Bexley News

Mayor ready to run

Kessler sets out to win title of mayor

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Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler would like to keep his post, announcing he intends to meet the deadline for filing petitions for the fall election.

Candidates must file petitions with the Franklin County Board of Elections by Aug. 7 in order to appear on the Nov. 5 ballot.

"The job of working for the city is one that, for me, is really gratifying," Kessler said. "I'm really passionate about it."

Bexley City Council selected Kessler to fill the role of mayor in February 2012 after previous mayor John Brennan died of cancer. Prior to serving as mayor, Kessler was twice elected to Bexley City Council and served as chairman of council's Zoning and Development Committee and Finance Committee. He also served as council president in early 2012 before becoming mayor.

Kessler also worked in commercial real estate appraisal for 10 years before taking on the full-time job of mayor. Working in development proved to be valuable experience for city administration, Kessler said.

"A lot of what you do as a mayor, there's a management side to it for sure, there's a community relationship side to it, a communications side to it," he said. "Development is a huge piece of it, because if we want to push the community forward in a positive direction, we have to be developing in the right way."

Developments and accomplishments that Kessler cited during his tenure as mayor include:

* Negotiating a Joint Economic Development Zone agreement with Liberty Township and the city of Powell, which is projected to bring in an additional $180,000 per year to the city of Bexley if the agreement is approved by Liberty Township voters in November.

* Working on a balanced budget for 2013, the city's first budget in recent years to reflect an increase in the general fund at the end of the year. Kessler said this was accomplished with the help of not only a change to the city income tax, but also the elimination of almost 10 percent of the city's general fund operating expenses.

* Enhancing city communications, with a redesigned website, creation of the "Bexley Blast" call-in telephone hotline and weekly email updates, a revamped annual budget report that now includes a general annual report, and the creation of "blue signs" that are now placed at properties that are the subject of public hearings.

* Helping to create the summertime "Main Event" monthly outdoor movie series and Main Street celebration.

Kessler and city council also worked toward implementing the 2011 Bexley Land Use Strategy, which included the formation of the Bexley Community Improvement Corporation and the redevelopment of the Bexley City Hall site.

The City Hall redevelopment will involve the demolition of the existing structure and relocation of city offices to make way for a new Giant Eagle store, which council approved in June. A new grocery store is one of the amenities that Kessler said he has heard requested most often from Bexley residents since he became mayor.

"It's actually in the Land Use Strategy -- find a quality neighborhood grocery store for the city. It was in our 2012 Bexley Community Survey," Kessler said. "It's the sort of stuff that matters to people. People move to Bexley so they can walk to these things."

A native of Bexley, Kessler moved to Connecticut with his mother at the age of 8 after his parents divorced, returning periodically to Bexley to visit his father. Kessler moved back to Bexley in 2002 after graduating from the University of St. Andrews. He and his wife, Julie, have three young children.

If elected to a full term in the fall, Kessler said he would focus on the following issues:

* Infrastructure modernization, including water and sewer lines; electric, natural gas and telecommunications systems; and increased tree maintenance, especially involving trees near power lines.

* The revitalization of Livingston Avenue, which currently includes discussions with the city of Columbus and area businesses.

* The modernization of the Southwest Bexley Master Plan, with an emphasis on strengthening the business and residential base in southwest Bexley.

* Completion of the Livingston-to-Main Alum Creek Park, which is in the early planning stages.

* Greater use of data-driven policing, which involves analyzing incident reports using map-based software that the city implemented earlier this year.

Kessler said he has maintained a productive working relationship with council and city administration throughout his time as mayor, and plans to continue to do so if elected.

"I think at the end of the day, everybody's really motivated by what's best for the city. And while people disagree with things and get frustrated with each other sometimes, it's really over the actual issue, not over some other ulterior motive," he said. "And that's kind of consistently been the culture in Bexley and it's continued that way, and I think it's a good thing."

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