Joe Begeny will become the next mayor of Reynoldsburg in January, but first he’s got to step down as president of the school board.
Begeny, 43, won the mayoral race Nov. 5, beating Republican challenger and current at-large City Council member Barth Cotner by a vote of 4,026 (52%) to 3,705 (48%), according to final, unofficial results from the Franklin County Board of Elections. Those results also include votes counted in Licking and Fairfield counties.
He succeeds Republican Brad McCloud, who held the office since 2008 and did not see reelection.
Begeny said he will resign as president of the Reynoldsburg City Schools Board of Education effective at the end of this month. The Nov. 19 meeting will be his last.
“That will allow the remaining members of the board of education to accept applications for people to replace me,” Begeny said. “And it will give them time so they don’t have to rush to find someone and at that January organizational meeting, all five members will be on board so they are ready to go.”
Under Ohio law, once the vacancy occurs, the board must appoint a new member at its next regular or special meeting, which would be held at least 10 days after the vacancy occurs and within 30 days of the board member’s resignation. If the board cannot or will not fill a vacancy within 30 days after a vacancy occurs, the county probate court would fill the vacancy.
The 2019 board vice president is Debbie Dunlap, who was reelected to a second, four-year term Nov. 5. Dunlap led with 5,109 votes (40%), and Neal Whitman received 3,888 votes (31%) to also earn his second term. Mandy Young, who was seeking her first term, had 3,638 votes (29%).
A teacher at Beechcroft High School in Columbus City Schools, Begeny said the educator in him is “always going to want to find a way to maximize opportunities for our students.”
“And, of course, the hardcore financials are going to be important,” he said. “What kind of businesses can the city bring in to help generate revenue that will also benefit the (school) district. Our city is only as strong as our schools, and our schools are only as strong as our city.”
Begeny said he will resign his teaching position after students leave for winter break. He said he spoke with McCloud and auditor Stephen Cicak about the transition process the day after the election.
“I love education and I love what happens within the four walls of a classroom, but I spend all day telling students they can be the change and now I have the opportunity to put my money where my mouth is,” Begeny said. “My heart will always be in education but I’m looking forward to serving the city of Reynoldsburg,” he said.
With a campaign slogan of “Better Together,” Begeny was atop a field of Democrats who will usher in a new era on City Council.
Two-term incumbent Republican Doug Joseph lost his seat as City Council president against Democratic challenger Angie Jenkins and Ward 3 incumbent Marshall Spalding was ousted by Democrat Bhuwan Pyakurel, believed to be the first Nepali-Bhutanese elected official in the U.S.
Jenkins earned 4,255 (55%) of the vote with Joseph getting 3,499 (45%). Pyakurel had 1,352 (55%) votes with Spalding getting 990 (41%) and Libertarian Rob Bender 100 (4%).
Wards 1 and 4 each went to the Democrat candidate earning their first terms, Shanette Strickland and Meredith Lawson-Rowe, respectively.
Strickland (1,043, 53%) defeated Republican Patricia Starling (923, 47%), and Lawson-Rowe (653, 52%) beat Republican Steven W. Hicks (602, 48%).
The race for Ward 2 may go to a recount; Republican incumbent Brett Luzader holds a two-vote (1,042-1,040) margin over Democrat challenger Louis Salvati. Once certification occurs and the vote still is within .5%, state law mandates an automatic recount.
In the race to replace James “Jed” Hood, who did not seek reelection, as the next city attorney, Democrat Chris Shook (4,629, 60%) easily defeated Republican Robert Barga (3,029, 40%).
“Three African-American women were elected to council, the first Bhutanese-American elected anywhere in the country. The community of Reynoldsburg has changed so dramatically over the past few years and a lot of people wanted to see that diversity reflected on council,” Begeny said. “We’re an extended family at this point with all the time we spent together campaigning.
“These are our friends and neighbors. These are people we go to church with and attend (high school) football games with. Every candidate, regardless of party, was putting themselves out there, and I think we all respect that about one another.”
Begeny said seeking partnerships between the city and other entities will be a priority. One partnership involves looking for ways to expand access to “wrap around” services for Reynoldsburg students -- like mental health services, dental and vision screenings -- and working with Columbus to revitalize the Brice Road and Livingston Avenue corridor.
Other goals include boosting code enforcement, administering a successful 2020 street program and improving communication with residents.
“We’re going to bring some joy into working for the city and all the things that that means. We get to help people enjoy their life – whether it’s improving their roads, their parks, things to make people’s lives a little bit better,” Begeny said. “I’m looking forward to finally getting to work on all of the things I’ve been talking about for a year. To make the phone calls, close the deals and work to make this city the best it can possibly be.”
In Truro Township, Pat Mahaffey and Chris Long were challenged by Mack Quesenberry and Joseph Sorenson, respectively.
Mahaffey was elected to another four-year term with 2,997 votes (60%), to 1,992 (40%) for Quesenberry.
Long ran to keep the seat to which he was appointed in February, after Stephanie McCloud resigned. Long’s term will end Dec. 31, 2021. He edged Sorenson with 2,883 votes (58%) to 2,126 votes (42%)
Natalie West-Nicodemus was the only candidate for the township’s fiscal officer position.