The Norwich Township trustee race pits incumbent Mike Cope against current Hilliard City Council member Tim Roberts.

The Norwich Township trustee race pits incumbent Mike Cope against current Hilliard City Council member Tim Roberts.

Cope, 56, is assistant director of business and human resources for the Ohio Department of Transportation. He has his bachelor and master’s degrees from Ohio University, and has worked in government at the state, county, and city levels, including as a Hilliard City Council member.

Cope is married and has three children who have graduated from Davidson High School. He has lived in the township since 1991.

“Having served my one term as trustee, I’m up to speed on township government and the problems and issues of the township,” Cope said. “I’m running for re-election because the No. 1 issue of the township is finances. The township has been well-run in the past, we’ve had plenty of money, and it’s now getting to the point where finances are tight. I understand what it’s going to take to get us through this time and to make sure that the township remains on a sound financial footing.

“That’s where you need an independent board of trustees, because the issue will be our negotiations with the labor unions in the future,” Cope said. “In the next couple of years, the only thing we can do is keep it as tight as possible. It will depend on what our tax collections are. If they drop off significantly, then we would have to go (on the ballot with a fire levy) sooner. It will probably end up going to a levy sooner than later.

“But if we do, it should be at the absolute minimum to keep the township moving forward. The rest of it should be made with tightening our belts internally.”

Roberts, 54, is a retired Norwich Township firefighter/paramedic, house renovator, and part-time handyman at St. Agatha Church and School. A two-term Hilliard City Council member, Roberts announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election. Roberts is a graduate of Hilliard High School, attended Ohio State University, Tolles Tech, Ohio Fire Academy and Grant Medical Center’s Paramedic Program.

He has lived in the township for 50 years. Roberts is married and has a son and a daughter. He was recently endorsed by Norwich Township Firefighter IAFF Local 1723.

“I am committed to continue to improve upon the relationship with the city of Hilliard as we continue to evolve as a community,” Roberts said. “I have a proven record of leadership, governing with common sense and saying no to wasteful spending. I believe that my service to Norwich Township and Hilliard as a firefighter and paramedic brings a unique and insightful perspective to this office as to the operations of the fire department.

“Unfortunately, it appears that the township has reached the point in which a new fire levy is needed,” Roberts said. “State law dictates that we must prove sufficient funds are available to be able to negotiate a new contract with our firefighters.

“We need to be open to alternative funding ideas to help extend our levies and we can start by establishing a rainy day fund amount in our general fund,” he said. “We have the ability to use money from the general fund to help supplement and extend the life of our fire levy as long as possible. It is also important that we show fiscal conservancy in dealing with our other expenditures involving the fire department, our road services or the Wesley Chapel Cemetery.”

On Oct. 19, several dozen people visited the Safety Services Building on a rainy night and asked Cope and Roberts questions for an hour at a candidates’ forum sponsored by the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce.

Roberts said he opposed State Issue 2, while Cope supported it.

With regard to the Hilliard school levy, Cope said he supported it, and Roberts said he felt people should vote according to their wallets.

In his closing statements, Roberts said, “I will do my due diligence to educate myself on government at the township level. I will do what is right for this community. If you have followed my years on city council, you know that I am not a yes-man. I made that clear. I hear that over and over from some individuals that that is their biggest fear. I will not be a yes-man to the union. My heart lies in this community. I’ve spent my entire life here.”

Cope concluded the forum by saying, “It is important that the trustees be independent of the fire department and represent the interests of all of the citizens in Norwich Township. We cannot have the fox guarding the henhouse, and I question whether my opponent can truly be independent, given his history. It is clear that the finances of Norwich Township Fire Department will be our greatest challenge.

“As your township trustee, I will continue to control costs, be willing to make tough decisions, asking our staff to make sacrifices so that we can maintain safety and emergency services you need at the lowest cost possible. I know how to do that, I don’t have to learn how to be a township trustee. I am one, and pledge to do that for you.”

The other two Norwich Township trustees, Chuck Buck and Larry Earman, are not up for election this year. Fiscal officer Jamie Miles is running unopposed.

In Brown Township, trustee Pamela Sayre is running for re-election and newcomer Gregory Ruwe is running unopposed for fiscal officer.