Residents packed Gahanna City Hall Jan. 2 to welcome new Mayor Laurie Jadwin and attend the swearing-in ceremonies of five city officials.
In addition to Jadwin, who took the oath of office from her husband, Jay Jadwin, others sworn into office were new city attorney Raymond Mularski, new City Council member Merisa Bowers, and re-elected council members Karen J. Angelou and Nancy R. McGregor.
During her first official report, Jadwin thanked voters and residents for their vote of confidence.
"This is the first day for the next four years," she said. "I promise (the citizens) that I will devote every day to giving my very best, to remember that their needs come first. And that every decision that I make on behalf of the city will be made with that in mind."
Jadwin said she would be diligent every day of her duties, and every member of her administration would be responsible and accountable for every action that is taken and every decision that is made.
"This is an exciting time for Gahanna," she said. "For the first time in many years, we actually have funds to invest in our city."
Thanks to voters' approval of last year's Issue 12 that raised the city's income-tax rate from 1.5% to 2.5%, Jadwin said, Gahanna has money to invest in roads, police and parks to attract businesses and to add amenities that affect residents' quality of life.
"However, that doesn't mean the voters have handed us an open checkbook," she said. "And I can tell you that I will be prudent and strategic in how I approach you with how our administration wants to spend those dollars. And I believe that you will be doing the same."
Jadwin said every decision needs to be made with the goal of moving the city forward and setting Gahanna up for success.
She said 2020 will be a transition year, with a new city attorney for the first time in over a decade, as well as a new City Council member.
"We have key staffing positions that are open," she said. "That will be an immediate focus of my administration -- to add to the very talented and dedicated staff that are already in place here."
Until the city hires a new development director, Jadwin said, she will look to use a development consultant.
"We have some major development projects that we need guidance on," she said.
Jadwin said the department of development and planning will be separated in an effort to move toward creating a defined process for development.
She said communication also would be a key focus.
The first meeting of the year was live-streamed from the city's Facebook page.
Mularski said it was quite a thrill for him to be elected.
"I promise I won't let you down," he said. "I look forward to working with all members of council."
Mularksi said he's a man of few words, choosing to think about what he wants to say, saying it concisely and then moving on.
During council's organizational meeting, Jamie Leeseberg was elected president by a 6-1 vote.
Angelou, Brian Larick, McGregor, Stephen Renner, Michael Schnetzer and Leeseberg voted in favor while Bowers voted against it.
McGregor was unanimously elected council vice president.
Legislation to appoint board, commission and committee members -- filling seats of those whose terms expired Dec. 31 -- generated the most discussion.
Council approved Brian Wright's appointment to the parks and recreation board for a seat that had been held by Andrew Piccolantonio.
Piccolantonio told council he began serving on the parks board when council appointed him in the summer of 2013.
He was reappointed in 2016 and missed only two meetings during his tenure, he said.
"In 2020, I was expected to serve for my second time as chairman," he said.
Piccolantonio said his wife, Beryl, called him Dec. 30 to say she had just looked at the Jan. 2 agenda and saw council was recommending Wright be appointed to the parks board.
"I was never contacted by anyone in any way regarding your decision," Piccolantonio said.
"I'm speaking tonight to make clear I wish to continue to represent the community we love by serving on that Gahanna Parks & Recreation Board. Beryl and I are deeply hurt and disappointed by your decision and how you chose to handle it," he said. "This experience runs counter to all the reasons we decided to call Gahanna home."
Former council president Brian Metzbower publicly apologized to Piccolantonio.
"It all comes down to me, and I failed in my responsibilities to communicate," he said. "I do apologize to all of you and apologize to the Piccolantonio family and the citizens of Gahanna for that error," he said.
Schnetzer said the appointment isn't about the individual, but there were apparently a few breakdowns in communication with Piccolantonio not being properly notified.
He said Wright is excited to accept the appointment.
"It seems it was an unfortunate set of circumstances," Schnetzer said.
Renner voted no on the legislation to appoint board, commission and committee members filling terms that expired Dec. 31. He asked his colleagues to retain everyone currently appointed until council could choose a process that is clear and transparent for all board appointments.