The Nov. 5 election for Grove City mayor pits incumbent Richard "Ike" Stage against City Council President Steve Robinette.

Both candidates have decades of experience in serving the community.

Stage, 74, is seeking election to serve his sixth nonconsecutive term as mayor.

Stage's first served as mayor from April 1988 through December 1995. He was appointed as city administrator in January 2000 and served in that position through November 2003. He was elected to council in 2005 and served a single two-year at-large term before being elected again as mayor in 2007.

Robinette, 58, was appointed in February 2017 to fill a vacant at-large seat on council and ran unopposed for election to the full two-year at-large term in November 2017.

He previously served for 31 years in the Grove City Division of Police, including four years as chief, before he retired in 2015.

ThisWeek Grove City Record asked both candidates several questions regarding some of the top issues in the city, with a request that responses be limited to 200 words.

What do you see as the top priority in Grove City and how would you address it as mayor?

Robinette: Controlling the rate of growth and preserving the unique character of Grove City is a major concern of our residents. We must have a balance of high-paying jobs, housing options, shopping, dining and recreational opportunities that contribute to the quality of life for our residents. This has to be done in such a way as to not over-stress our existing infrastructure to meet those needs. I will only support those projects that are consistent with our 2050 planning document and is a net benefit to our residents. Dealing with the current opioid crisis is a must. I will institute a variety of programs that compassionately educate and treat victims of opioid addiction, while establishing other programs that deter and hold accountable those who use, traffic or abuse opioids. We will have a zero tolerance for those who attempt to bring drugs in to our community.

Stage: The top priority in Grove City is to protect the health, safety and welfare of our residents and visitors. Safety is paramount. As mayor, I will continue to ensure our safety forces are adequately staffed and trained in order to meet our growth. The police department is proud to be accredited by the Commission for Law Enforcement Agencies, Incorporated (CALEA). Maintaining the CALEA certification is an important element in assuring our Division of Police is well trained and operating in a professional manner. I will continue to fully support our CALEA recertification. Safety embodies our Division of Buildings and it is vital that our building codes continue to be enforced and I will ensure we maintain certified and professional building and inspection personnel. We are fortunate to be served by a quality fire and EMS department through Jackson Township. Our partnership must continue and as an example the city has an agreement with the township to fund two new EMS units over the next five years. In addition ensuring quality health care is a priority. Through the addition of two new hospitals we can be assured of long-term quality health care.

What have been the strengths and weaknesses of the city administration and what, if any, changes, would you make as mayor?

Robinette: We have very talented personnel in our city personnel. We need to listen to them to provide the guidance of their professional training and experience. My administration will support collaboration and cooperation. By seeking the best ideas from the public and experts we will make sound decisions and deliver a higher quality of service to our residents. Our economic development experts will aggressively pursue high paying professional, technical and medical jobs for our community. I will create a position in our government to assist those wanting to start or grow a business in Grove City. Being a small business owner and going through the development process, I learned many things that the city can do to be supportive and business friendly. Partnerships with the Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Heart of Grove City will be vital to attracting and growing businesses.

Stage: Our city is blessed with an experienced, knowledgeable and, most importantly, dedicated administration. Functioning for years as a team, the administration includes members with several decades of city experience to those experienced outside the city, one with years of managing Ohio's Homeland Security. Our administrative team, during the last four decades, successfully managed the growth of our rural agricultural community becoming a vibrant full service city. And the only central Ohio suburb to be twice named "Best Hometown" by Ohio Magazine. The administration's management of our community's growth involved a measured approach to commercial and residential development. Financial stability remains a key mandate while nurturing vital partnerships. This measured approach has always been wrapped in an administrative imperative -- "growth must never risk altering the community's regionally recognized 'small-town charm'." Administration's developed and nurtured partnerships have proven to result in a myriad of community lifestyle improvements including a new 46,000-square-foot library, $30 million in public/private Town Center redevelopment, two new full-service hospitals, a citywide fiber network, and an under-construction 200-plus acre development featuring residential living units, commercial/retail space and 60 of acres green space, all connected to our community's historic Town Center.

