Reynoldsburg voters will elect four City Council members Nov. 5, one from each of the city's four wards.

A total of nine candidates are vying to represent their respective wards on the seven-member council, with four-year terms commencing Jan. 1.

ThisWeek Reynoldsburg News reached out to the candidates, who were asked to answer three questions about their run for office. Their responses are below.

Ward 1

Ward 1 incumbent Caleb Skinner is not seeking reelection, leaving Republican Patricia Starling and Democrat Shanette Strickland vying for that seat on council.

Starling, 59, lives on Roundelay Road North and is a graduate of Columbus Business College. She is retired from Reynoldsburg City Schools and is married with a son and daughter.

Strickland, 43, lives on Mirandy Place. She earned a master's degree in business administration from Franklin University and works as an infrastructure project manager. She is married with two children.

What is the greatest challenge/need facing the city and, if elected, how would you address it?

Starling: The highest priority for any candidate or elected official in the city of Reynoldsburg must be keeping our homes, schools and businesses safe. What we need is to continue to have a professional and fully staffed police department. We also need the kind of new development that does not attract criminals. New businesses and housing must increase the property values of their neighbors.

The annual city budget process is exactly how I will address this. I have attended City Council meetings and listened as some elected officials disparaged our police officers and voted against their ideas to keep us safe. I never heard the question asked if our officers have the equipment they need to do their jobs effectively, efficiently so they can return home safely to their families. My son is a Truro Township firefighter and I worry about him. Our police officers should know that they are always supported.

When the next mayor of our city and City Council begin planning the budget, I will represent the people who want to live in a safe city and who care about our police officers. I will also stand up for my ward in the spending of city dollars.

Strickland: I will bring a different perspective to City Council when addressing safety, by building a stronger relationship with our law enforcement and ensuring our sidewalks, parks, roads and curbs are safer for our neighbors ... addressing economic redevelopment by repurposing existing commercial spaces for our families to enjoy and pursue meaningful jobs.

In your ward specifically, what is the greatest area of concern/need and how would you address it?

Starling: The greatest area of concern for Ward 1 is the redevelopment or rezoning of the old Kroger property located on Main Street between Briarcliff and Aida. The City Council passed a bipartisan and forward-thinking comprehensive master plan last December. That plan has identified the need for a total rezoning of our commercial revenue-producing areas. The city of Reynoldsburg has contracted with a law firm to plan precisely that. Ward 1 has two areas identified as focus areas. The old Kroger property is my greatest concern. It is my position that any new redevelopment or rezoning on this property will increase the property values of those who own homes nearby. Any new development must add value to the surrounding neighborhoods.

Strickland: Some Ward 1 residents are concerned with excessive speeding on Rosehill. I would address this issue with open dialogue with my neighbors regarding placing speed tables on Rosehill.

If elected, which city services/departments would you like to see expanded or changed and why?

Starling: I want to see the development department expanded with a focus on more economic development. New jobs in Reynoldsburg are what we need. It is an important and exciting time for our city. Issue 11 won by an overwhelming majority, adding new revenue and renewed hope. Our bipartisan comprehensive master plan is complete and adopted by the City Council. Our development department is rezoning, rebranding and rethinking what we want the future of Reynoldsburg to look like while bringing in new businesses that are going to help the city by providing revenue for the long term, businesses that are going to raise our property values. We need to continue to support the building department. Additional people have been hired to look for property-code violations. We need to be diligent in following up on property violations to keep our neighborhoods clean and safe and to help protect our property values.

Strickland: I would love to work on the service committee. I would look in the service department manpower requirements to fully address the needs of our city. Additionally, I would look into and assess the timing of our curb-repair project by moving that project to late spring early summer. I would look to allocate funding for new sidewalks.

Ward 2

Republican incumbent Brett Luzader is being challenged by Democrat Louis Salvati.

Luzader, 61, lives on Gibson Road and is a graduate of Reynoldsburg High School. He retired after more than 30 years with Reynoldsburg's street department. He is married with two children and one grandchild.

Salvati, 50, lives on Tricolor Drive. He earned a master's degree in analytical chemistry from Ohio State University and works as a scientist. He is married with two sons.

What is the greatest challenge/need facing the city and, if elected, how would you address it?

