the city, and as the bookkeeper for the Home Builders Association.

Prior to entering politics, Whalen also worked in the Communications/Public Relations Department of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. 

Whalen has been involved with many civic groups throughout Northern Kentucky as well as serving on the Governor's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Transforming Education in Kentucky and the Kentucky Workforce Investment Board. She has served on the Executive Committee for the Kentucky League of Cities, the Northern Kentucky Area Development District  and the Municipal Government League of Northern Kentucky. 

Under Whalen's leadership, the City of Florence has opened a family aquatic center, a skate park, a minor league baseball stadium and redeveloped its Florence World of Golf and mini-golf course. There are also many community parks and city sponsored events. 

She and her husband Wallace, also a lifelong resident of Florence, have been married for 35 years and have two grown children who reside in Florence.

1.What is the single biggest issue facing your town?

As with any local community, we have to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money and provide services that keep our community safe and appealing to visitors. We also have to create an atmosphere for economic development. The City of Florence has been very deliberate about strategic investments and carefully weighing expenditures.

2 .If someone were to visit your town for the first time, what should they see and do?

The first thing you will see, or need to see, is the renowned Florence Y’all water tower. How could you miss it? It has a unique history that people from around the country know about. But, after you see that landmark, you can do anything and everything within a mile: minor league baseball, live horse racing, golfing, shopping, dining, etc. There is something for every member of the family in Florence!

3. What is your proudest accomplishment as mayor?

There are so many visible accomplishments that can be pointed to, but I think my proudest accomplishment is what you cannot see. I might have the title of mayor, but nothing can get accomplished alone in city government.

The City of Florence has been fortunate over the years to have city councils that have worked extremely well together and professional employees who truly care about the community where they work. I think our cooperation is a model of which I am quite proud.

4.What do you hope is different about your town in ten years?

I hope the fundamental qualities of Florence are not different in ten years: friendliness of the people, hometown feel, robust residential neighborhoods, and strong business activity. I hope that we continue to be a regional draw for business activity. I also think there will be some prime opportunities for redevelopment.

5.What are your political aspirations?

My political aspirations are simple: to be the best mayor of Florence during my tenure. When I decide to hang up my hat, to make sure I leave the city in good hands for future generations. I have been blessed that previous mayors like Evelyn Kalb and my father, Hop Ewing, set up the foundation for a prosperous community. Each leader builds on another. Without my father in the 60s and 70s and Evelyn in the 80s and 90s, we would not be where we are today.

6. Fill in the blank: I bet you didn’t know....

A Civil War skirmish was fought on Main Street (then called Lexington Pike) in the area of Florence Christian Church and the former Florence Baptist Church. Confederate forces were headed north from Lexington, and Union forces were headed south from Cincinnati when they met in Florence. Just like all of Kentucky, residents of Florence were divided in their loyalties between the North and the South.

Editor's Note: We are publishing "Meet the Mayor" each Wednesday, but delayed this week's edition due to the Christmas holiday. If you are a local mayor or know one, feel free to contact us! Email: holly.edgell@wcpo.com

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