Westerville News & Public Opinion

Voters to decide field races for board, council

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Westerville voters have a long list of school board candidates to choose from Tuesday, Nov. 5, as eight candidates threw their hats in the ring for three seats after incumbents Denise Pope and Kristi Robbins announced they would not run for re-election.

For Westerville City Council, voters will choose for four seats among five candidates: incumbents Kathy Cocuzzi, Jenifer French, Mike Heyeck and Larry Jenkins, and challenger Doug Rankin.

Blendon Township voters will see an uncontested race to re-elect incumbents for the township's board of trustees.

 

School board

The eight candidates who are competing for three open seats on the Westerville City School Board have varied, visions for the district.

A trio of candidates are running a joint campaign -- Jim Burgess, Luke Davis and John Sodt -- focused on cutting district expenditures and the district's reliance on levies while channeling more dollars to the classroom.

Robert Edwards also has focused his campaign on district finances, saying the district can change its funding model to provide more programs while spending less and requiring fewer levies.

Meanwhile, incumbent Kevin Hoffman and candidates Nancy Nestor-Baker, Tracy Davidson and Rick Vilardo have focused their messages on healing community rifts and enhancing programs for students.

Nestor-Baker, 56, previously served more than 14 years on Westerville's school board, before stepping down in 2005. She has said her experience in dealing with the community can help heal rifts and create a new vision for the district.

Nestor-Baker is a Westerville graduate and the mother of three Westerville graduates, one of whom teaches at Genoa Middle School. She has a background in education, having served as an administrator at Ohio State for 10 years before beginning her current post as senior assistant vice president of community engagement for the United Way of Central Ohio.

Burgess, 47, runs his own IT business and is the father of three. He is the director of the Westerville TEA Party.

Davis, 44, is a quality assurance and compliance coordinator for Abbott Nutrition and the father of two students in the district.

Sodt, 68, is the father of four Westerville graduates. He is a former U.S. Air Force weapons intercept officer and retired as an IT consultant for the state. He now runs his own business, Midwest Deferred Compensation Advisory Service.

Burgess, Davis and Sodt have run a campaign they call "Students First." It focused on a "reverse budgeting" process that focuses on putting dollars in the classroom for student programs and reducing other areas of spending.

The three have been active in previous anti-levy campaigns.

Edwards, 54, began the website LevyFacts.com in 2009 to post district financial information, including payroll, benefits and budget documents.

After studying the district's financial data, Edwards said he believes the district can continue to expand programs while creating a more sustainable budgeting model by looking at salaries and benefits. That would mean smaller levies less often, he said.

Edwards runs his own IT consulting business and has four children, two of whom attend Westerville City Schools.

Edwards also has been active in past anti-levy campaigns.

Davidson, 44, is an educator and active district volunteer.

Davidson said she believe s change is needed in the district, particularly when it comes to expanding programs for students, and she said she believes she can serve as a voice for the district's students.

Davidson works as a professional tutor and volunteers her tutoring services within the schools. She has three children in the district.

Davidson has served on various district PTAs, on the Westerville Parents Council and on the board of the Westerville Education Challenge. She was also an active volunteer in the pro-levy Our Community, Our Schools.

Kevin Hoffman, 44, is completing his third term, or 12th year, on the Board of Education.

Hoffman said he hopes to remain on the board to help continue the district's reputation of excellence, which he said is evident from its strong and continually improving performance on the State Report Card.

He said his experience on the board is an asset to the district.

A Westerville North grad, Hoffman is the general manager of application management for BMW Financial Services. He has two children in the district.

Vilardo, 55, is the lead pastor at NewSong Community Church, and he said his experience in the nonprofit world, continually stretching tight budgets to do more with less, can help him to improve the district.

Vilardo is an active volunteer with the school district and currently serves on the Community Engagement Committee, which travels around to talk to community groups about the district.

He has volunteered with pro-levy group Our Community, Our Schools.

Vilardo has two elementary-aged children in the Westerville school district.

 

City Council

The four Westerville City Council members running to keep their seats said they want to continue to serve the city to continue its excellence.

Kathy Cocuzzi, Jenifer French, Mike Heyeck and Larry Jenkins are challenged by Doug Rankin, who seeks governmental change he said he believes he can initiate at the local level.

Cocuzzi, 61, is seeking her third term on council. For the past four years, she has served as mayor, a position she was appointed to by her fellow council members.

Cocuzzi has lived in Westerville for 31 years, and has long been active in the community.

A stay-at-home mom, Cocuzzi volunteered on PTAs and district levy campaigns. She served for nine years on the board of the Westerville Public Library and is in her 18th year of serving on the board of the Westerville Education Foundation.

French, 39, was appointed to council in 2009 and is running in her first election.

She is a Westerville native who returned to the city after attending college and law school.

She now works as a lawyer and got involved in city government when she joined the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, which she served on for a year and a half before taking the council seat.

Heyeck, 59, has held his seat on Westerville City Council for 20 years.

Before joining council, Heyeck served on several city boards, including the Traffic Commission, Westerville Visitors and Convention Bureau and the Westerville Planning Commission.

Heyeck retired from his post as an AEP executive earlier this year, and he now runs his own consulting firm.

Jenkins, 41, is seeking his third term on council.

He moved to Westerville in 1997 and has since been active in the community, serving on the Westerville Planning Commission for five years, on the boards of the Westerville Symphony and Concord Counseling, and with the Westerville Sunrise Rotary.

Jenkins runs his own human-resources consulting firm.

Rankin, 69, is a Vietnam War veteran who spent his career as a civilian comptroller for the United States Department of Defense.

He said he believes his experience with budgets can help him better manage the city.

Rankin said he was prompted to run because of his concerns over the running of the county, state and federal government. He said he believes he can bring about change beginning at the local level.

 

Blendon Township

Blendon Township trustees Stewart Flaherty and Jan Heichel are running unopposed to keep their seats.

Flaherty, who runs his own consulting business, has served on the board since 2007 and currently is chairman. Before moving to Blendon Township, Flaherty served 13 years on the Westerville City Council.

Heichel has lived in Blendon Township for 39 years and has been an active volunteer in the community.

She has served on the board of trustees since 2009 and is currently its vice chairwoman.

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