Reynoldsburg voters will choose a new mayor this fall for the first time in more than a decade.
Democrat Joe Begeny, currently serving as president of the Reynoldsburg Board of Education, and Republican Barth Cotner, currently serving as an at-large City Council member, are seeking the office in the Nov. 5 election.
Republican incumbent Brad McCloud, first elected in 2007, is not seeking reelection.
Begeny, 43, is a high school teacher in Columbus City Schools and holds a master's degree in social sciences from Ohio University. He and his wife, Tori, have two children who attend Reynoldsburg schools: Jonathan, a junior at the e-STEM Academy, and Alex, who is in eighth grade at Waggoner Road Junior High School.
He serves on the school board's policy and finance committees and has volunteered with several community organizations, including the Tomato Festival, Heroes for Heroes 5K and Plant Reynoldsburg
Cotner, 47, holds a bachelor's degree in mortuary science from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science and owns and operates Cotner Funeral Home in Olde Reynoldsburg. He and his wife, Julie, have two children: daughter Lucie and son Casey, who both attend Hannah Ashton Middle School.
He is chairman of council's finance committee and serves on the boards of the Reynoldsburg Community Center YMCA and HEART food pantry.
ThisWeek Reynoldsburg News reached out to the candidates, who were each asked to answer three questions about their run for office.
What is the greatest challenge/need facing the city and, if elected, how would you address it?
Begeny: Reynoldsburg is a community with great schools, affordable housing where families love to live and play, but we need higher-paying jobs and improved infrastructure to reach our potential. As mayor, my focus will be to aggressively pursue jobs in healthcare and technology and focus on new small-business centers that can help our city grow beyond its potential. Redevelopment of the Brice Road corridor, starting with the old Kmart location as the gateway to our city, and is in desperate need of revitalization. By partnering with the city of Columbus, we can begin to address this area that has been long neglected.
We also need to continue the work in "Olde Town" Reynoldsburg, developing a pedestrian-friendly environment that will also allow for events to showcase our great community. Attracting new businesses to Reynoldsburg, we will improve our city services like parks and recreation with additional walking and bicycle paths, a vibrant and popular senior center, accelerating our road repairs and water services, and provide the tools and training our police force needs to keep the whole community safe. Working with an eye for what our city will look like in the future is the key to long-term success.
Cotner: I am proud to say that in my decade on City Council, Reynoldsburg has made several important changes that addressed the most urgent needs for the community. An increase in tax revenue has allowed the city to begin several large street projects, successfully negotiate a new contract with our police department and update water and sewer systems. The community center that will host a YMCA is in its final phase of construction and will serve as an anchor to continue developing Olde Reynoldsburg as a public gathering space.
The new challenge will be to grow in partnership with our surrounding communities as we develop new opportunities and manage development positively. We can strengthen our diverse city in a financially sustainable manner, draw new employment opportunities for the region and retain our unique identity among central Ohio's thriving suburbs. Reynoldsburg straddles three counties and three townships. It is bounded by Broad Street to the north, Interstate 70 to the south, the Columbus outerbelt to the west and open undeveloped space to the east. Managing this growth potential is critical to our success. I want Reynoldsburg to be the place where my kids will want to raise their children.
If elected, how would you improve/change the office of mayor?
Begeny: Communication, management of city resources and the full dedication to improving our city are some of the areas of focus our city needs to reach our potential. There can never be enough communication about city services. Anything from code enforcement to a schedule of road repairs to development opportunities, the city must be transparent about all activities and provide the community a voice in those discussions. Great fiscal policy starts with management of current revenue, pursuing opportunities for growth and partnering with local, state, and federal agencies for grants.
The ability to maximize services at a minimum cost will be a focus for all city services. I will also aggressively pursue better-paying jobs, streamline the process for new businesses and work to retain established businesses to help generate revenue for the city. Partnerships with the city of Columbus and the use of Economic Opportunity Zones will help to attract the businesses Reynoldsburg needs.
This will not be easy; there will be long nights and tough choices, but I am fully dedicated to the office of mayor and to making our city the best version of itself. The people of our great city deserve nothing less.
Cotner: I would first thank Brad McCloud for his stewardship of Reynoldsburg since 2007. In my time working with him in city government, I saw firsthand how difficult it was to budget in a responsible and responsive way. Through the years, we had difficulty budgeting just to "keep the lights on." Our position as a community now is stronger.
The change in this case would be to ensure that responsible fiscal management is maintained and that the city's financial health is sustained while actively promoting our renewed growth and positive image. An article in Columbus Business First last month referenced a study that named Reynoldsburg as the healthiest housing market in Ohio. The change in the mayor's office will be in allowing Reynoldsburg to take advantage of its renewed strengths while ensuring a measure of frugality that sustained us even in lean times.
I will continue to bring steady and stable leadership, and policies with a new energy and passion to serve Reynoldsburg. I look forward to working with our community to continue Reynoldsburg's success story.
What in your personal background/professional experience has prepared you to lead a city of nearly 40,000 people?
Begeny: Reynoldsburg needs new leadership that has a track record for getting things done. With a budget larger than most city budgets, as Reynoldsburg City Schools board president, we have addressed district leadership, added staffing, expanded courses and partnerships without asking for additional funds from the taxpayer, and multiple building projects that were completed on time and under budget, and a focus on student education after the strike of 2014. My experience as a UPS human resources manager working with over 400 employees with responsibilities of recruiting, hiring and developing an effective workforce in central and eastern Ohio brings the practical experience from a fortune 500 company.
As a history teacher, I have been successful at getting even the most reluctant people to buy in to a belief that they can be more than what they could ever imagine, a direction to be the best versions of themselves.
As board president, I have been faced with providing a path to the future for countless children in some of the most difficult of circumstances, making the tough call when needed, and providing leadership to get us back on track. My experience is perfectly suited to tackle the challenges and lead Reynoldsburg.
Cotner: The role of mayor requires a deep connection with the community, knowledge of the various sectors that keep it vibrant and a willingness for invention to promote steady and stable growth.
I was born, raised and have been a resident of Reynoldsburg my entire life. I have operated my family's business in the community for more than 20 years. Through that work, I have been a member of the local Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club, serving as chair and president for each, respectively.
My involvement in local political work began in my time as co-chair for two local school levies, one for a tax renewal for building improvements, the other to construct new school facilities. I was appointed to a vacant at-large seat on Reynoldsburg City Council and have been elected to that seat three times.
The opportunity to serve my community has extended into the areas of quality of life and equity as well. I am the president of the local YMCA board, have been the PTO treasurer for Slate Ridge Elementary and Hannah Ashton Middle School, and am a board member of the HEART food pantry in Reynoldsburg.
More information can be found on both candidates' websites: Cotner's campaign website is cotnerformayor.com, and Begeny's campaign website is begenyforohio.com.