Gahanna residents will see at least two familiar candidates in the nonpartisan mayoral race this year.

Gahanna residents will see at least two familiar candidates in the nonpartisan mayoral race this year.

Jim McGregor, who previously held the post for 18 years, will challenge incumbent Becky Stinchcomb.

The deadline to file with the Franklin County Board of Elections is Feb. 2 for the May 3 primary.

If only two candidates file, no primary is needed. If more than two file, a May primary will be held, and a runoff between the top two vote-getters will occur in November.

Stinchcomb was appointed to serve the last two years of McGregor's unexpired term when he resigned as mayor in October 2001 so he could be appointed to the Ohio House of Representatives.

McGregor served as state representative for the 20th House District, covering Gahanna, Bexley, New Albany, Whitehall and parts of Columbus, from 2001 to 2008. He's the current executive director of the Ohio League of Conservation Voters, a nonprofit, bi-partisan organization working on energy and conservation issues.

Stinchcomb was elected as the Ward 3 city council representative five times, serving almost 10 years before being appointed mayor. She will run for her third full term as the city's mayor.

McGregor's wife, Nancy McGregor, currently serves as an at-large council member, but she will not run for re-election for her seat that expires Dec. 31.

If McGregor wins the mayoral race, he would begin service in January 2012.

McGregor, who served as Gahanna mayor from 1983 through 2001, said his administration had focused on fiscal integrity, capital improvements and the "greening" of Gahanna.

"We built our park system during that time," he said.

McGregor came to the city from a career at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

He said Ohio cities face a financially foreboding time, and cities should expect to lose state funding as the legislature grapples with an $8-billion deficit.

"We must expect to lose the inheritance tax, which the state plans to eliminate in January of 2012," he said. "We must expect the federal government to dramatically reduce their grants to cities as Congress works to avoid the financial miseries overtaking Europe."

McGregor said the present administration and council have passed deficit budgets in the past two years.

"They have consciously planned to spend more money each year than their expected annual income," he said. "The administration and council have made up the difference from savings left to them by years of frugal management. They plan to close the hole by increasing our income taxes from 1.5 percent to 2.5 percent and increasing the piggy-back tax."

Gahanna's current administration and council formed a citizens financial advisory committee last year, and one recommendation is to go on the November ballot to increase the income tax.

With the challenges Gahanna is facing, Stinchcomb said, residents and businesses need the continuity of the current leadership that she and her team can provide.

"Any new mayor, whether they have held the seat in the past or not, will quite honestly have a long learning curve to get up to speed with the fast pace of city hall today," she said.

Stinchcomb said the notion that the city isn't living within its means is simply not true.

"As our finance department works diligently to close the books on 2010, we know that in actuality, your city government spent several hundred-thousand dollars less than we received in revenues, with our reserve accounts remaining stable," she said. "This was only achieved by competent financial management and constant attention and adjustments to our new financial realities."

Stinchcomb said much has changed for the better in Gahanna the past 10 years.

"Creekside put us 'on the map' and led to Gahanna being one of the top 100 cities in the nation in 2007 - a never-before realized honor," she said. "My team and I are very proud of what we have built together with private development partnerships. Creekside has become the heart of our city for not only new businesses but for community events and celebrations."

Stinchcomb said she's proud of her record of building strong relationships among the city, schools, township, county, state and federal representatives, as well as Gahanna businesses and community organizations.

"I want to keep Gahanna moving forward as a community," she said.