Seven candidates made voter appeals during Next Generation Defiance’s “meet the candidates” forum Tuesday evening at the Defiance Elks.
Six candidates competing in contested elections this fall for Defiance council and school board races each received three minutes to speak, while Mayor Mike McCann — unopposed for a second term — was given two. Later, Defiance Law Director Sean O’Donnell provided an overview of four proposed city charter amendments to be decided on Nov. 5.
About 50 persons, including candidates, attended the event, with city council’s two contested races going first.
The candidates there are appointed incumbent John Hancock and Angie Miller for the Ward 2 seat, and Josh Mast and Lisa Wiesenauer for Ward 3’s representative. (Steve Corbitt and incumbent Chris Engel are unopposed for the Ward 1 and 4 seats, respectively, while the three seats held by council’s at-large representatives — Joe Eureste, Jill Krutsch and Steve Waxler — and its president are on the ballot in 2021.)
Ward 2 council
Hancock: A local realtor and bus driver for Defiance City Schools, Hancock noted that he is a life-long resident of Defiance and a Defiance College graduate, along with his son and daughter.
He focused on his election slogan — “cool, calm and collected” which appears on his campaign postcards. “Cool,” he said reflects his “easygoing” nature, while “calm” represents “patience” — I drive school bus, he joked — and “collected” stands for doing his “homework” while on council.
Miller: A Defiance native who owns her own downtown business (Handsome Tuxedo and Suits), Miller spent more than 20 years in New York and Los Angeles working in television and film projects, but said “Defiance has always been, and always will be, my home.”
If elected, Miller said she will “be the voice of our residents as well as building and business owners. I want to support legislation that raises the standards of living and economic health of our people and community. I would like to make sure we continue to improve our streets and alleys and sidewalks ... keeping our neighborhoods safe and nuisance-free. I intend to keep an eye on the budget and expenditures so that the Ward 2 neighborhoods receive quality services for the taxes they pay.”
Ward 3 council
Wiesenauer: A graduate of Capital University who grew up in Erie County and is retired, she began her presentation by mentioning a quote — “stop being afraid of what can go wrong, start being excited what can go right” — and said she’s “excited about what can go right in Defiance, Ohio.” Wiesenauer also related her professional background in the McDonald’s restaurant franchise, supervising multi-unit restaurants, and noted that she is the treasurer of the Fort Defiance Humane Society.
She believes families, college students and young professionals can be attracted to Defiance “by distinguishing our city as a welcoming and open community for all people.” Wiesenauer noted that she is one of the founding members of Defiance Ohio Pride, which supports and celebrates the LGBTQ community, and has more than 1,000 Facebook followers.
She added that “I understand finance. I understand the importance of a broad tax base. I believe we can expand our tax base by attracting people who have the means to create large companies and small businesses. ... I believe we can distinguish Defiance from other cities by building a community where an openness to new perspectives provokes a dynamic and exciting flow of ideas that attracts creative people, exciting projects and dynamic businesses.”
Mast: A small business owner (Joshua Plumbing), he explained that he is a life-long Defiance resident (minus four years obtaining a history degree from the University of Cincinnati) and a state-certified plumber on Four County Career Center’s advisory board in the HVAC plumbing department.
Mast indicated that council and the administration should be mindful of the legacy they are creating. “I want to see things continue to improve in Defiance. That means new sidewalks, of course, improved sidewalks, improvements in parks, greater opportunities for community events. But I want to make sure that basic utilities and services for Defiance citizens are continually improving. But we need to keep an eye on the future.
”We need to take into account the future consequences ... who will maintain it? ... I think East High Street is a pretty decent example,” noting new drainage basins there that need to be maintained. “What is going to happen if we just put something in? Now we have to figure out how we’re going to take care of it. Who’s going to rake the leaves out of them? Who’s going to weed them? ... As we progress as a city, we need to keep an eye toward where we are going and make sure we are prepared to take care of the changes we effect when we get there.”
School board races
City school board candidates Dodi Thompson — the appointed incumbent — and Michael Wahl addressed the forum next.
They are seeking the unexpired term that opened when Ken Wetstein stepped down earlier this year. Thompson was unanimously appointed to replace him, but an election is needed to decide who will serve the remaining two years through 2021.
(The winner will join the board’s three unopposed incumbents — president Garry Rodenberger, Wesley Moats and Christine Oberlin, as well as vice president Cathy Davis whose seat will be on the ballot in November 2021.)
Thompson: A registered nurse with an MBA degree, Thompson touted her qualifications and her professional “track record of quality improvements” at Mercy Hospital (as chief nursing officer) and with Wood County Hospital where improving that facility’s emergency room “took a lot of work and a lot of teamwork.”
Today, she is the administrator of GlennPark of Defiance, a senior assisted living facility on the southside, where, she said, “we built a team, a team that felt like their voice was heard. From everyone, from the person that cleans the rooms, to those aides, you have to listen to everyone. You have to listen to the people that clean your schools. You have to listen to the teachers, they all have to have a voice.”
Thompson noted the importance of state school report cards “because if you don’t believe a bad state scorecard is a community problem, you’re wrong, it is. In order for a community to improve you have to have a good school district. We really have to focus on that. Data is the truth.”
Wahl: A graduate of the University of Toledo’s law school, and attorney and partner with the Defiance law firm Clemens, Korhn, Liming & Warncke Ltd., Wahl noted some of his school-related experiences.
“I’ve had extensive experience in juvenile court, served as guardian ad-litem for nearly 100 children, which is a role where you make recommendations as to what’s in that child’s best interest. In doing that, I’ve had extensive interaction with school officials both at Defiance and other schools, and obviously with the children and families that are involved in those cases.”
Too, he noted his community involvement, serving on the Defiance Public Library board since 2013 (president since 2017), the Defiance Area Chamber of Commerce board and ProMedica Regional Hospital Foundation. Additionally, he’s served as a volunteer mentor for Defiance City Schools, Junior Achievement and Defiance High School’s 101 program.
He said he has three goals — student support, student achievement and career development.
Following candidate presentations, O’Donnell was given five minutes to address four proposed city charter amendments. Recommended by this year’s charter review commission, these would tweak the municipal government document that voters first approved in 1983.
O’Donnell focused primarily on one which would combine the city’s planning commission, and board of zoning and building appeals.
The planning commission now has seven members and considers proposals generally related to business projects, such as site plan reviews for new developments. The board of zoning and building appeals has five members, and considers zoning issues, such as variances for residential building projects.
The other three charter proposals would: strike the word (political) “party” from Sec. 2.07 concerning changes in council’s compensation (due to a charter change in 2014 that made all council seats non-partisan), adjust Sec. 3.03 concerning the timeline for a change in the mayor’s pay and replace the word “percentage” with the word “number” in Sec. 4.04 concerning petition requirements for nominations and elections.
Earlier, the unopposed McCann offered an overview of his next four-year term.
“What can you expect the next four years out of the McCann administration?,” he asked. “I think a lot of the same that you’ve seen the first four years. I’m a true believer that we all are ... a product of our environment. So, my goal is to continue to improve that environment in the hope that the product that comes out of that environment is a better product.”