The Columbus City Auditor's Office is about to change hands for the first time in nearly 50 years, as voters will elect a political newcomer to replace retiring Hugh Dorrian.
Democrat Megan Kilgore and Republican Bob Mealy will square off on Nov. 7.
Kilgore said she got the best training possible -- as assistant city auditor for 12 years under Dorrian, who she described as a "steadfast leader" instrumental in helping achieve Columbus' AAA bond rating, which allows the city to borrow money at a low rate for capital projects.
"The City Auditor's Office serves as an important checks-and-balances for all financial matters of the city, but truly is the financial lifeblood of the city," said Kilgore, who lives in Berwick.
Mealy said he'll stack up his experience against the worthiest opponent.
Mealy, who lives on the Far Northeast Side, is a retired IBM executive with three decades of experience in business administration and management. At IBM, Mealy said he went from sales to directing a global team of more than a thousand employees and managing a budget of $800 million.
"In my mind, for an auditor, you need a business person," said Mealy, 61, founder and current CEO of Mealy Enterprises.
Throughout his business career, he has started and sold three companies, he said. He earned his bachelor's degree from Tennessee Temple University.
The auditor's base salary of $177,500 will increase to $184,600 starting in 2018. The office has 108 employees. Dorrian has been auditor since 1969.
Kilgore, on the other hand, said she's also aspired to a career in public service. While getting her bachelor's degree at Ohio State University, she interned for then-Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, a Republican.
"She was a tremendous manager," said Kilgore, who got her master's degree from Northwestern University.
Kilgore, 35, is a private municipal adviser to governments across the country for HJ Umbaugh & Associates.
"It has been a great amount of education," she said.
All city races are technically nonpartisan, as the top vote-getters from the primaries advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation.
In the race for city council, three seats are up for election.
Incumbent Democrats Priscilla Tyson, Shannon Hardin and Mitchell Brown will seek re-election this fall. They will be joined in the race by Democrats Jasmine Ayers and Will Petrik, independent Kieran Cartharn, and write-in candidate Joe Motil, also a Democrat. The top-three vote-getters will be elected.
Tyson, 62, is senior director at Alvis House; Hardin, 30, is a full-time council member; and Brown, 69, is a retired public servant, serving most recently as public safety director for Columbus.
Together, they released the following statement: "We work hard each and every day to enhance the quality of life for our residents. We have worked to protect our strong financial security by maintaining our AAA bond rating.
"We remain dedicated to creating and retaining jobs, providing vital city services and working to make sure our neighborhoods thrive. We would be honored to continue to serve and respectfully ask for your vote for council members Hardin, Brown and Tyson."
Council positions pay $55,517 annually; the council president makes $66,768. Zach Klein, the current council president, is running for Columbus City attorney against Don Kline. If Klein were to be elected, he would have to resign his council seat.
Cartharn, who won the primary election as an independent but was endorsed by the Franklin County GOP, said he sees the Democrats "fighting over who's more progressive."
He said he considers his politics to be right down the middle.
"I tell people President Obama inspired me to be in politics," he said.
Cartharn, 20, is a salesman with LegalShield, a business that sells personal legal-services plans.
"We have to come together to get things done," said Cartharn, a 2015 graduate of Columbus International High School. He was raised and still lives in the Linden neighborhood.
Petrik, who ran for council two years ago, is a registered Democrat "who stands for change."
The 31-year-old, a Franklinton resident, is the grants associate with Local Matters.
Petrik said, "We can get a better deal" on tax abatements. He said there's no accountability at City Hall and he wants to put a limit on campaign contributions.
"I think fundamentally the political system is broken and the system's been corrupted by money and power," Petrik said. "And every neighborhood group I talk to -- whether it's people concerned about parking in the Short North, people concerned about rain gardens in Clintonville, people concerned about rapid development in Franklinton - people don't feel like they have a voice."
Ayres, 27, is a self-described policy wonk who wants to see equitable economic development, light rail in the city and an increased partnership between the school district and the city.
A current nanny, Ayers said she was drawn to public service, campaigning for President Obama in 2012, serving as a substitute teacher in Columbus City Schools and mentoring student athletes at the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned her master's degree.
Ayres of Northland said she wants to end the Columbus Division of Police's Summer Safety Initiative, which deploys more police resources to high-crime areas. She said those neighborhoods are poorer and have higher minority populations.
"Usually what it results in is people get shot in the neighborhood, people get harassed and crime doesn't actually go down," she said. "It doesn't benefit the community or officers."
Motil, 61, is a safety manager for the construction firm AECOM Hunt. He has unsuccessfully run for council five times since 1995.
"I've been the most outspoken critic in the city against tax abatements," Motil said. "I think there's a better way to get businesses to locate here."
Motil of Clintonville said he's for working families, neighborhood development and affordable housing.
"I've given 32 years of public service (through) activism," he said. "I think it's a passion. I want to see people given a fair opportunity. I want to see people treated fairly and I don't think that happens at city government."