New Hilliard service director Albert Iosue has changed course, sending a letter to Mayor Don Schonhardt on Tuesday, March 26, saying he planned to withdraw his candidacy for Hilliard City Council.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Columbus and Whitehall have partisan elections for city council seats. They could have primaries but not partisan primaries.

New Hilliard service director Albert Iosue has changed course, sending a letter to Mayor Don Schonhardt on Tuesday, March 26, saying he planned to withdraw his candidacy for Hilliard City Council.

Iosue previously had said he would not withdraw from the Republican primary election May 7 after he began his new job as service director March 25. The former City Council president, who had resigned suddenly from council Feb. 10, was hired to the post March 20.

"As I completed my first day of work yesterday, I was reviewing the numerous engineering and construction projects that are currently underway within the city and the future projects that in the planning stages," he wrote to Schonhardt. "It became clear to me that in order to be successful in my position, it is necessary for me to focus all my time and efforts on my new position and the work of the Public Service Department. As such, I will be withdrawing from the 2019 Hilliard City Council election.

"It's always said that timing is everything. The overlapping of the 2019 election candidacy petition deadline in relation to the retirement of (service) Director (Clyde "Butch") Seidle caused me to continue down parallel paths. Now that I have been officially sworn in as Public Service Director, I believe it is best for me, the administration and the citizens of Hilliard for me to withdraw from the City Council race. I will be contacting the Franklin County Board of Elections today to notify them of my withdrawal."

At 7:09 p.m. March 26, Iosue had sent an email to Franklin County Board of Elections official Jeffrey Mackey, asking to withdraw from the election.

Iosue's withdrawal means no primary election is needed in Hilliard, said board of elections spokesman Aaron Sellers.

Three council seats are up for election on the May 7 primary and Nov. 5 general-election ballots. Hilliard is one of the few cities in central Ohio to have primary elections for council seats; Reynoldsburg and Whitehall are others.

Iosue had been running in the primary against council members Pete Marsh and Omar Tarazi and challenger Bob Stepp, with the top three advancing to face three Democrats – Tina Cottone, Deryck Richardson II and Cynthia Vermillion, who were unopposed in their primary – on the Nov. 5 ballot.

With Iosue out of the race, Marsh, Stepp and Tarazi would be unopposed in the Republican primary.

Upon learning Iosue's plans for withdrawal, the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce canceled its Republican primary candidates forum scheduled for Thursday, April 4, and will reschedule a forum for all the candidates before the general election, chamber president and CEO Libby Gierach confirmed March 26.

The deadline to file as an independent for the Hilliard council election is May 6, according to the board of elections website. The write-in deadline for the primary was Feb. 25, and it is Aug. 26 for the general election, according to the board of elections website.

If Iosue had been successful in the primary and general elections, he could not have served as service director and retaken a seat on City Council at the same time, according to the city charter, said David Ball, Hilliard's communications director.

Iosue was in the final year of his third term when he resigned Feb. 10, just four days after the Feb. 6 filing deadline for the Republican primary. His petition was certified Feb. 19.

In a Feb. 10 message to Kelly McGivern, then the council vice president, Iosue wrote, "The past 11 years as a member of Hilliard City Council have been rewarding and memorable. For personal reasons, I have decided it is in my best interest to resign at this time and spend more time with my family."

Meanwhile, several developments with the service-director position were occurring.

On Feb. 8, the city announced the March 1 retirement of Seidle as service director.

Seidle then died March 2 from cancer at the age of 68.

McGivern had told ThisWeek that Iosue's resignation was "a surprise," but he first had indicated to her Feb. 8 that he was considering resigning, she said.

Given the timeline, ThisWeek asked Iosue in February if he had interest in the job of service director.

"I have not expressed any interest in any position with the city," Iosue said Feb. 20.

Schonhardt said in late February the administration was not considering how the position would be filled until after Seidle's retirement was effective.

"I didn't reach out to anyone in the city (about the job) and was not approached about it," Iosue said March 20.

The city posted the opening for service director March 11 and it remained open until March 18, according to Iosue.

"I applied for the position in the city's online portal March 13," Iosue said. "The mayor interviewed me (March 19) and offered me the job (March 20), and I accepted."

Ball said the other applicants were:

• Kathy Bartlett, director of public service for the city of Riverside.

• Isaac Freel, project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Steilacoom, Washington.

• Larry Lester, deputy service director for Hilliard.

• Thomas Komlanc, university engineer for Ohio State University.

• Ryan Ohly, construction project manager for Prime AE Group in Columbus.

Iosue's annual salary is $115,000, Ball said. The value of his benefits package would be $68,857, he said.

At the time of his retirement, Seidle's annual salary was $137,860, and he had a benefits package valued at $76,335, according to Ball.

Schonhardt said Iosue's "professional background and education, coupled with his knowledge of city operations gained during three terms on City Council, make him uniquely qualified to fill the very large shoes left by Butch Seidle."

"I'm a civil engineer with an extensive background and knowledge of the city," Iosue said."Being (Hilliard's) service director is a good fit."

Iosue said he resigned effective immediately March 20 from his 23-year job as programs administrator for the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio.

His departure from SWACO came with no warning, said Hanna Greer-Brown, communications manager for SWACO.

"He gave us no indication," she said. "He resigned at the end of the day (March 20), and it was effective immediately. He never communicated with his supervisors that he was seeking another job, (and) we were not expecting it."

At the time of his departure, Iosue's salary at SWACO was $44.16 per hour, or $91,853 annually, and the value of his benefits were $19,100, Brown said.

Hilliard also is transitioning to a city-manager form of government beginning Jan. 1, after a charter amendment was approved by voters last November.

In a city-manager form of government, a city manager serves at the pleasure of City Council and oversees the day-to-day operations of the city, including the hiring of department directors, with council approval in some instances.

Hilliard has not hired a city manager, so any future decisions on department directors are unknown.

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