Westerville City Council Chairman Mike Heyeck has held his seat for 20 years.

Westerville City Council Chairman Mike Heyeck has held his seat for 20 years.

With that kind of longevity, he said he's used to jokes from his fellow council members.

"You have to poll some of the other council members; they think I date back to Lincoln," Heyeck said.

Heyeck, 59, is one of four incumbents running for re-election Nov. 5, joined by Kathy Cocuzzi, Jenifer French and Larry Jenkins. The incumbents are challenged by Doug Rankin.

The top four vote-getters will win new four-year terms.

While Heyeck jokes about his longtime service, he said the knowledge he brings to the position is invaluable.

"The tagline I'm using is: Experience matters," Heyeck said. "We're getting accolades from peers, AAA bond ratings, gold medals for parks. When things are going well, experience matters."

Throughout his time out council, planning has been key, Heyeck said.

He originally ran on a plan he called Westerville 2000, which has morphed into a Westerville 2020 plan.

Signs of planning throughout the city include the planning for the development of the northwestern 941 acres of Westerville, some of which has become Westar and some of which still awaits development, as well as ongoing five-year financial plans that, by city charter, always are balanced.

"Perhaps the greatest contribution I brought was planning, a planning mindset," Heyeck said.

Heyeck and his wife of nearly 40 years, Fernanda, have lived in Westerville's Annehurst neighborhood since 1980. A New Jersey native, Heyeck relocated to central Ohio for his employer, AEP. He retired from a vice president's post with the company earlier this year, concluding a 37-year career.

Heyeck, who served on the neighborhood's board for many years, said he met longtime Councilman John Parimuha while volunteering to help with a power outage in 1983, and he said it was Parimuha who encouraged him to get involved in city government.

Beginning in 1986, Heyeck served on the city's traffic commission; he moved to the board of the Westerville Visitors and Convention Bureau in the early 1990s and served on the Planning Commission from 1992 until he joined council.

Parimuha also was the one who encouraged Heyeck to run for council.

"John Parimuha showed me how to get involved and how to be productive," Heyeck said. Driving home from a council meeting one night, Heyeck said, "(Parimuha) just basically said, 'You need to run for council,' and I said, 'No, I want to do it when I retire, and he said, 'No you need to do it now.' "

Heyeck also credits his mother with his involvement in city politics, and he dedicated his first council run to her.

"My mother was always involved in politics. I remember dropping literature as a child, dropping envelopes, stuffing envelopes. That gave me the taste of being involved," Heyeck said. "My mom's activism yielded that in me."

Facing a sixth term, Heyeck said he's focused on three areas of improvement for the city: a continued focus on road improvements, increasing economic development and improving the Uptown area, as well as maintaining the city's sound fiscal practices.

"Uptown is our jewel when people think of Westerville. That's got to be one of the top three reasons they move here. It's got to remain vibrant," Heyeck said. "(Maintaining the AAA bond rating is) near and dear to me. We've got to pay attention to our debt. We've got to pay attention to making sure our rainy day fund is secure."

If re-elected, Heyeck said, he will feel privileged to continue to serve the city.

"Just walking around or driving around town, I couldn't be more proud of this city, and I'm happy to be a part of it," Heyeck said.