Following a long career as a defense attorney, Independent Patrick McGee entered retirement looking for anything but a break.

The former lawyer is running a City Council reelection campaign, while still finding time to both sharpen his skills as a poetry writer and meditatively watch sunsets.

The stability:

Retirement: Known by many for being the ultimate time to relax and slow down. However, disregarding the expectation of a relaxing retirement would not be the first time McGee went against the grain. 

While his workload has decreased since leaving his job as the managing attorney at Ohio University’s Center for Student Legal Services, he sees himself continuing to actively engage in his passion for law, politics and music, as well as growing spiritually. McGee continues to be an active member of the Athens community, all while getting two extra hours of sleep a night.

“Realize that life passes really quickly, and, even though we are bound to have some regrets, it’s nice to take the time to have some good memories as well. Don’t be afraid to help somebody,” McGee said.

The Independent:

Known by Athens residents and students alike is McGee’s resilient confidence as an outsider. Out of nine councilmembers, McGee is the only Independent in an otherwise sea of blue Democrats.

Conor Morris, The Athens NEWS associate editor, has always been in awe of McGee’s colorful use of language and unique political insight. Along with deep historical connection to Athens, McGee stands as a hybrid between a progressive and fiscal conservative.

“[He is] one of the most Athens people you can meet,” Morris said.

McGee is photogenic; time has painted his hair and long, curly mustache white. A black top hat peers above any passersby. His long black winter trench coat covers the vibrant-colored clothes underneath.

McGee makes a statement when he walks into a courtroom or into the City Building for City Council meetings, which is just how he likes it. He’s not afraid of the spotlight, both physically and verbally. 

He focuses on getting as much out of his meetings as possible — even if it means asking a question multiple times when everyone else is ready to move on to the next item on the agenda.

He has a keen eye for the city’s finances when faced with political decisions. Often, he asks if the amount of money allotted for programs is necessary. He hopes to continue helping the city allocate its money in ways that will increase efficiency. In addition to critically examining money, McGee comes to committee meetings and council meetings with a long list of questions he plans to get answered.

“I’m probably more suspicious of motivations than other people tend to be. Part of that is, I know that people will not only lie to you, but people will tell you half-truths, or avoid the question entirely … in court that kind of stuff would never happen,” he said.

The balance:

When McGee started his quest to be a councilmember, he faced opposition from those who felt his career representing students in court should preclude him from the council.

“All I can say is that the real issue in my mind was, ‘Who do you represent? Do you represent the city of Athens? Which is the bricks, the roads, the streets, the people who own those maybe? Or do you represent a people of Athens?’ And my answer has been consistent that I represent the citizens of Athens, the people of Athens. All of them, not just a few,” McGee said.

After living in Athens for more than 18 years, McGee felt a need to work for — and with — both residents and students. Plus, his knowledge of who really runs town and has control politically and financially gives him an advantage.

If re-elected, McGee hopes to continue looking closely at Athens’ finances and questioning inefficient practices. For example, he is open to the idea of reworking the city’s trash cans project that go unused apart from the thousands of dollars that are dumped into them annually.

The spirituality:

McGee used to be one of the students racing off to the Ohio U dining halls in the evening. He graduated in 1974 with a degree in history before studying law at the University of Kentucky. He lived in California before returning to Athens. 

However, he now enjoys his evenings far differently and can be seen enjoying a sunset. He allows the colorful spectrum in the sky to inspire his spirituality.

“One of my joys in life is catching the sunsets. Sunsets become a great time of meditation for me … It’s also a great time to feel grateful and thankful and to realize how absolutely wonderful the world is,” McGee said.

In addition to reading poetry, he recently began writing his own about sunsets. As he leaned back in his chair and looked up at the night sky, it took him a brief moment to begin reciting one he wrote last week: “Falling into the summer sky. Dreams blossom like stardust.”

After years of critically thinking about fine details in the law and negotiating politics, McGee now enjoys new adventures like a Zen Buddhist retreats. 

“There’s kind of a split between meditation and prayer; we often think consciously when we pray. But with meditation, we’re told to close it down and get rid of your thoughts [and] just be aware,” he said. “If you close down the mundane talks that drift into your mind, the higher thoughts come.”

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