Johnson, Dunne battle for First Ward

By Nikki Blankenship-Hamilton -

The race for Portsmouth’s First Ward is heating up and incumbent Kevin W. Johnson and opponent Sean Dunne await the results of election night.

Johnson says that his years of experience are an asset to this seat. The candidate, who is a Fairmont, West Virginia native, has a bachelor’s degree in communications, is a disabled Marine Corps veteran and has years of experience in banking administration and small business ownership; however, he has carries 20 years of experience working in various elected offices and six additional years in other governmental positions. Among those, Johnson has served two terms on City Council.

The Councilman says that part of his motive for running again is to follow through on items already set in motion.

“I want to see how various legislation I have introduced develops over the next four years, including having a city manager, and ensuring the First Ward continues to be well represented,” Johnson explained.

As a councilman, Johnson says he is and has been committed to making what he feels to be the best decisions for the City.

“I do my homework and research subjects before commenting upon them, or introducing or voting upon legislation. I support this city manager (with critique) and this form of government,” he commented. “It has been a pleasure to put into practice all I learned during 26 years in government. I wish to do much more for Portsmouth and our region in Appalachia.”

Johnson’s opponent, Dunne is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Shawnee State University.

“I moved to Portsmouth in 2013 after living in Ireland for approximately 13 years,” he stated. “Since my arrival here, I’ve been able to work on a variety of community projects with Shawnee State students and other community members. Most recently, this has included a successful application for a $25,000 grant for Spartan Municipal Stadium and our successful application to Preservation Ohio that resulted in the stadium’s inclusion in their 2017 List of Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Sites. Both of these achievements move the stadium closer to restoration.”

It was through work in the community that Dunne decided to take a more active role by moving into politics, a role he says he would handle differently than the incumbent. Dunne says he would focus more on finding funding sources for city improvements.

“Kevin W. Johnson has repeatedly boasted that taxes were raised while he served on council. I don’t share Kevin’s enthusiasm for constantly raising taxes, and neither do any of the other residents of Portsmouth that I’ve met,” Dunne commented. “Added to this, Kevin has not worked well with community groups, and he has a limited understanding of how grants work. We simply cannot afford this. He has wrongly stated that Portsmouth has applied for any and all grants that we are available to us. When asked about grants, he stated that Portsmouth is in competition for grants with other places in Ohio, failing to understand that national grants, like the one received for Spartan Municipal Stadium, include cities and towns across the country. I believe part of the reason that Kevin and a few others in local government push for increased taxes is because they have limited understandings of local, state and national grants. Portsmouth needs to change its flawed and costly approach to governance, and I believe I can work with others to bring about this change.”

Dunne also brings political experience, much of which comes from work abroad.

“My past political experience includes the management of State Senate and State Assembly campaigns in New Jersey, and I’ve worked on several campaigns for Dáil Éireann, which is the Irish Parliament,” Dunne commented. “I’ve been an invited speaker to discuss American politics at the American Embassy in Dublin, Ireland, and I’ve also provided commentary on American politics in Irish newspapers and on Irish television programs. Added to my analysis of American and Irish politics, I’ve also published reviews of European Referendums.”

Now, the candidate seeks to share his experience and knowledge in a way that he thinks would benefit Portsmouth.

“I believe my work with the community and my experiences working with groups outside of Portsmouth make me suited for city council,” he stated. “People in Portsmouth want results, not excuses. I work with a variety of groups in our community that have produced positive results, and I want to continue those efforts. My efforts were recently acknowledged by the Greater Ohio Policy Center, when they selected me to be their point of contact to collect information about Portsmouth that can help them lobby at the state level on our behalf.”

Additionally, Dunne says that he could and already does work with entities outside of Portsmouth to help promote and encourage investments in the city.

“During the last year, I have worked with a number of groups and organizations outside of our area to bring positive attention to Portsmouth and produce positive results for our city. I have worked with Senator Brown’s Office and Senator Portman’s Office, the NFL Hall of Fame, NFL Film, NFL Foundation, the Detroit Lions, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New York Giants and ESPN,” Dunne said. “Furthermore, I led an effort involving the Southern Ohio Port Authority and other individuals in improving Portsmouth’s Wikipedia page. The page had served as a point of online vandalism for six years, driving businesses and residents away from our city. We need a variety of actions to continue Portsmouth’s recent progress, and my record indicates that I can greatly assist those actions.”

If elected to Council, Dunne says he plans to hit the ground running, starting with his promise to the electorate.

“At the beginning of the campaign, we told people that I would continue to expand grant opportunities for Portsmouth,” he began. “I have already started to do this. Students I supervised recently obtained a grant from the Scioto Foundation to update the Free Little Libraries we have placed around Portsmouth. I also worked with a student to put Spartan Municipal Stadium on Preservation Ohio’s 2017 List of Ohio’s Most Endangered Historic Sites. We must develop a culture that aggressively pursues grants to add to recent improvements to Portsmouth in order to improve our overall quality of life and attract new companies to locate here. Our downtown needs a dog park and improvements to existing public spaces. We should proactively address the drug epidemic that exists nationwide by providing young people with spaces such as skate parks. Grants can help us to achieve this.”

The first ward seat will be decided on Election Day 2017, which is Tuesday, Nov. 7.

By Nikki Blankenship-Hamilton

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.