Immigrant Success

Ahiska Turkish-American Adil T. Baguirov remains committed to ideas. By Tim Walker

Adil T. Baguirov has spent his entire life committed to the idea of education, both for himself and others. A proud member of Dayton’s Ahiska Turkish-American community, born in 1978 in a part of the former Soviet Union known as Azerbaijan, Baguirov views himself as an immigrant who has succeeded in this country through dint of hard work, education and a commitment to excellence in all things.

The former Dayton Public Schools board member works hard and he takes seriously the concept of helping others achieve their own goals through learning. Yet, for all of his focus on public service, Baguirov’s motivations are misunderstood at times, and he often finds himself under attack by community activists and political pundits.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that when you serve on a school board, especially an urban board, and when you have 2,700 employees and 30 buildings and you have a consolidated budget of half a billion dollars, you’re running a large operation,” says Baguirov. “I am very proud of all that we were able to accomplish during my time on the board. As a result of actively modernizing the school district, in line with the mandate we received from the voters, the Dayton Public Schools are in better position now than they have been in many decades.”

Baguirov, past president of the Dayton board of education, was first elected in 2013 and stepped down from his seat four years later, six weeks prior to the end of his term, after announcing that he had officially moved out of the local school district. Baguirov became the first Ahiska-Turkish American to be elected to public office when he was sworn in to the Dayton Public Schools Board of Education in 2014.

He was, as late as this fall, expected to make a 2018 run for the 40th District seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, which incumbent Republican Mike Henne will be forced to vacate because of term limits.

Baguirov, however, made the decision to sit this election cycle out. “I’ve decided to take a break,” he continues. “I’ve endorsed Phil Plummer for the Ohio House seat in the 40th District. I decided to take a little time off because for four years I served on the board of the Dayton Public Schools, which was a big commitment.”

Plummer, currently serving as both Montgomery County Sheriff and chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party, announced his candidacy in December and is at this point the only declared Republican candidate for the seat of the 40th District, which includes Huber Heights, Englewood, and parts of Clayton and Dayton as well as Butler and Clay Townships.

Baguirov holds undergraduate degrees in international relations and business administration from the University of Southern California and he earned his Ph.D. in political science from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 2002.

Baguirov co-founded the U.S. Azeris Network and the Karabakh Foundation, and in 2015 he helped establish the Miami Valley Education Advocacy Network. In addition to his work serving the public, Baguirov owns American Power, which he considers one of the best logistics and transportation companies in the state of Ohio.

An admitted technology buff, Baguirov served as the chairman of the Dayton school board’s technology steering committee starting in 2015. “As part of our efforts to improve the transparency in the district I was the one who proposed the establishment of the office of independent internal auditor,” he says. “I also proposed that the district join the Ohio Checkbook Initiative, making Dayton the first and largest urban school district to do so.” Both proposals were approved by the local board in 2015.

When asked about the local Republican Party, Baguirov expresses nothing but confidence. “Locally, we are OK, we’re doing quite well,” he says. “We have a lot of good people … we have all kinds of people from every walk of life, it’s very diverse and we have a lot of people doing a lot of great things.”

Contrary to what some may think, not all Republicans are anti-immigration. Baguirov is quick to point out the distinction between illegal immigrants and immigrants who, like himself, have followed the rules and earned their citizenship through an extremely lengthy—but legal—process.

“The thing is, every single member of the local Turkish community that I know came here legally, which is a big difference,” he says. “In my case—and I’m probably one of the only elected officials here locally that can actually talk about immigration with a full knowledge of it, because I’ve been through the process—I actually had to go through it. It takes 10 years to become a citizen. By the time you switch from your visa to your green card, then you apply for citizenship, each step of the way… you have to submit years of tax returns, and it is a very lengthy, very involved process.”

“At the end of the day,” he says, “When you’ve jumped through all these hoops you have a new appreciation for it and you also know how to defend yourself and your status as an American citizen. It took me 10 years. I had to go through that process, and so did the other immigrants that I know and I don’t like anyone who tries to go around that.”

The Ahiska Turkish, also sometimes referred to as Meskheti Turks, are a group of ethnic Turks that inhabited Georgia’s Meskheti region on the border of Turkey, and are now dispersed throughout the former Soviet Union, United States and Turkey.

It’s clear that, in the future, Baguirov plans to continue on his path of using his education, love of technology and business acumen to serve not just the local Turkish community, but the entire region and community as a whole.

“While I do want to take a break, I’ll continue to be politically active,” he says. “And you’ll definitely be hearing more from me in the next few years.”

Of that, there is no doubt.