Uncontested fall elections have not been uncommon in recent years for an all-Republican Hilliard City Council – but 2017 is different.
Four Republicans and two Democrats are running for four seats up for election on the Nov. 7 general-election ballot.
Hilliard is one of a few municipalities in Franklin County to have partisan City Council seats and conduct a primary.
For many years, the Republican primary has served as a de facto general election because Hilliard has been a GOP bastion inside Democratic-leaning Franklin County. A Democrat has not run for City Council since 2009, when Meagan Pandey lost in the general election.
The two Democrats running this year are Chad Queen and Sarah Schregardus, who did not need a primary because they were the only two Democrats to file and be certified for the ballot.
The four Republicans include three incumbents – Tom Baker, Les Carrier and Kelly McGivern – and Andy Teater, president of the Hilliard school board and the top vote-getter in the May 2 Republican primary, collecting more than 25 percent of votes cast. Bill Uttley, the fourth incumbent, was defeated int he primary.
Meanwhile, an independent candidate, Joel Scipio, also will appear on the ballot but Scipio told ThisWeek earlier this fall he has withdrawn his candidacy.
The withdrawal occurred too late to remove Scipio's name from the ballot and voters will be notified of the withdrawal at polling locations on Election Day, according to Aaron Sellers, a spokesman for the Franklin County Board of Elections.
The six candidates answered questions from ThisWeek about partisan elections, the best form of local government and policies on development. Their responses have been distilled into the following capsules in alphabetical order but their complete and unedited responses are available at ThisWeekNEWS.com/Hilliard.
Baker, 60, owns Baker & Associates Insurance Agency in Hilliard.
He is serving his first term on City Council after his election in 2013.
Baker said he is pleased the charter-review commission will consider whether the city should shift from a "strong-mayor" to a city-manager form of government.
"From what I know at this time, I believe the advantages (of a city-manager form of government) would cause me to support it," he said.
Concerning partisan elections for City Council, Baker said, he would prefer elections at the local level to be nonpartisan.
In the arena of development, he said, he stands with the majority of residents in his belief that no more apartments are needed in Hilliard.
"We need more commercial development, to shore up our infrastructure (and) to concentrate on quality-of-life issues, like recreational space and amenities that (our) residents desire," Baker said.
Baker said his goals include increasing collaborative efforts and "to continue encouraging open and honest discussion between the city, schools and townships."
Carrier, 48, is a structured-settlement consultant for Arcadia Settlements Group.
He is severing his first term after his election in 2013.
"I strongly support a transition to a city-manager form of government," Carrier said.
He said he also favors the elimination of partisan elections.
Concerning development, Carrier said, he has "grown very concerned and more vocal about development policies in Hilliard."
"We need to have a more balanced approach to growth, increasing our commercial tax base, while allowing our current infrastructure to catch up with the thousands of new residential units being added to our community," he said.
Carrier said his goals include pushing to increase staffing for the Hilliard Division of Police and a broader approach for development.
"I also believe we need to take a more regional approach to traffic development and impact studies," he said. "Having a developer submit a study relative to the small area they may develop ... while ignoring (other areas) is short-sighted."
McGivern, 51, is an executive at Molina Healthcare.
She is seeking her third term on City Council and currently serves as vice president.
Concerning the form of local government, McGivern said, she encourages the charter-review commission to explore every angle.
"I will rely on the commission to look at all sides of the issue and make recommendations back to council," she said. "... Ultimately, it will be the voters that decide which type of government they prefer and whether partisan elections are getting in the way (of effective leadership)."
In the development arena, McGivern said, the city does not need additional apartments.
"Any additional housing should focus on options for our senior population and those looking to downsize," she said.
McGivern said her priorities moving forward are to ensure police have the required resources, addressing aging infrastructure and seeking grant opportunities to fund new recreational facilities.
Queen, 37, is a communications specialist for Nationwide Insurance.
He is seeking his first elected office in Hilliard.
Queen said he believes partisan elections at the local level serve an important purpose.
"While local government is rarely about any party's wider ideology, I believe a person's party affiliation can give you an idea into who they are and what they believe in," he said.
Queen said he supports maintaining the city's strong-mayor form of government.
However, he said, he "will not push my wants" on government "but listen to the thoughts of every opinion" and be a voice for those opinions.
Concerning development policy, he said, the residential sector has outpaced the commercial sector, and often in contrast to the desires of residents.
"These short-sighted decisions shift the tax burden onto us," Queen said.
Schregardus, 37, is an attorney.
She is seeking her first elected office in Hilliard.
Schregardus said voters should decide whether a change in the form of local government is warranted.
"I think that a decision changing from a mayor to a city-manager form of government needs to be made after evidence-based studies and the recommendation put to voters," she said.
Concerning partisan elections for City Council, Schregardus said, "I do think that giving voters some indication of the candidate's values is important."
She said the city also must have "smart and sustainable development" that supports school-aged families and seniors.
Schregardus said she believes City Council can improve relationships with voters and outside entities.
"Many residents do not trust that current leadership will represent their interests," she said.
"If elected ... (I will) provide a fresh perspective for potential development."
Teater, 55, owns Teater Relocation Services.
He is serving his third term on the school board, on which he serves as president.
As a board member, Teater said, he has experienced a city-manager relationship via the board's relationship to the superintendent.
"I support the city switching to a city manager (who would) administer the daily operations of the city," he said.
Concerning development policy, Teater said, a restoration of balance is necessary.
"Hilliard cannot continue to promote rapid residential growth ... without an increase in commercial growth to help offset the tax burden of our current residents," he said.
It is achieved, Teater said, by halting the development of apartments and focusing on commercial development.
Additional areas of concern are infrastructure and public safety, he said.
"We must continue to improve our roadways in order to ease congestion (and) support our safety services by hiring more police officers," he said.