The Franklin County Board of Elections has released the candidates for the November election. Grove City will have three candidates for mayor.
Current Mayor Cheryl Grossman announced that she will not seek re-election; instead she will run for a seat on the United States House of Representatives in 2008. Grove City residents will choose among William Ferguson, Richard Lester and Richard "Ike" Stage.
Ferguson claims to be a life-long political activist. He has served on the South-Western City School Board and held a seat on Grove City Council.
"We need a change in Grove City and I am for the people," he said of why he wants to be mayor. "People either love me or they hate me."
Ferguson wants to give tax relief to all residents. He sees the housing market as one of the biggest issues the city faces.
"Our seniors are entrapped," he said. "The taxes are so high, they cannot sell their home yet they cannot afford the taxes."
He added, "I am not for tax abatements."
Ferguson also addressed the economic situation is Grove City. He explained that in the 1999/2000 school year, 8.7 percent of Grove City High School students received a free or reduced lunch. In the 2006/07, that number jumped to 17.67 percent.
"The median income in Grove City is dropping," Ferguson stated.
These are some of the issues Ferguson plans to address if elected in the fall.
"I’m a people person and that’s the approach I will bring to the office."
Lester has served on Grove City Council for the past four years. The past two years he has been council president. His term expires this year. After a long discussion with his pastor, Lester felt sure of his decision to run for mayor.
"I feel convicted to do it," he said. "I have leadership abilities and I am a humble servant. It is what I’m led to do."
Issues that need to be addressed aretraffic, safety, the lumberyard project, and controlling retail growth, he said.
"I am not opposed to retail growth but Grove City stands in a very attractive position. Developers are coming to us and we can afford to ask for and receive certain amenities," he noted.
If elected mayor, Lester said he will handle things differently than the current mayor.
"We are ripe for new leadership," he said. "A lot will seem different for the administration."
As mayor, Lester said he will sit down with city administration and department heads.
"A common misconception is that the new mayor is going to have to ‘clean house’ so to speak. I do not want to do that at all," Lester explained. "We have a lot of great and experienced people in the city but they may be getting more responsibility."
According to the city’s charter, the mayor assigns tasks to the city administration. Lester explained that Grossman takes on a lot of those tasks herself.
In his campaign, Lester plans to keep it personal and just use common sense.
"I’m doing this for the betterment of Grove City."
Richard "Ike" Stage
Stage is no stranger to the mayor’s post. He was mayor of Grove City from 1988 to 1995. He was the city administrator from 2000 to 2003, served on council from 1986 to 1987, and presently holds the at-large council seat. He said he is the only one in the community to serve as both city administrator and mayor.
"I’ve been there. The city is in a transitional period and I can manage that transition," he said.
Stage said in the long-term, the city needs to overhaul the city charter. In the short-term, the city needs to focus on traffic, safety and tax revenue.
"This all ties in with the impact of growth and how to manage that," he said.
If elected as mayor, Stage said the first thing he will do is get a well organized understanding of current projects.
"I need to get a handle on where exactly things are."
He would also examine inventory and resources.
Stage believes the city administration will have to take on additional responsibilities.
"When I was mayor and city administrator, the administrator and the department heads ran the city. We need a strategic direction for the city," he said.
"We have a population of over 30,000, and I think I am well qualified to handle the transition we are going through."
The election will be held Nov. 6. Look for more information about these and other candidates in the Southwest Messenger throughout this election season.