Hilltop candidates vie for open commission seats


By Josephine Birdsell
Staff Writer

Candidates for election to the Greater Hilltop Area Commission spoke at the commission’s regular meeting on Sept. 1.

There are four Hilltop commission seats up for election in October. The election will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 3. Election locations are yet to be finalized. However there will be a number of static polling locations that allow people to socially distance, as well as one moving polling location that will travel to five different locations around the Hilltop, staying in each location for one hour.

If residents are unable to reach any of the polling locations, they can call the commission and an active commissioner will bring a ballot box to their home during the election time.

The commission is restricting use of at-home voting to residents who have a marked reason for why they are unable to visit one of the set polling locations.

Election results will be announced on the Greater Hilltop Area Commission’s Facebook page.
After the election, current commissioners will continue to serve through January. Newly-elected commissioners will serve until 2023.

There are seven candidates for election:

Leah Brudno
Leah Brudno lives on S. Richardson Ave in Highland West. She currently works for Habitat for Humanity.

Brudno did not grow up in Columbus, but she chose to live on the Hilltop because of its diversity, architecture, homes and potential to become a thriving community, she said.
Hilltop is under-served by the city of Columbus, and Highland West is under-served and underrepresented by the commission, Brudno said. Brudno hopes to help represent her neighborhood’s interests to the commission, she said.

Brudno hopes to help the Hilltop work toward a better future by ensuring equal access to city services for Hilltop residents and by combating food deserts within the Hilltop, she said.

“I’m running for area commission very simply because I see an awesome potential for our community here on the Westside, and I want to work with the commission to make that potential more of a reality.”

Simon Dallas

Simon Dallas lives in north Hilltop. He graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in real estate finance. He has experience working in the low-income housing sector, and currently works as a rural community organizer.

Dallas has seen first-hand how the city of Columbus  under serves the Hilltop, he said.

On the commission, Dallas aims to improve walkability and zoning in the Hilltop. He plans to combat rising housing prices that cause financial hardship on renters and current and future homeowners in the Hilltop. He also aims to highlight Hilltop’s diversity and work against racism that affects the city’s view of the Hilltop.

“I believe in the Hilltop, and it would be a privilege and an honor to represent the people here,” Dallas said.

JD Groves

J.D. Groves was born and raised on the Hilltop. He graduated from West High School in 1994. He’s served on the commission for the past four years. During that time, he’s worked on the planning and economic development committee.

A lot of Hilltop residents face insecurity in their homes due to poverty, drugs and violence, Groves said. However, he sees hope on the Hilltop and wants to continue working to renew the area, he said.

“I’m running for reelection because I care about what goes on the Hilltop. I’m passionate about it, he said.”

Jennie Keplar

Jennie Keplar was born and raised on the Hilltop. She grew up on North Ogden Avenue, where she lived for 24 years before moving to Westgate. Keplar also served on the commission in 2008.

Keplar is a self-described local historian. She created Hilltop USA Memories, a Facebook page where she documents historical findings, 10 years ago. She also created the Hilltop Property Archive, where she houses historical information about Hilltop properties. Prior to the spread of COVID-19, she hosted local history workshops to teach Hilltop residents how to research the history of their homes.

Several years ago, Keplar found a newspaper byline from 1937 which read “It’s a privilege to live in the Hilltop.” It’s been her guiding motto ever since, she said.

“I really do think it’s a privilege to get to know the people in the Hilltop, to get to work with the kind of folks we see here on the commission. We really are a special community,” she said.

Victoria Klein

Victoria Klein is from south Columbus. She moved to southwest Hilltop with her husband over a year ago. She’s currently working on getting her master’s degree in public health.
Klein shares her neighbors’ concerns about the trash, violence, drugs and lack of access to city resources on the Hilltop, she said.

But she’s excited to help work on those issues with the commission, she said.

“Ultimately I believe the commission can inspire residents to help brighten our community.”

Josh Paxton

Josh Paxton was born and raised in Columbus. He attended Columbus State Community College before graduating from The Ohio State University with a degree in landscape architecture. He’s lived in Westgate with his wife, who’s an elementary school teacher, for the last three years.

“Being a part of the landscape architecture field, I feel like urban design is crucial to our everyday life,” Paxton said.

Paxton’s excited to bring a unique design perspective to the Hilltop while getting involved in local government, he said.

Terry Roofe

Terry Roofe has lived on the Hilltop throughout his entire life. He graduated from West High School in 1986.

Roofe is running for the commission in hopes of helping clean trash and garbage out of Hilltop’s alleys and streets.

“The city is failing us and we need a voice. I hope to be that voice,” he said.


  1. As of September 12, locations have been finalized and announced! Check out the Greater Hilltop Area Commission’s election Facebook event for all of the details.


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