Tom Kneeland, 62, said Gahanna is at a crucial crossroads and the city needs a combination of private-sector leadership and experience and local government knowledge in the mayor's office.

Tom Kneeland, 62, said Gahanna is at a crucial crossroads and the city needs a combination of private-sector leadership and experience and local government knowledge in the mayor's office.

"As an Army veteran and a former Mifflin Township volunteer firefighter, I've shown my commitment to our country and to this community," Kneeland said. "I also have over 40 years of private-sector management and business experience, 20 years of local government experience and am a father and parent to five grown, successful children -- all of whom have started their own families in the Columbus and Gahanna areas."

Kneeland is employed as Whitehall's technology director, and he's the president of Gahanna City Council.

"I'm running on the simple platform that regardless of whether I'm focusing on a major public issue or solving a specific problem for a resident or neighborhood, I can be trusted to always tell the truth, focus on the issues and represent Gahanna with strength and integrity," he said. "I will change today's challenges into tomorrow's opportunities."

Kneeland said he respects the request to examine the benefits of changing to a city-manager form of government and recommended that Gahanna convene a special governance commission to objectively review the idea.

"I am concerned with a city-manager structure that removes the mayor's veto power, thereby extinguishing a separation of powers between the mayor and City Council, and also minimizes the voters' ability to make change to city operations and direction. I support a structure that provides professional day-to-day management and strong fiscal oversight. This can be accomplished with either format.

"With a strong mayor, the people maintain their ability to change city operations and direction by replacing the mayor. To remove a city manager, the voters would have to replace a majority of council, which would be much more difficult. I believe the choice should be left to the voters and would support whatever form of government they choose."

Kneeland said Gahanna's top challenge is fiscal sustainability.

"We need to prioritize the most critical services while living within our means and available revenue," he said. "Daily operational costs have the highest priority and are projected to be sustainable for the next four to five years. However, capital expenses like rebuilding of streets and parks improvements will not be possible unless additional funding is identified."

Kneeland said his plan would implement internal process-improvement controls and high-impact collaboration opportunities with neighboring municipalities to streamline and reduce business costs, but more has to be done.

"My plan will aggressively pursue job growth by building direct relationships with our existing business community and leveraging all available resources to bring new businesses to the city and expand Gahanna's jobs and marketability," he said. "It will, however, require extensive public- and private-sector experience to successfully collaborate with the business world, neighboring municipalities and our school district to accomplish these goals."

Kneeland said Creekside is the product of many years of planning, community input and hard work.

"It began as a reclaiming of an overgrown island and ended with the building of a park, private retail, office development and residential space, which bring a wide range of jobs, revenue opportunities and identity to Gahanna," he said. "This development restored a central downtown long after the 1950s urban redevelopment bulldozers cleared the way for progress. Although the private portions of Creekside have experienced financial problems due to the effects of the economy phenomena of 2008 felt by many communities, the city is protected by well-designed plans and agreements put in place to minimize risk to the city.

"I believe Creekside will emerge from the recent (foreclosure action) and be more successful than ever, but the city must focus on the long-term strategies and plans for our entire city into which Creekside plays a proportionate role."

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com