write-in candidate for the 5th Ward City Council Seat
1. Explain a little about yourself.
I am originally from Lorain, and I lived in Cleveland before moving to Portsmouth seven years ago. I have a wonderful, supportive family. Three children and a loving wife. I have made a great career in the automotive industry in which I have twenty-two years of experience. I am a Christian and an active member of my church. My friends have described me as honest and hard-working, and throughout my childhood, my family taught me to hold myself to the highest level of integrity and character. Prior to serving on council, Friends of Portsmouth hired me as a community ambassador to assist with community development in our downtown and residential neighborhoods.
2. What made you decide to run for public office?
After being encouraged to apply by friends, local business owners and residents of the fifth ward, I applied for the position after the resignation of Gene Meadows and was appointed out of 5 candidates. After I was appointed, I have worked hard to show my supporters that they were right to believe in me. I love Portsmouth and see a bright future for it. That’s part of what made me apply for the position and I’ve been blessed to be able to work hard to serve the community I love. It meant a lot when people approached me to run again based upon the work I have done for the Fifth Ward and the City of Portsmouth. My approach has always been to find our community’s strengths and to build upon them. I don’t understand those that insult our city and our community in an effort to be elected to office.
3. What makes you qualified to run?
I would point to my work in the last two years while on council to show why I am qualified to serve on council. Too often, candidates for city council try to emphasize an individual characteristic or detail about their life to say that they would be qualified to run. They might say some generalized characteristic, such as, “I am a great leader”, or they might state that their occupation makes them qualified. The truth is the representative of the Fifth Ward, like each representative of the other wards, needs to work with others to produce results. My opponent Joey Sandlin has opted to insult members of council and the great organizations in our city. My record shows that I work with other members of council, community organizations, and business leaders to get the job done. Individual candidates can promise the world to constituents, but the truth is you need four votes to pass legislation. You can’t get four votes without working with others, and this is not understood by Joey Sandlin.
4. What do you feel are the top three concerns for your area?
Three central areas of concern that I had on my mind when I first started on City Council two years ago were Code Enforcement, Infrastructure, and Fiscal Stability. All three of those are required for Economic and Community Development.
When I first started on council, there was only one code enforcement officer and we had outdated code enforcement ordinances. Since my time on council, we have added an extra code enforcement officer and I have helped pass 25 pieces of legislation to improve and update code enforcement.
Our infrastructure has been challenged in a number of ways, and a key weakness in our city’s approach to infrastructure was that we lacked expert knowledge in the area. Other members of city council and I approved the hire of a city engineer with a background in transportation. He has done a great job, and is implementing changes throughout our city. We have a lot more to do, but this was a game changer in our move forward.
Portsmouth’s finances have been under state watch for several years. At times, I have had to vote no on a request in order to keep spending down. This isn’t popular, but it is necessary.
5. How do you plan to address those concerns if elected?
Our situation will become more precarious if we don’t improve our designation under Fiscal Watch, as it could possibly mandate our city services to be slashed. This would lower our quality of life and deter outside business investment. I will continue to keep city spending at lower rates, even when that means I have to be unpopular.
I have enjoyed working with Andy Gedeon and code enforcement. He is an asset to our city. I passed a Vacant Building Fee to assist code enforcement and local economic development, and my opponent Joey Sandlin has opposed this legislation. We will develop this program in the future, and I will also aim to implement the new regulations I am proposing for recovery housing. We want to clearly communicate to those that are looking to exploit people in recovery and antagonize our local neighborhoods that Portsmouth is not the place for them to do business.
I will continue to work with our city engineer to bring much needed improvements to our roads and city’s infrastructure. I want to implement his long-term plan to provide better and safer roads in Portsmouth.
6. How do you plan to bring business into your area or help small businesses already there?
The most recent initiative that I have worked on to support small business is the development of the Shop Portsmouth program with Councilman Dunne. We have researched the program over the last few months, and discussed the idea with local business owners. This program will reward local customers with property tax rebates when they shop at participating businesses. It has proven successful elsewhere, and has received recognition from Harvard University. We will be the first city in Ohio to implement it. It will be voted on in the first meeting in November and we aim to launch the program in January 2022.
Providing more services and activities in our area is vital to continue the momentum we currently enjoy in Portsmouth. Using grant money and other measures, we must continue to show how Portsmouth is a good place to not only visit, but also to live. We should also work with local business owners to learn what helps them grow their business and attract new businesses to the area. I haven’t met one local business owner that has spoken with Joey Sandlin about economic development. It’s concerning to me and others that he seems to believe he has all of the answers, without ever asking local business any questions.
7. How do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process?
My opponent Joey Sandlin has proudly stated on social media that he is not part of any local organizations in our community. That is a central difference between Joey and I as candidates, and as community members. I am a member of several organizations and it is through my participation in our community that I can discuss ideas with residents. My family and I are members of Lifepoint Church. I serve in Kid’s point, which teaches bible study to kids and I am a photographer for the church. I also actively participate in a variety of organizations throughout our community. My involvement in these areas of our city not only lets me support their missions but also lets me know the direction they want our city to move in. Joey Sandlin claims that he himself knows what the city needs. This approach to politics runs counter to what I believe government should do. The people are the boss. Not the politician. City council works for residents, it does not dictate to them.
8. If elected, what three steps would you take to put your city/township on a firmer financial footing
When I started on city council two years ago, the city had already been on Fiscal Watch for several years. We need to proceed with our work with the city manager and city auditor to ensure that Portsmouth is removed from Fiscal Watch. As we have discussed in city council meetings, this is the central concern for the financial well-being of the city. We need to listen to the state auditor’s advice on spending. My opponent, Joey Sandlin, publicly supported hiring additional city workers, despite the city manager cautioning against it, and without hearing the state auditor’s advice. This is financially reckless and we simply can’t afford it.
As part of the strategy to leave Fiscal Watch, while also ensuring that we can provide an enjoyable city to Portsmouth residents, we need to continue to stretch every dollar we have. City departments and city council have been able to do this is through the continued use of outside grant money to match or exceed local spending.
We also need to continue to make Portsmouth an inviting city to live in. This means continuing the progress we have made in improvements to code enforcement, infrastructure and other city services.
9. What would be your first act of business if elected?
The Shop Portsmouth program will begin in January, and I want to help local businesses and city government launch it. We are confident that this is a program that will be adopted throughout the State of Ohio, and we have the opportunity to not only support local businesses, but to also be defined as an innovative city that is not afraid to take the lead in developing new programs that support local economies. As I have been one of the two advocates for the program, I would be well positioned to help with the implementation of Shop Portsmouth.
10. Anything else you would like the voters to know?
I would just like to encourage all registered voters in the Fifth Ward and other wards to exercise their right to vote. It’s a freedom that is not enjoyed everywhere, and we should not take it for granted.