Whitehall voters next week will determine which pair of candidates will advance to vie for a City Council seat in Ward 1.
Two challengers -- Alexander Mitchell Sr. and Gerald Dixon -- are seeking to unseat incumbent Ward 1 City Councilman Chris Rodriguez in the city's nonpartisan primary May 2.
The top two vote-getters among the three-candidate field will face each other in the Nov. 7 general election.
No primary contests will be required for Wards 2, 3 or 4. Two candidates filed a petition for each seat; they will automatically advance to the Nov. 7 election.
"Now is not the time to step away," Rodriguez, 56, said about his decision to seek re-election.
Rodriguez has served as either a Ward 1 councilman or an at-large council member since he was first elected in 2001.
Rodriguez lost a bid in 2011 but was appointed to an open council seat in January 2012, then elected to his current Ward 1 seat in 2013.
"I think it comes down to experience," Rodriguez said about his qualifications for office.
"I know how the city's budgeting process works and what we need to do to get things done," he said.
Rodriguez said he wants to continue to be a part of the city's recent successes that include the coming development of Norton Crossing, the soon-to-open splash pad at John Bishop Park, and community events such as the city's Fourth of July festivities relocating this year to Whitehall-Yearling High School.
"It's all about our city and the community, about putting unity in community, said Rodriguez, adding he had no specific policies to pursue if re-elected.
"I would like to see a plan from the police department about staffing and a plan to replace (retiring) police officers," said Rodriguez, who is a senior claims adjuster for Nationwide Insurance.
Mitchell, 53, is taking his second crack at elected office.
Twelve years ago, he was close to knocking off an incumbent in a Ward 3 race.
Mitchell was unsuccessful in his bid for a Ward 3 seat in 2005 against Leo Knoblauch, a current member of the Whitehall school board.
According to board of elections records, Knoblauch had 361 votes and Mitchell received 350 in the 2005 campaign.
"I've always had an urge for community service," said Mitchell, who has campaign experience outside his 2005 race in Whitehall.
Mitchell worked on campaigns for Michael Coleman, both for Columbus City Council and mayor of Columbus, as well as those for Richard Cordray, John O'Grady, Hearcel Craig and others candidates for various elected offices in Columbus and Franklin County.
Mitchell said if he's elected, he wants to do more to improve how outsiders view the city.
"There are too many vacant storefronts at Town and Country," said Mitchell, even as Kroger has plans to build a new store at the former Big Bear site at the far western end of the strip.
"And we have too many predatory businesses," said Mitchell, referring to the number of stores that provide cash advances and loans.
Mitchell is a financial consultant for the automotive industry.
He said he is impressed with city's plan to build Norton Crossing on the site of the Commons at Royal Landing, a now-vacant apartment complex, but added "there are other bad apartments."
"I'm a get-it-done guy," said Mitchell, adding his incumbent opponent has been on council a long time with little to show toward improvement in Ward 1.
Dixon, 55, is making a second attempt at elected office after an unsuccessful campaign for an at-large seat in 2015.
He credits the city's administration for doing "excellent jobs addressing the multiple challenges" the city has faced in the recent past.
Dixon said, if elected, he would support similar continuing efforts, but also ensure that the effects of such development are explored, including impact on public transportation and other quality-of-life issues.
"Each development has its own pros and cons ... all of which deserve those questions be asked and the scrutiny from the citizens' representative they deserve."
Dixon said he also would keep his focus on Ward 1.
"What I feel lacking are programs and focuses ... on Ward 1 itself. When you represent a specific ward, I believe it is your duty ... to lift up and create a better situation than currently exists," Dixon said.
Ward 1 is bordered by East Broad Street to the south, Big Walnut Creek to the west, the railroad tracks to the north, and North James and Barnett roads to the east.
It also includes an area south of East Broad Street, between Barnett Road and Robinwood Avenue, south to Etna Street.
Races in the city's other three wards will be resolved in November.
In Ward 2, incumbent Councilman Lee Stahley will be challenged by Joanna Heck of Elbern Avenue; Ward 3 incumbent Larry Morrison is opposed by Paul Werther of San Jose Lane; and two candidates -- Leslie LaCorte and Lori Elmore -- are vying for an open seat in Ward 4, where incumbent Van Gregg is precluded from seeking election due to term limits.
Elmore withdrew from an at-large council race in 2015 because she did not meet the residency requirement at the time.
LaCorte is a former at-large and Ward 4 council member who unsuccessfully campaigned for mayor in 2015.
Incumbent Auditor Dan Miller will be unopposed in November.