What should be the city's approach to managing growth in the community and ensuring the character of Grove City is maintained?

Robinette: The public has given us direction in the Grove City 2050 Community Plan as to how they want to see the city grow. We should follow this direction for the continued growth and development of our city. This is a long-range plan that will require continuous monitoring and regular review to make sure that our initial assumptions are validated and if not, adjust the plan with additional public input. Many residents want a greater variety in dinning, shopping and entertainment options without leaving Grove City. We can have these by making sure they fit into the surrounding areas by both type of project and quality of design and materials.

Stage: The city's approach to managing growth is vital and the first thing the city must maintain is a posture of continuing and nurturing the many partnerships, practices and management functions that enabled our community to become the Southwest Gateway to central Ohio. The approach involves the continued implementation of Grove City 2050. The plan was two years in development leveraging MidOhio Regional Planning Commission's Insight 2050 as a framework. Balanced growth is the guiding principle in our planning process. The plan included countless meetings with the community and guided by a community steering committee. The result was a plan to guide our community to 2050 with benchmarks, objectives, monitoring processes and frequent adjustment provisions. The plan provides specific guidelines for: Land Use and Growth, Transportation and Economic Development all supported by five guiding principles. It is important to note the No. 1 principle: "The City's small-town character is preserved while continuing to bring additional employment opportunities and amenities to the community."

What can and should the city do to ensure the right balance of residential and commercial development?

Robinette: A top priority of my administration will be to attract high paying jobs. Comparing ourselves to the region we are over-weighed in warehousing and under-weighted in professional, scientific and technology jobs. We will focus on attracting professional jobs which bring higher average wages. These jobs improve the opportunities for our residents while also providing the revenue the city needs to add amenities and support our infrastructure. We, as well as the region, have a robust housing market that is providing a range of options for our current and future residents. We will manage growth by ensuring high standards that complement our neighborhoods and the surrounding areas. We need to have a range of quality housing that meets the needs of our children who are going out on their own for the first time and for our senior residents who need independent or supportive housing.

Stage: Our city's Zoning and Development Code established land use classifications governing the proper investment for residential and commercial development. Additionally, administration formally examined land use through the adoption of the Grove City 2050 Plan. The plan was a community driven instrumental tool to guide development to ensure our community grows in a measured manner making certain all development adds to our quality of life while serving to increase the value of all community properties. One only needs to look at the value of their property today compared to a few years ago. In virtually all cases the value has significantly increased, reflecting our balanced growth strategy continues to be successful. An important factor in maintaining a balanced approach to development was a 1980s land use planning decision to identify five commerce parks and zone accordingly. This was and remains a balancing and controlling tool to maintaining a balance between residential and commercial development. Balanced commercial development is essential in order to maintain a reliable source of revenue for our community.

With the Beulah Park project now underway, what should be the city's vision for the Town Center and what steps should be taken to execute that vision?

Robinette: We need to focus on attracting professional jobs and other amenities to the town center. We can balance professional office spaces, residential housing and entertainment to expand our town center. I envision a public gathering space on the old library site that can be programmed several nights per week. We can utilize this space for musical and theatrical performances, for family movies nights and small festivals. When not in use for these activities it can be used as a passive green space for the enjoyment of all. By having an attraction in the town center that draws residents and visitors it will draw attention to our shops and restaurant. The town center will be an attractive option for the residents of the Beulah development for dining, shopping and entertainment. We will work with our other community partners to maintain and grow our festivals and events in the town center.

Stage: Beulah Park offers widespread living options and business opportunities. The residents who will live there will greatly increase disposable income in the Town Center area facilitating new businesses which will include restaurants and entertainment venues. Continued partnerships will include the addition of new structure, additional parking, green space and insure a safe walkable environment. Beulah Park has been selected as the site for the 2020 BIA Parade of Homes. This prestigious event will serve to welcome visitors from all of central Ohio and beyond. The execution of providing new investment opportunities will have a guiding principle being it must benefit the existing residents and businesses already present in our cherished Town Center. Grove City 2050 provides key guidelines for ensuring the city's small-town charm is ensured and remains on full display for all to see upon visiting our community's historic, civic and cultural core.

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