Half a year after Delaware City Council appointed a successor for longtime Councilman Joe DiGenova, the residents of the city's 3rd Ward will choose their own representative.
Council on May 15 voted 4-2 to select Jim Browning as the ward's councilman until the Nov. 7 general election. The seat opened in March when DiGenova -- then the city's longest-serving councilman -- died after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Browning, 49, is seeking the opportunity to serve the remainder of DiGenova's term, which runs through November 2019. He will face Ben Kelly, 34, George Mantzoros, 54, and George McNab, 33, all of whom sought appointment to the seat in the spring.
Browning was named to council after working on a failed campaign to increase the city's income-tax rate from 1.85 percent to 2 percent last November for road maintenance and improvements. He said he was surprised by the negative result, adding the need for new funding will only increase in the near future.
"The roads need addressed," he said. "It unfortunately boils down to another levy (request) or cutting services. It's to that point."
Mantzoros, a real-estate broker who serves on the Delaware Planning Commission, said he thinks council should propose a renewable levy for road work. He said he thinks voters will be more likely to support an income-tax increase with a sunset provision because it gives them a check on city officials.
"With any levy, there has to be some give and take," he said.
Kelly, senior bioinformatics scientist at Nationwide Children's Hospital, said he will not support a permanent tax increase and would not support a temporary hike until every other potential revenue source is exhausted.
"I'm going to do everything in my power to make sure the city doesn't have to ask (residents) for more (money)," he said.
McNab, a legislative liaison for the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said he doesn't think the time is right for a new tax proposal. He said the city needs to "live within its current means right now."
The candidates had varied ideas about how they would improve the 3rd Ward if elected to council.
Kelly said he wants to occasionally bring council meetings and other city events further south into the ward, which stretches from downtown southeast into the Olentangy Local School District.
"I have definitely talked to people that ... don't really feel like they're part of Delaware city until tax time comes around," he said.
McNab said he also would advocate for conducting council meetings in various parts of the city.
"I think it's important to get out to them ... to reach out and get their opinions and feedback," he said.
Mantzoros said "a big part of the job" for whomever wins the election will be getting out in person to meet the ward's residents and business owners.
"I hear a lot from my neighbors and friends in the 3rd Ward that they feel disconnected (from the city)," he said.
Browning said 3rd Ward residents most frequently contact him to complain about speeding in their neighborhoods. He said he will continue to work with police officials and city staff to respond to residents' concerns.
"I wish we could legislate good behavior," he said in regard to motorists who drive through the 3rd Ward.
One major change coming to the 3rd Ward is the development of about 80 acres between Stratford Road and U.S. Route 23 north of Meeker Way.
The project, known as Coughlin's Crossing, will bring a mix of commercial and residential uses to the ward.
Mantzoros, who reviewed the proposal for the project on planning commission, said he's "really looking forward" to seeing it come to fruition.
"It will be just another fantastic gateway into the city," he said.
McNab said he thinks the project will be beneficial for Delaware.
"More development is good for the city," he said. "It will bring new folks to the city."
Kelly said the development could keep more residents inside city limits when they want to shop or grab a bite to eat.
"More options for those of us on the south side definitely is a positive," he said.
Browning said developer Connie Klema has been "responsible and thorough" in planning Coughlin's Crossing. He said he's hopeful the development turns into "something really nice," but also wants council to monitor transportation issues in the area after new businesses and residents arrive.
"I'm worried about the increased traffic on these streets," he said.