Gahanna's three mayoral hopefuls are familiar names and faces to city government, the Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools and Gahanna's Convention and Visitors Bureau.
They are Laurie A. Jadwin, 1222 Pond Hollow Lane; Ryan Jolley, 225 W. Johnstown Road; and Stephen A. Renner, 740 Quaker Ridge Court.
Jadwin, 56, has been executive director of the Gahanna Convention and Visitors Bureau since 2013.
For more than 20 years, Jadwin said, she has volunteered in church and within the city while running her own law practice, representing several Fortune 500 companies in central Ohio.
Jolley, 36, works for the city in the Gahanna Department of Public Service and Engineering.
He is a former public school teacher, manager and small-business owner. He's also a former member of the Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education and Gahanna City Council.
He was elected to the school board when he was 18 and served from 2002 to 2005. He served on council from 2012 to 2015.
Renner, 52, is director of the Franklin County Department of Sanitary Engineering, where he actively plans for and manages the sanitary-engineering agency.
Renner said he is responsible for the utility services of about 6,000 customers, an annual budget of about $20 million and a team of 25 employees, as well as the management of mutually beneficial partnerships with economic developers, public health agencies and municipalities.
He has been elected three times to serve Ward 1 on Gahanna City Council, serving as its president in 2013 and 2016.
The top two vote-getters in the May 7 primary will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.
Each candidate was asked to weigh in on three questions, keeping their responses to no more than 200 words.
Are you in favor or against the proposed income tax increase that will appear on the May ballot? Explain why.
Jadwin: On May 7, Gahanna residents have the opportunity to vote on Issue 12 -- a much-needed tax reform that equalizes taxes among neighbors, places Gahanna on equal standing with surrounding cities and enables us to be the type of community that residents want and deserve -- one with parks and trails, programming and pools, a strong police presence, and stable infrastructure that attracts and retains businesses. Gahanna's tax rate has not changed in 42 years, and Gahanna is now falling behind other cities. Revenue increases in Gahanna are being outpaced by increasing costs and expenses. Although some residents, including me, will pay slightly more under Issue 12, 14,000-plus residents who have been paying a much higher rate for years will see a decrease in taxes. More importantly, dollars that have been paid by Gahanna residents to other cities will remain in Gahanna for the benefit of our community, and 100 percent of the funds generated are specifically earmarked for reinvestment in Gahanna's infrastructure, parks and police. The success of Issue 12 will ensure a strong foundation for our businesses and for the quality of life that our residents expect, and for these reasons, I support Issue 12.
Jolley: The state of Ohio has a flawed taxation scheme that requires residents to pay taxes both where they work and where they live. With Gahanna having the lowest tax rate of any city in Franklin County, this flawed system produces multiple negative effects. It causes our city to lose millions of dollars a year to neighboring communities, and it promotes inequity and division among neighbors who pay drastically different rates. Passage of this proposed tax reform measure will minimize those negative effects and provide much-needed revenue to help Gahanna thrive. I'm running for mayor to ensure that the next generation has the same great opportunities I had. For these reasons and more, I support Issue 12 on the May ballot. If it passes, I will reinvest this revenue in our city so both current and future generations remain proud to call Gahanna "home." Working together, we can preserve our small-town feel while planning for future opportunities. We'll balance our budget while fixing our roads, improving our parks and senior center, and maintaining a great quality of life for all of our residents. Lastly, we'll work on easing the burden for older residents and those living on a fixed income.
Renner: Yes, I'm in favor of Issue 12. The simple truth is that we need the money in order to keep providing the services that our residents have come to expect. How we got here is a little more complicated. Cuts in state funding to local government have left our budget in a shortfall, and past administrations didn't anticipate the growth we've experienced here over the last few decades. When the tax rate was last set, we had fewer than 15,000 residents living here, and this community was easily the area's best-kept secret. Now that people have discovered how great life is here, we're quickly approaching 40,000, and we need the resources to make sure we can responsibly ensure our great quality of life for each and every one of those people. Yes, we need to spend within our means, but we need police that are equipped to keep us safe. We need parkland and playgrounds for our growing families. We need streets that can handle the increased traffic. We need to invest in the longevity, transparency and efficiency of our community, because to do anything else would be short-sighted and irresponsible.
In considering options to help the city balance its budget, would you be in favor of changing the tax credit via council legislation, if the income tax increase isn't approved in May? Would you favor cuts to the budget? Explain your stance and what percentage you would like to see for the tax credit.
Jadwin: City council, in recent public meetings, has determined that it will be necessary to reduce the tax credit this year in order to meet the financial needs of the community should Issue 12 not pass in May. Looking ahead, at least $7 million to $8 million per year will be needed to maintain assets at their current level and address projects that have been deferred through the years, including infrastructure projects that are critical to the health of our community. If the voters do not approve Issue 12, the city will need to find other alternatives to generate the revenue needed to invest in those essential projects and to maintain our current assets. An initial step would be to examine operations in every department to identify any additional opportunities to streamline processes and increase overall efficiency without negatively impacting the necessary services that must be provided for residents or sacrificing community infrastructure. If additional revenue is still needed once any and all such cost saving opportunities have been exhausted, then I agree that a reduction to the tax credit would be necessary and unavoidable at a percentage to be determined by the city's financial forecast.
