After several rounds of interviews spanning the course of two months, Pickerington's City Administration Committee whittled a long list of candidates that applied to be a new City Council member down to one: Patrick Bowen.
City Mayor Lee Gray, however, vetoed the choice Monday, August 26.
"I felt it was the necessary decision based on the current balance of City Council," Gray said.
Bowen would have replaced Brian Sauer, who was required to vacate his seat on council in June because a residency clause in Pickerington's City Charter mandates all councilmen live in the city.
Sauer moved to Violet Township, thus creating the open seat, the term for which expires in 2015.
City Council voted 4-0 to approve Bowen at its August 20 meeting. Councilmen Cristie Hammond and Mike Sabatino abstained from voting on the legislation.
Councilman Tony Barletta, vice chairman of the City Administration Committee, spearheaded the search team to find Sauer's replacement.
Bowen was chosen from a final group of four applicants that also included Adam Babcock, Nicole McKiernan and Shaun Peterson.
Barletta said he was "very disappointed" by Gray's veto, especially in light of the due diligence he said was exercised by the City Administration Committee throughout the selection process.
"We selected Patrick Bowen from a group of 35 applicants, 28 we interviewed once, and four we interviewed twice," said Barletta.
"I believe our process delivered the best candidate for the citizens of Pickerington," he said. "Apparently, Patrick was not the best candidate for Lee Gray."
Gray said he anticipates City Council will attempt to override his veto of Bowen.
"Council has until the next council meeting to choose to override it," Gray said. "They can override it with five votes. I guess they will at least attempt to do that Sept. 3," he said.
Gray said if council fails to fill Sauer's vacant seat within the 60-day time period required by the City Charter, "after that it becomes the Mayor's appointment."
Barletta cited Bowen's extensive business background as the primary reason he emerged as the front runner in a field of qualified and talented candidates.
Bowen is the owner of Bowen National Research, a company based in Olde Pickerington Village that provides real estate market research to developers and local governments.
A resident of Pickerington for the past 13 years, Bowen lives in the Willow Ponds subdivision with his wife, Tracie, and their two children.
He previously served as a board member for Fairfield County Habitat for Humanity and as a volunteer for the Pickerington Food Pantry and Fairfield Community Gardens.
Barletta said there is a plan of action in regards to Bowen's candidacy, the details of which is yet to be determined.
"We will meet to try to overturn the veto," Barletta said. "We may call a special meeting to do so. We've not resolved that yet."
When reached for comment Monday evening, Aug. 26, Bowen expressed frustration with Gray's veto.
"I am particularly perplexed that the mayor stated he vetoed my nomination because he felt he was not asked for input on the applicant screening process, especially when he had the opportunity to meet all 28 applicants yet failed to attend a single interview," Bowen said.
"To me this is petty and politics at its worst," he said.
"I would have understood if the mayor felt my ideas, goals or vision for the city didn't match his or they simply weren't good for Pickerington," Bowen said.
"The funny thing is, in the couple of times we spoke with each other, including once at length, he never asked me about a single position I had or what I thought about Pickerington's future.
"It's a shame, too, because I had some good things we could have done together to help the city," Bowen said.
Gray said he stood by his decision to veto Bowen's nomination.
"Anytime I make a decision I'm doing it in what I believe is the best interests of the city," Gray said, adding "there should have been a candidate that was more fully supported by City Council and the mayor."