Luzader: Right now, I believe the top issue is to get our streets back in top condition. Since I have become chairman of the public service and transportation committee, we have increased our street program budget from $500,000 a year to approximately $4,000,000 a year. Secondly, I think we need to address the empty storefronts and businesses along our main corridors to bring in new business to help strengthen our tax base. I will work closely with our development director to bring businesses into the city that our residents expect and will enhance the quality of life in our city.

Salvati: Reynoldsburg's biggest need is high-quality jobs within city limits. The health of the city's budget comes down to income tax revenue from jobs in Reynoldsburg. We need good companies to invest in Reynoldsburg and we need high-paying jobs in Reynoldsburg. We cannot wait for those jobs to just come, we need to put together a sales pitch for potential investors and go out and sell ourselves. Secondly, we need to take care of the businesses that have invested in Reynoldsburg already. We need to give them every opportunity to thrive and eliminate unnecessary governmental burden. Successful businesses are the best way to attract other successful businesses. Lastly, we need to continue to encourage our citizens to patronize our local businesses in any way possible.

In your ward specifically, what is the greatest area of concern/need and how would you address it?

Luzader: The same issues that impact the entire city also impact Ward 2. This ward has some of the oldest residences in the city and as our population ages, it is becoming increasingly harder for our elderly to age in place. Code enforcement is an issue and we recently addressed that to some extent by authorizing two new code-enforcement officers. That doesn't address the issue of how we help those residents who have previously been great neighbors and homeowners become compliant. Sometimes it's a money issue and sometimes they just can't do what they used to do. I would like to establish someone within the administration who the residents could contact to help connect them with low-cost or free (through charitable donations) contractors or other residents who could help them with repairs to their homes that would help them become compliant so they could stay in their homes. This would also help increase property values.

Salvati: In my ward of the city, the biggest concern would likely be traffic volume, speeding and overall safety. The concerns over traffic volume in my ward have two focus points. The first is improving the infrastructure of certain major thoroughfares such as Waggoner Road. Addressing this problem needs to be a focus of mine and considering the cost of this project, several creative solutions will need to be considered. It may be grants, a multiyear approach utilizing the city's own budget or some out-of-the-box thinking that allows this absolutely needed upgrade. A second way of addressing traffic volume is being very mindful of potential development in high-traffic-volume areas. Traffic speed and safety is another focus point for my ward. Several solutions need to be utilized for this problem, such as speed signs, increased community police presence, more four-way stops in residential areas and possibly, in certain key areas, speed-bump type solutions. The last piece would be a continued emphasis on road repairs with specific focus on safety.

If elected, which city services/departments would you like to see expanded or changed and why?

Luzader: I think you can never have enough police officers. We recently increased the authorized strength of our police department by 12 additional officers. While more officers would help keep our residents safer, this has to be weighed against the entire city budget and the rest of the services we offer to our residents. As a general rule, those decisions are left up to the administration and when City Council is approached about additional personnel or services, then we, as a council, must decide if there are sufficient funds to fulfill such a request. I think the city provides excellent services to our residents. Is there room for improvement? Certainly, but as is usually the case, it all comes down to the bottom line and that is, do we have the money.

Salvati: Considering that the biggest problem facing Reynoldsburg is investment by companies that will be job creators, I would love to continue to expand the development department. I would also like to see some changes in that same department that would reduce the burden on existing businesses in Reynoldsburg to help them thrive. The development department is also in charge of the city's code enforcement, which is a daily source of frustration for many citizens. I would like for the code enforcement aspect of the department to continue to improve and I would advocate for a town-hall style meeting to help citizens understand the code enforcement process and to help the department understand the concerns of the citizens. I would additionally advocate for these meetings to be video recorded to reach as many citizens as possible.

Ward 3

Incumbent Republican Marshall Spalding is being challenged by two candidates: Democrat Bhuwan Pyakurel and Libertarian Robert Dale Bender.

Spalding, 74, lives on Glenford Court. He holds a master's degree in business administration from Lindenwood University and is a retired biomedical manager. He is married and has four children and 11 grandchildren.

Pyakurel, 40, lives on Ashlynd Place. He earned a bachelor's degree in physics and natural sciences from the North Bengal University in India. He is married with two children and works as a manager of interpretation and translation services for PrimaryOne Health of Central Ohio.

Bender did not respond to repeated requests from ThisWeek Reynoldsburg News to provide information.

What is the greatest challenge/need facing the city and, if elected, how would you address it?

