Possessing a calm and soothing personality is helpful when it comes to being a Fair Housing and Mediation Coordinator. And Nancy Flinchbaugh’s peaceful demeanor and willingness to serve is just a fraction of what she brought to the position with the City of Springfield for more than 26 years.
While her responsibilities grew and changed through the years, the job title did not. Flinchbaugh took on the role beginning July 6, 1994, and retired last month on Jan. 29.
“I grew up in Dayton,” says Flinchbaugh, who graduated from Otterbein University and earned her master’s degree at the University of Texas at San Antonio in educational psychology, counseling, and guidance.
She met her husband and started a family while in Texas, and she hadn’t planned to move back to Ohio. But life took an unexpected change.
“When my father suffered a stroke, I felt a call to come back to Ohio to be with my parents. We started looking for jobs, and I was blessed to find the job with the City of Springfield, working for ‘peace and justice,’ which I had identified as my life call,” she says. “Once here, I felt engaged in my job and the community. Now this is my home, and I want to stay here, enjoying the community and friends.”
Flinchbaugh, who held teaching and ministry positions as well as a job in conflict resolution in San Antonio, recalls writing a letter during the application process to the City of Springfield about the importance of social justice and peace. It must have been a good letter, as she landed the job and never looked back.
“I was all about saving the world in my younger days,” she says. “My passion has always been helping people. I made the decision to serve God and people with my life, so when I went to Otterbein, I majored in religion and sociology. I had a life-changing experience interning in Detroit. It woke me up and made me think more about peace and social justice.
So, for me, the job in Springfield was my life calling, and I’ve always felt very grateful because I got to work in my calling.”
Flinchbaugh shared how much fun she had running a variety of events for the City.
“I loved CultureFest, and the Global Education Speaker Series. I also really loved Peace Camp, and programs we put on for tenants and homebuyers to provide them with important information,” she says. “I can’t imagine a job that would fit me more.”
During her tenure, CultureFest brought 10,000-plus people to the plaza for 23 annual events. For the Global Education Speaker series, about 72,000 calendars paid for by sponsors were distributed in schools and throughout the community, and more than 200 speakers presented.
“CultureFest created a lot of joy and appreciation for many cultures, gave our local musicians and dancers opportunities to perform, allowed many vendors to make money, and many people distributed information,” she says. “The Global Education and Peace Network built community and helped break down barriers by educating about various cultures. It was awesome working with a very dedicated diverse group of community volunteers on numerous projects.”
Also during her time with the City, Flinchbaugh conducted five studies of impediments to fair housing, coordinated more than 20 annual fair housing seminars for local realtors and property managers, organized 10 housing fairs, provided mediation services to more than 6,000 citizens, and much more.
Flinchbaugh spent thousands of hours talking with citizens about landlord-tenant issues and helping to inform people of their rights and responsibilities.
“Mediation helped people deal with conflict and find peaceful solutions,” she added. “We worked to educate tenants about their rights and responsibilities, how to be a good tenant, how to secure their rights, and encourage them to become homeowners.”
One of her main challenges through the years dealt with the fact that Springfield consists of many old homes that weren’t always maintained. Trying to help tenants whose landlords didn’t want to make repairs was the most difficult situation she encountered.
“Some landlords want their rent money and don’t want to spend any money on fixing the houses,” she says. “Of course, I also talked to many landlords who were upset with their tenants about many things. But I couldn’t understand how landlords were allowed to rent houses that were falling apart. In mediation, trying to get both sides to work together to find a solution was challenging. If people wanted to work things out, we could help. But some people seemed to prefer being upset than trying to make peace.”
Flinchbaugh is thankful for the many people working to continue to move the city forward through Community Development for the City of Springfield. She highlighted plans for improving the housing stock and redeveloping neighborhoods, which are now underway through the Engage Springfield planning process.
Even though she is retired, Flinchbaugh says she will always work for peace in the community and continue to be of service. And she will never be bored in retirement with her many interests that include photography, gardening, going to church, traveling, contemplative spirituality, enjoying nature, and writing.
Flinchbaugh leads a small group called Sustainable Options for Springfield, which assists the Springfield Ohio Urban Plantfolk and its gardening projects, including a four-year USDA grant to create a demonstration organic farm. As part of that work, she’s coordinating a six-week gardening class beginning in March with the Clark County Public Library.
She is also in a book club, is a member of Citizen’s Climate Lobby, and plays violin in a musical group. And, she’s written four books, for which more details are available on her website spiritualseedlings.com.
“I will continue my writing career. I have four books out and am looking for a publisher for the fifth,” says Flinchbaugh, also a member of the Toastmasters Club for 16 years. “I want to enjoy being retired and living with more space and time in my life, but I also want to continue to serve and make the world a better place. I’m looking for the places where ‘my deep joy meets the world’s deep need’ as Frederick Buechner has said. I’ll continue my involvement with the groups I’m already working with.”
She will also spend more time with her husband Steve, who is also retired. They have two sons, Luke and Jacob – both software engineers – who live in Seattle, Washington, and Los Angeles, California, respectively.