A political era in Hilliard ended in 2019, a momentous enough change to lead ThisWeek's top five local storylines of the year.
NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN -- Hilliard's first city manager, Michelle Crandall, was hired in September, adding Hilliard to the list of central Ohio cities without a "strong mayor" form of government. Hilliard City Council interviewed five candidates for the job, including two from out of state, before selecting Dublin's assistant city manager. In November 2018, voters approved a charter amendment that changed the form of government, effective Jan. 1. Mayor Don Schonhardt's fourth term ends Dec. 31.
LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE GALLEY BOY -- Hilliard "Swenatics" rejoiced but had to wait until Sept. 23 for a Swensons Drive-In to open on Cemetery Road. The opening was delayed as city officials considered access concerns, but council ultimately approved the project, allowing local fans to order up a Galley Boy, Swensons' signature burger.
NINE LIVES NOT REQUIRED? -- Opponents pounced when council in October proposed criminalizing the feeding and harboring of feral cats. In November, council retracted the legislation and pledged to collaborate with private and public animal-rescue organizations and shelters to forge a policy to control the feral-cat population.
FINANCIAL FALLOUT -- Leaders continued to deal with the ramifications of at least $271,898 stolen by a former deputy director of recreation and parks, Heather H. Ernst, who pleaded guilty in 2018 to theft in office and attempted tampering with records. Council launched and then stopped an investigation into Hilliard Division of Police proceedings and commissioned audits that revealed "negative anomalies" in the millions of dollars over two decades. The city also sued an accounting firm for not uncovering the theft.
MERGED CAMPUSES -- Hilliard City Schools announced in January a plan to merge the campuses of Britton and Norwich elementary schools, which are next door to one another. Students in kindergarten through the second grade would move to Britton and students in the third through fifth grades would move to Norwich for the 2020-21 school year.