Spalding: Repairing and repaving our city streets is the biggest need. We now have moved up to spending eight times as much as three years ago and this $4 million is getting us back on track, but next we need ODOT to move up to larger projects that are state roads, such a Main Street-Route 40. Palmer Road is being addressed and next need to be worked on is Waggoner Road with sidewalks

Pyakurel: My main focus on City Council will be to ensure that we improve our Reynoldsburg together. We face several challenges, including fixing our infrastructure, roads and sidewalks. First, we must examine the budget to ensure we can make the necessary repairs and maintenance. This will benefit our entire community. Second, we must build stronger trust and relationships between our citizens and law enforcement. While talking with residents, I also learned that we need to do a better job in code enforcement. I will make sure that we have enough staff to enforce the city codes. So we must improve communications between our citizens and the providers of city services. I would address this by using the latest technologies to make the city more responsive to the needs of residents. I will work to create a better environment for businesses in the city. This includes supporting existing businesses and helping them grow, attracting new high-quality and living-wage businesses, and also building an entrepreneurial culture that encourages innovation and new start-ups in Reynoldsburg. Expanding and diversifying the Reynoldsburg economy can generate increased tax revenue and help fund the city's most pressing needs.

In your ward specifically, what is the greatest area of concern/need and how would you address it?

Spalding: The people of my ward do complain the most about potholes and road repair which is (addressed) above. The second issue is code compliance. People who do not take care of their property is a concern. As a council, we will be addressing our codes to ensure that they are up to date and hire additional staff to work compliance on weekends when we see many signs go up that are not up to code. As a city, we will bring the sidewalks and properties up to code.

Pyakurel: I have had the honor of listening to many residents of Ward 3 as they share their concerns and hopes for our Ward 3 neighborhoods. It is clear that the greatest needs in Ward 3 mirror the needs and concerns of Reynoldsburg overall. Fixing, improving and maintaining infrastructure, roads, sidewalks, parks and recreational facilities. Building stronger trust and relationships between our citizens and law enforcement. Doing a better job in code enforcement and making sure that we have enough staff to enforce the city codes. Improving communications between our diverse citizenry and the providers of city services by using the latest technologies to keep our residents informed and being more responsive to their needs. Other needs in Ward 3 include supporting existing businesses and helping them grow, attracting new high-quality and living-wage businesses and also building an entrepreneurial culture that encourages innovation and new start-ups. Expanding and diversifying the economy can generate increased tax revenue and help fund the city's -- and Ward 3's -- services that will tackle our most pressing needs.

If elected, which city services/departments would you like to see expanded or changed and why?

Spalding: At this time, we do not have a service director and need one in the worst way to be in charge of the street department to fix our roads as well as the code compliance so that these two chief complaints in our city get the attention and resolution that they need to improve our quality of life and property values. Also, our development department is moving forward at a rate faster than we have ever seen and we need that department to stand alone to continue the trajectory of growth in our city. I would strengthen both departments rather than combine them. Parks and recreation is a unique gem in our city and does well. This department gives much back to quality of life in our senior center and variety of parks like Pine Quarry.

Pyakurel: Through my work in health care and my community service with organizations including the Reynoldsburg YMCA, I have learned the value of listening to fellow residents' needs and desires for improvements within our community and then taking action together. As a parent of two children in Reynoldsburg City Schools, I saw the effects of what happens when communications break down, during the teachers' strike. I have the ability to engage all of our community and to work collectively to achieve our common goals. I am a strong believer in using communications as a tool to strengthen communities and to help the city be more responsive to residents' needs. I will develop an action plan to bring the latest technologies to our city and better engage residents through digital tools such as social media. With minimal expenses, we can also live-stream all of our City Council meetings, keeping residents better informed. I will make sure we break down barriers and better connect residents to their city. I will also work to ensure we have enough staff to enforce the city's codes and that we increase efforts to build stronger trust and relationships between our citizens and law enforcement.

Ward 4

Two candidates are vying to succeed longtime Republican Councilman Mel Clemens to represent Ward 4: Republican Steven W. Hicks and Democrat Meredith Lawson-Rowe.

Hicks, 33, lives on Lancaster Avenue. He earned a bachelor's degree in political science from Ohio State University and works as a real-estate developer. He is married with two children.

Lawson-Rowe, 51, lives on Belltree Drive and works as an administrative assistant. She attended Clark Atlanta University and is married with three children and two grandchildren.

