Trustee candidates all agree funding of the fire department is one of the most-pressing issues in Liberty Township.
So when candidate Tom Mitchell learned last week that the firefighters would endorse him and fellow candidate Shyra Eichhorn in the Nov. 5 election, he said it was a huge step forward in his campaign.
"It is very clear they're endorsing us for the basic facts -- we're coming to them open and honest, without a hidden agenda," he said. "I'm the type of person who is really there to listen and work toward common solutions."
Mitchell and Eichhorn will face competition from three additional candidates -- Peggy Guzzo, John Hartman and Vince Margello -- for the two open seats on the board of trustees. Current Trustees Curt Sybert and Mary Carducci chose not to run for re-election.
Mitchell said he's knocked on more than 3,000 doors in the township to introduce himself to voters and to find out what's most important to them. He said many residents agree when he explains the trustees should focus on creating a comprehensive plan that outlines what the township's tax base will look like two decades from now.
"At one trustee meeting in June, a strategic plan actually came up and it was decided by the trustees that it should be left to the next trustees, which I agree with, but I asked specifically for a copy of our existing one," he said. "Yes, we have a plan for developing corridors, but we really don't have a plan for establishing the tax base we need to keep our infrastructure the way it is and to keep this a great place to live without raising taxes. That bothered me."
To ensure the township is developing in a direction that is sustainable and beneficial to residents, Mitchell said it's important that it join with stakeholders from Powell and Delaware County when building its strategic plan.
"Why not get all the city, township and county leaders, business owners and developers together and try to put together a vision for what's going to support this township without raising our taxes?" Mitchell asked.
"It all comes down to relationship-building, and the best way to develop a relationship is through short, quick, win-win scenarios, where everyone participates in projects that they want done. A prime example of something that could jump-start a relationship would be working together to connect bike paths," he said.
Although Mitchell said he is focused on running the township without increased taxes, he said he -- nor anyone else -- can truly promise another fire levy won't be necessary. But before ever turning to voters, he said he would work within the department's means without cutting in areas that already are running lean. He said if he were elected to the trustees board, he would first pursue additional county funds that are allotted for emergency medical services.
Mitchell, 43, is an Ohio State University professor who studies microbial biotechnology.
He is a member of OSU's Faculty Committee on Admissions, College Academic Affairs Committee and the Board of Regents Biotechnology Credit Alignment initiative. He volunteers with the Dublin Food Pantry, coaches OYAA teams and serves as a Boy Scouts of America leader.
He and his wife, Ellen, have lived in Liberty Township for six years and have two sons who attend St. Charles Preparatory School in Columbus.
To learn more about Mitchell and his campaign, search "Tom Mitchell for Liberty Township Trustee" on Facebook.