Jolley: Contrary to what some of my opponents have proposed, I do not support reducing the tax credit via council action. In fact, as mayor I would veto that legislation. Reducing the current credit would merely increase the burden on residents who already pay more. The responsibility of the mayor and city council is to work together to balance the budget, and I am prepared to do that even if the tax issue fails in May. The mindset of "raising taxes" versus "cutting the budget" is a false choice; we must modernize our city government to take advantage of the resources we have. As mayor, I would reorganize our departments to better meet residents' needs, cross-train employees to maximize flexibility and efficiency, and create feedback mechanisms to ensure that all voices in the community are heard. Each of these improvements will lead to better use of our tax dollars. Additionally, the state auditor -- at the city's request -- identified half a million dollars a year in savings that have yet to be implemented by our current officials. If elected, I would take advantage of all available expertise to adapt our operations to address today's challenges and prepare for tomorrow's opportunities.
Renner: I'm in favor of both changing the tax credit and making cuts if the proposed legislation doesn't pass. Hopefully, our community won't be faced with such a tough decision. But as a council representative, I know firsthand that leadership isn't about status, it's about making hard choices that benefit everyone. If it comes to it, I'm prepared to roll up my sleeves and get to work on the important issues we'll be facing, our budget being first on that list. I'm currently working with my council colleagues in support of legislation that will reduce the tax credit in a series of steps from its current 83.3 percent to an eventual 0 percent if Issue 12 isn't approved in May. It won't be popular, but it will be imperative, and that's why it's so important to get the word out now. We need to provide voters with a clear choice of source for the funds that will be necessary to maintain our city's strength, improve our quality of life, and invest in our future. It's entirely possible to spend our tax dollars wisely, responsibly and transparently at the same time. We can plan for the future while preserving what makes Gahanna Gahanna.
Each candidate in this race has experience in management and dealing with city business, whether in facilitating tourism, running city government or providing leadership for schools. What have you learned about the city and how could you apply your experience to the office of mayor?
Jadwin: As executive director for Visit Gahanna and a small business owner, I have come to know Gahanna as a wonderfully unique community with dedicated, hard-working people who are passionate about our city. Gahanna is at a crossroads -- we are facing financial instability while having a backlog of projects that have been deferred for so long that they can no longer be avoided. There is an uneasiness, if not skepticism, among residents in our community. They want a clear vision for the future path of our hometown. For more than 30 years, I have advised and managed private sector businesses in crafting policies, holding people accountable to policies, and ensuring that policies are enforced consistently and equally. At Visit Gahanna, I balanced a budget with fiscally conservative spending, created revenue-generating opportunities for businesses, crafted one of the most successful CVB teams in the state, collaborated with other organizations and identified a vision and led a team that grew a Gahanna event into one of the most respected festivals in the state. Leadership, collaboration, vision and fiscal responsibility apply to any sector, and I look forward to applying these indispensable skills as mayor as we lead Gahanna into the future.
Jolley: Along with master's degrees in education, business administration and public administration, my background as the only person in Gahanna to serve on both the school board and city council has prepared me to guide our city. In addition to working at City Hall the past three years, these positions have provided me a unique perspective on how our local government operates. Having spent time in the classroom as a teacher and in the boardroom as a business owner, I know what our students need to succeed and what our businesses need to grow. After more than a decade in local government, I understand how to run a more responsive and effective City Hall. I've learned that our city possesses an incredible amount of untapped potential and amazing talent waiting for direction. That's why as a council member I passed the city's first-ever, comprehensive strategic plan as a road map to guide our future progress. In our fast-paced world, in the swiftly growing central Ohio region, we can no longer sustain our city by being slow and reactive. As mayor, I will lead boldly and proactively to maintain an exceptional quality of life for all Gahanna residents.
Renner: Melissa and I moved to Gahanna in 1998. We chose Gahanna because we wanted to live in a tight-knit community with strong schools, pristine parks and friendly faces. This is home. My years on city council have brought me even closer to our community and taught me that I'm not a politician, I'm a public servant. This job isn't just about having a vision, it's about building consensus with colleagues, listening to the needs of neighbors and turning input into action. This is how I've increased road repairs in Ward 1 by 33 percent, secured funding for a brand-new park, and earned respect from fellow council members and constituents alike. My experience as a director for Franklin County has taught me to be an accountable leader. I understand the transparency needed to ensure trust when managing public money. I know how to solve the toughest of issues that face communities, and I've seen what happens when you don't. I'll address our issues head-on. I'll cut spending inside City Hall and instead invest in neighborhood programs. I'll restore trust, bridge divides in our community and bring people together. I'll work hard every day -- because a government that doesn't work for everyone doesn't work.