What is the greatest challenge/need facing the city and, if elected, how would you address it?

Hicks: Change is the city of Reynoldsburg's greatest challenge but also its greatest opportunity. How Reynoldsburg chooses to address change will determine the community's future. I believe we need strong leadership with common-sense professional experience to direct that change in a positive direction. That is why I have developed a five-point plan to address change. The first point is public safety; everyone has a right to feel safe in their community. Police work is the most important service the city provides. We must ensure our officers are well-trained, properly supplied and courteous to the public. The second critical point is economic development. Reynoldsburg has too many vacant retail and commercial buildings causing blight in residential neighborhoods. We need to transform these areas into innovative job-opportunity zones. The third point is traffic. We need to use innovative SMART infrastructure to more effectively manage ever increasing traffic. The fourth point is capital improvements; once we redevelop failing areas and create jobs, the new tax revenue needs to be invested in paving and public amenities. The last point is Olde Reynoldsburg. We need to make this area the heart of the community, enrich its history and help build our identity.

Lawson-Rowe: I am most passionate about representing my neighbors in Ward 4. I have tremendous pride in the entire city of Reynoldsburg and I want to attract jobs and family-centric businesses to my ward so we may have meaningful economic growth in our own backyards. I want to build meaningful relationships with my neighbors and increase communication to my ward. I want to build relationships with neighboring communities to enhance Reynoldsburg's growth and business community.

In your ward specifically, what is the greatest area of concern/need and how would you address it?

Hicks: The greatest area of concern in Ward 4 is the vacant retail and commercial properties along Brice Road and Livingston Avenue. Our local government is primarily funded by the income taxes paid by people working within the city. However, our tax base is far too dependent upon retail jobs that are quickly disappearing. If we fail to act now, our tax revenue will slowly dry up and more properties go vacant, causing more crime and blight. We need innovative solutions to reimagine these areas, creating jobs and providing high-quality housing that improves property values. We need to attract private investment and development while also enforcing our existing property maintenance code against repeat offenders. I was on the team that helped create the city's first comprehensive plan last year, and I am currently on the steering committee to completely rewrite the zoning code (something that has not been done since 1969). These are important first steps to lay a groundwork that makes redevelopment possible. Going forward, City Council will need to work cooperatively with the mayor and city attorney to utilize economic development tools creating jobs and reversing the current trend.

Lawson-Rowe: I would say that communication with the city is a big concern. Serving my neighbors in Ward 4, being a voice that represents our concerns and the concerns of the community, is my No. 1 priority. I would like to look for best practices and move away from the dysfunctional politics of the past. Rather than be a bystander, I will work to represent Ward 4 and the entire city. I want to serve so there is diversity in the city's thought leadership.

If elected, which city services/departments would you like to see expanded or changed and why?

Hicks: There are many neighborhoods in Reynoldsburg with aging streets that lack sidewalks, curbs, or even proper stormwater systems. The third point of the five-point plan is capital improvements and paving to bring these communities up to modern standards. As we redevelop blighted vacant commercial properties, we can create additional jobs and income tax revenue. I propose that we invest this additional revenue into capital improvements and continue to keep operating costs and overhead spending flat. Currently, capital improvements and the paving program consist of approximately 10% of our overall budget. Other central Ohio suburban communities earmark up to 25% of their tax revenue to capital improvements, which is significantly more than Reynoldsburg. My goal would be to increase our capital-improvement budget as a percentage of the total city budget from 10% to 20% in the four years of my term. I would propose keeping operating costs and overhead flat going forward and focus additional tax revenue into much-needed paving projects, being careful not to expand the size and role of our local government. I would also look to modernize City Hall, taking advantage of technology and increasing efficiency to provide better-quality city services.

Lawson-Rowe: I would love to work with the development department, especially with retention and expansion. Our future development will make our community better. I will represent my ward. I will make sure that concerns are addressed. I will build relationships with leadership of the surrounding municipalities. I will be an advocate for jobs with meaningful incomes and business development on our side of town. Once elected, my actions as a city councilwoman would be to acknowledge and support legislation creating economic growth, health and safety of the community, equal rights and access to community services for all.

Look for candidate Q&As and additional election coverage in the coming weeks in ThisWeek Reynoldsburg News and at ThisWeekNEWS.com.

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