Josh Mandel: From BHS to Senate Race
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Republican Senate Candidate Josh Mandel is well-respected by former classmates and teachers, even though many do not support his political views.
Mandel, a Beachwood alum, reflected fondly on his high school experience.
“It meant a great deal to me to be able to take my wife, Ilana, on a tour of [BHS] because I wanted her to see where I grew up,” Mandel wrote in an email. “I feel very fortunate to have gained the education I received in those halls.”
Mandel, who graduated from BHS in 1996, reflected fondly on his high school experience and how it prepared him for success. After high school, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree from The Ohio State University, and went on to earn a law degree from Case Western. In 2000 he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, and by 2008 toured twice in Iraq. Mandel began his political career by becoming a Lyndhurst City Councilman in 2003. He went on to be elected as State Representative in 2006, and is currently Treasurer of Ohio.
As Mandel has come into the political spotlight, there are many insights BHS staff and alumnae have into the political figure.
“When he is not in the spotlight or in political form, Josh is a friendly and funny guy,” said Joel Freimark, a high school peer of Mandel’s, in an online interview. “I was at BHS with him for two years, and I can’t recall him ever being anything but friendly and welcoming.”
Freimark did not have any classes with Mandel, but he worked with him on Student Council, of which Mandel was Vice President during his senior year. They also worked together in the White & Gold talent show.
“I remember him doing a rather amusing cameo for ‘BHS News’ his senior year…the way he came on stage was pretty funny, it was an inside joke at the time that everyone got,” wrote Freimark.
Mandel’s parents also explained that Mandel thoroughly enjoyed his high school years. When asked if there were any particularly embarrassing moments, they said, “Yes, but none that we’re going to tell you.”
However, the fun side of Mandel is etched in a BHS yearbook photo of Mandel, depicting him and a close friend in the weight room dressed in drag.
“The other person in the photo is one of his closest friends in high school, and they are just being goofs,” commented Freimark.
According to a 1995 Beachcomber article, Mandel pioneered the amusing morning announcements now hosted by senior Jon Sender. He also wrote informative and light-hearted articles for The Beachcomber.
According to Mandel’s parents, his greatest passion in high school was sports. He was the football quarterback, and played baseball and basketball as well.
Ned Overbeke, Mandel’s middle school basketball coach and American history teacher, recalled Mandel loving sports even in middle school, and working hard to be the best player.
Overbeke recalled a tradition he had as a teacher to record seventh graders expressing their high school aspirations. When the students were seniors in high school, he would invite them back to watch the video.
“This is how I realized he liked challenges,” said Overbeke, referring to how Mandel overcame the obstacle of his small stature when playing sports. “He told me that not only was he going to play football, but he was going to be quarterback. I told him that was a terrific aspiration, but I bet you a dollar you’re not going to be quarterback.”
Spanish teacher John Summers coached Mandel in baseball, and also remembered him being extremely motivated. “He was very coachable,” said Summers. “When [I tried] to help him and show him what to do, he would do it. He was fun to be around and charismatic. He was friendly and likeable as a student and person.”
Mandel’s parents mentioned that their son took advantage of all his high school opportunities, which prepared him for college and beyond.
“He enjoyed high school and was there for it. When Josh does something he does it 110%, he puts everything into it,” said Bruce Mandel.
As for his grades, Rita Mandel noted that he was the typical Beachwood student. “He was a regular student, he was an AP student, but I’m sure there was a C in there too.”
Yet while Mandel took advantage of his high school opportunities, in high school it was unclear what career path he would take.
“I thought he was going to become a lawyer and go into business with his dad,” said Overbeke.
Mandel’s parents said that Mandel was the first in the family to get involved in politics, and this was prompted by his grandparents.
Mandel wrote in an email, “One of my grandparents served in the US Army Air Corps, and the other was liberated from a Nazi camp by Allied troops. They were a large part of my inspiration to join the Marine Corps and serve my community and country in this capacity as well…Many of my [political] views were formed in the Marine Corps, college and law school.”
Although Mandel did not write that his political views were not formed in Beachwood, he still feels rooted in the community, as he stated, “I have always felt a strong connection with Beachwood. This is where I grew up and now I am lucky enough to call it home as a homeowner. Families throughout the community have been very supportive and I’m grateful for their belief in me.”
While Mandel identifies strongly with both his Jewish culture and home community, there is a conspicuous discrepancy between Mandel’s current political views, and those of most BHS students. In a Beachcomber mock election, only 26% of students voted for Mandel. This is, however, seven percent more votes than Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney received.
“I think in terms of ‘BHS support,’ it is two-pronged. I have found that the ‘Beachwood family’ supports all graduates in many different ways, regardless of your career path, [and] that to me is my biggest concern about voting Alum. People need to separate the political person from the person in yearbook,” wrote Freimark.
“On a personal level, I cannot think of one negative thing to say about Josh, as he is a stand-up guy if there ever was one,” Freimark wrote. “But in his choices of political views and paths, I’d be hard pressed to find someone I am further from.”
As for the specifics of his political agenda, Mandel wrote, “Creating a business-friendly, pro-growth environment to foster job creation in Ohio and America is the highest priority of our campaign. I strongly believe that common sense tax reforms, the repeal of government run healthcare and the elimination of over burdensome agency regulations on small businesses are crucial to the recovery of our state and national economies.”
Senior Heather Wieder has been living in Beachwood her whole life, but still does not plan on voting for Mandel. “I don’t feel the responsibility to vote for him because he’s from Beachwood or because he’s Jewish..as for Mandel achieving so much in so little time, that means nothing if [I don’t agree with his politics].” Wieder is a Democrat, but says her family will occasionally vote for a Republican if that candidate shares the same ideas as they do.
Senior Jonah Firestone, a conservative Democrat also of voting age, further expressed distaste for Mandel. “He makes tons of promises that he can’t keep and he’s making a career out of politics. You don’t go into politics for your own benefit or gain, you go in to represent people and because you want to invoke change. He does things for the wrong reason,” said Firestone.
Nevertheless, Senior Daniel Padilla, an independent with conservative economic views, sees the encouragement in attending the same high school as a political success. “I think it’s really cool that he actually went to Beachwood and walked the same halls we do now,” said Padilla. “To see him where he is now, and where he might be going, I think, is certainly motivational.” For Padilla, sharing a common hometown with Mandel factors into his support for the candidate.
Overbeke also realizes how Mandel’s story can be inspiring.
“I think the Republican party sees him as a super candidate…he’s young, he’s smart, he’s attractive, he’s a military hero, he’s got a lot of good characteristics that people in politics are looking for,” said Overbeke. “Even if the locals disagree with his politics, I think they know he’s a good person.”
“As he matured, he became a very good quarterback at BHS. He served in the military…and when he came back from his second stint [in the service], they had an assembly at Beachwood Middle School. The principal called me up – I had retired back then – and invited me to attend.”
“How do they start the assembly? With a video, my video they had found of me interviewing Josh when he was 13.
“They called me up to the stage and said ‘Mr. Overbeke, are you in the audience? I believe you owe this young man a dollar.
“And with tears in my eyes, I gave Josh the dollar.”