Two Canal Winchester mayoral candidates are heading for the finish line as incumbent Mayor Jeffery Miller faces off against write-in contender Mike Ebert.
About the candidates
Ebert is a sales manager who grew up in Canal Winchester and graduated from Canal Winchester High School. He attended Columbus State and Ohio University-Lancaster.
He served three terms as director of the Ohio Association of Meat Packers, is a past-president of the Lions Club, coached Little League baseball in Canal Winchester, and is a volunteer with the Family Program at Rickenbacker ANGB.
Miller began his career in law enforcement with the Summit County Sheriff’s Department after graduating from the University of Akron and Ohio Dominican College. In 1982, he joined the Columbus Division of Police and served in several capacities, including as a hostage negotiator with the SWAT unit.
After he retired from the police division, Miller served as a substitute teacher; was on the Canal Winchester School Board; coached youth sports; was a member of the recreation district board; and served as an officer with his church, Lion’s Club, and Fraternal Order of Police Capital City Lodge.
Canal Winchester will soon officially be recognized by the U.S. Census with city status. When asked what he feels is the greatest challenge facing the village as it becomes a city, and the potential need for a city manager/administrator, Ebert said he would evaluate all areas of village operations and plan accordingly.
"Should the position of city manager or like title be necessary for the success of the village to utilize taxpayer dollars, I will then make a recommendation during the charter review for this position," said Ebert. "One of my goals is to utilize taxpayer dollars in the most efficient manner and curtail wasteful spending currently going on."
Miller said while there will be a few changes on how the village receives state and county funding for improvements, the change to city status should be transparent to residents.
"There is no requirement to change our form of government upon becoming a city and I don’t believe we should," said Miller. "There is no relation between the number of residents to any particular style of effective government. Two years ago there was an attempt to change our form of government and approximately 75 percent of the Canal Winchester voters agreed the change was unwarranted. Beyond that, I believe that single point accountability provided by the position of mayor creates a more responsive and effective government."
Balancing growth and economic development is a major issue facing Canal Winchester. Miller believes it is not the size of the town, but the size of the hearts of its residents that make Canal Winchester a special place to live.
"Music and Art in the Park, Farmer’s Market, Labor Day, and Christmas in the Village all invite our neighbors to come together to talk, dance, play, and connect with each other," said Miller. "Since being elected as mayor, our downtown business organization has developed into the only ‘Main Street’ program in Franklin County. We were just recognized by First Lady Laura Bush as a Preserve America Community, one of only eight in our state."
Ebert said he would seek a mix of commercial development including office space, warehousing, and non-polluting light industrial and manufacturing, casual dining, and retail facilities to help support the tax base in balancing growth and economic development.
"Residential growth should be limited to condominiums and homes with larger lots of approximately four homes per acre, thus allowing for slower growth in our school system," Ebert stated.
Joint recreation district
As the Joint Recreation District (JRD) faces the possibility of additional fees for the use of school district fields and sports venues if the school district’s 7.9 mill operating levy fails, the candidates were asked if the recreation district should become a village department.
"I am in favor of utilizing village funds in planning for our recreational needs, as well as assisting the Joint Recreational District in obtaining the funds necessary for this to happen," said Ebert. "If law allows, anytime we can utilize our village staff for recreation versus hiring additional staff would be prudent use of taxpayer dollars. One of my goals is to have parks and recreational facilities for youth and seniors come to fruition during my first term."
According to Miller, the JRD is comprised of three parties-the JRD board, school district, and the village, which represents only 30 percent of the school population.
"Each part of the JRD has to be able to contribute to the other, or it will not succeed," said Miller. "We need to continue to support the youth athletics and look to adult programs as well. I believe the mechanism is there for our Joint Recreation District to stand on its own with the help of both the village and the school and bring Canal Winchester up to its potential."
Thoughts on a key issue
Miller feels growth is a key issue facing the village, but the fear of what growth brings is more challenging.
"We have witnessed what growth has done to first ring communities around Columbus and can learn from their mistakes," said Miller. "Accepting the challenge of growth and planning for it by creating an effective five, 10, and 20 year plan will keep us from disaster. I believe that I have the talent and experience to prepare for issues that face our village now and in the future. I listen to new ideas. I believe in diversity of thought. I have a team that has delivered quality at fantastic value to our taxpayers. I have delivered on my promises. We needed a new water plant; we have one. We needed to manage growth; we have raised the bar with new building standards and are holding developers responsible for the impact they bring. We wanted more park space; we now have the highest percentage of parks per populace in central Ohio."
When asked what he felt was a major issue for Canal Winchester Ebert said, "Over the last four years, I have seen the village government take a U-turn. As I have heard from a cross section of village residents and business people, it always comes back to one problem-the lack of leadership by our current mayor and his lack of respect for them. To me, a good mayor is someone who puts the village first, leads by example, and works side-by-side with other officials to better the community."
Ebert said he previously felt comfortable elected officials were taking a beneficial path for all facets of the community, including the village, school district, in business recruitment, history, and quality of life.
"I no longer have this feeling," observed Ebert. "My goals (as mayor) are simple. Put common sense first and foremost when making decisions. Work with school officials to re-establish lost communication between the school and the village. Work for a good mix of commercial growth that does not harm our current living standards and property values. Control our residential growth so it does not put a burden on our taxpayers and schools. Treat residents, staff, and other elected officials with respect."