Six candidates, including two incumbents, are seeking election Nov. 7 to four at-large seats on Canal Winchester City Council.
Council President Steve Donahue is not seeking re-election. Council member Jim Wynkoop, who died in August, also had decided not to seek re-election. Incumbents Will Bennett and Bobbie Mershon are being challenged by Jill Amos, Michael Coolman, Patrick Lynch and Bob Toledo. All but Amos responded to ThisWeek's request for information.
Why are you running for office?
Bennett: When I first ran for public office, I saw our community leaders maturing and a lack of young, experienced leadership coming up behind them. I ran to have an opportunity to learn, take what's been done before and understand how to move forward in a direction that honors our past.
Now I run because I've had four years to study. I've gained valuable experience. And I would be honored to continue to represent our city.
I'm not a politician. I'm simply a good listener who works problems from different angles and finds solutions by working together with others.
Coolman: I have been an active member of this community for the past 14 years and have witnessed the exciting growth during this time. Our community's growth provides us with opportunities for additional funding -- i.e. grants, tax revenues, etc. I would like to see the continued growth of these revenues and focus on continued financial stability. We have an obligation to maintain our safe, secure and family-friendly community.
Lynch: I have been involved in Landmarks Commission, Blues & Ribfest, CW Historical Society, along with volunteering for other events with my wife, Cindi. Cindi has been a resident for over 25 years. Our son, Ben Dickerson, and grandchildren Olivia, Naomi and Tatum Dickerson, live in Canal Winchester and attend Canal Winchester schools.
I want to maintain the hometown feeling and offer my expertise for development in the city of Canal Winchester to grow in a responsible way. More development means addressing all safety issues along the way and welcoming input from all residents during the process.
Mershon: I have lived in Canal Winchester since 1977. It has been a wonderful place to raise our three children. I want to give back to the community that has given so much to me. I have served on council since 1990 and have found that representing my fellow citizens on council is the most effective way I know to serve my community. Canal Winchester has grown from a small village to a "shining star" in Franklin County. I want to continue to be a contributor toward that end.
Toledo: I am running for City Council as I feel I can make an impact on the current system. I believe in order to make changes in a system, I must be a part of it. It is important to me to have honest leadership and financial accountability. In serving the community over the past 15 years, I have seen many changes in our city. I feel I can make a positive impact for the residents of Canal Winchester and be more involved in our community.
Identify the top two issues facing Canal Winchester and explain how you would deal with them.
Bennett: Recently, we have engaged the Fairfield County Sheriff's Office to begin the process for increasing staffing. At the end of this agreement, I would like to request a study to evaluate our options prior to the next agreement. Our city has fallen behind the FBI data average for number of officers by population. I would like to see us add five officers to get us closer to this average. Even with adding five officers, this would only add one additional officer per shift. This increase would also force some very tough decisions as it relates to the 2018 budget.
We are also in the process of updating our future development planning guides. These plans are created with community input and help to shape and steer the vision of our city for the next decade and beyond. The Old Towne Plan was adopted this year and we are in progress to complete a parks and recreation study. It will be critical to engage the community for feedback. And as with any challenge, it will always be important that we work collectively together in the best interest of all the citizens.
Coolman: Responsible growth and sensible development. I want to see a continuation of growth, supported by careful planning and a focus on the future revenues this growth creates for Canal Winchester. This growth should be focused on attracting industry that offers employment with sustainable income. We also need to ensure Canal Winchester continues to have the resources needed to maintain the current benefits offered to all residents through our programs for seniors, parks and recreation (youth) and the new McGill Park development (families).
Continued focus on responsible financial budgeting, as our growing community requires enhanced public services to maintain our safe, secure and family-friendly community.
Lynch: Originally, I thought the two top issues facing Canal Winchester were to increase safety and ensure responsible development. The third concern was communication to all residents.
However, over the past few months, it is clear that better communication to all residents is needed first. The other two issues can only be addressed when the community is fully informed and is engaged in the process. We will be successful working together. Residents' feedback should be welcomed and encouraged.
My position with Peabody Landscape has enabled me to learn what has and has not worked in the different municipalities during their growth. I want to use this knowledge to help with responsible development in Canal Winchester, which impacts our taxes, schools and community safety; break-ins, speeding, drugs, police coverage, etc.
I encourage input from all residents and will always maintain an open door (open porch) policy. The more we know the input of the residents, the better prepared we to grow for all residents.
Mershon: Our most pressing need is to expand our police force. Under our current contract with Fairfield County, two deputies per shift are provided to patrol our city. Studies have been presented to council that indicate three deputies per shift are needed for a city of our size. That explains the increase of speeding and other offenses that Canal Winchester has been experiencing lately. There are simply not enough deputies to go around. I am advocating increasing our police staffing to the recommended levels. This will add $300,000 to the current sheriff's contract. We will have to adjust future budgets to account for this increase, but the safety of our citizens should be our highest priority. As we look to the future, we should consider returning to our own police force when it becomes a cost-effective and viable option.
The city has purchased 80 acres of prime parkland. I would like to see it developed into a family-friendly park system. I envision it having fields for organized sports as well as nature trails, picnic areas, shelter areas, restroom facilities, etc. Developing parks comes with a price tag. I would support applying for all available grants, as we did for Hanners Park, to lower the costs of development for our citizens. Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with the city seeking more industry and commercial enterprises to increase our tax revenues. This will enable us to offset costs for the services and amenities the residents want and deserve to have within our community.
Toledo: Safety and growth/development. I want to keep Canal Wincheester safe. I have noticed an increase in auto and home break-ins over the past couple years. Perhaps there is a need for more funded police protection. Safety needs to be a priority and a proactive approach in our community.
The other issue is responsible growth and development in our city. We have some great additions to our community, but I would like to see us attract a variety of businesses. I would love to be a part of the master plan for future development, including improvements for park space.