By Dedra Cordle
The Greater Hilltop Area Commission will not be able to hold an election this year.
At its meeting in early September, the commission announced the cancellation of the Oct. 1 election due to the fact that not enough candidates filed a petition to run for one of the four open seats.
According to Leah Brudno, co-chair of the government and legislation committee, the commission’s bylaws state that an election can only be held if they receive petitions from five or more candidates.
“We did have five petitions turned in (before the Aug. 30 deadline) so we were gearing up for an election,” she said. “But within the past couple of days, we had one candidate withdraw his candidacy and he will no longer be running.”
Those who did keep their names in the running will be appointed to a three-year term at the first meeting of the new year.
Two of the candidates, Dan Fagan and Rachel Wenning, are currently serving on the commission (their original terms expire at the end of 2022). Joe Argiro and Andrew Striker will be the new faces on the commission.
Argiro, a native of Columbus, has been a resident of the Hilltop for six years. Although he has never served on an area commission before, he has been a board member of the Highland West Civic Association and a volunteer in many area-activities including commission functions since his relocation to the westside.
He said he decided to run for an open seat because he lives in the neighborhood, has an interest in the work of area commissions, and has an interest in – as well as experience with – the variety of topics and issues they discuss and consider.
“As an area commissioner, you liaise with Columbus City Council and other governmental and non-governmental agencies on important issues such as economic and workforce development, zoning, parks and recreation, public utilities, and so much more,” he said in an email. “Being a Columbus native who has been involved in the community for many years and who works in higher education in the region, I’ve developed a network of neighbors and officials who can provide guidance and consultation on issues facing the commission as well as have developed my own skills in the functioning of city government.”
He said he believes he will be able to provide a “level-headed approach” to problem-solving the tough issues that are facing the community.
Argiro has a number of goals he would like to accomplish during this first term on the commission. He said he would like to join with his colleagues in canvasing to develop a “fuller understanding of the micro – and macro – facing our large commission area” so they can bring that knowledge to the table when making decisions that affect the community. He also said he would like to focus on housing issues and advocate for safer, reliable, and environmentally-sustaining public transportation.
Like Argiro, Striker has not served on an area commission before but he stated he does have a background in government service, non-profit organizations, and an extensive history of volunteer service.
He has been living in the area for three years and said he ran for a seat on the commission because he wanted to become more involved in the community.
“I’ve waned in my community efforts since I bought a home, but I look out my window everyday to see a neighborhood that has been neglected and people that have been underserved,” Striker said in an email. “I’ve spent countless hours improving my property, cleaning up trash in the streets, helping my neighbors, and working with the city to try and make my neighborhood a safer and better place to live but I feel like it isn’t enough.”
He said one of his goals as a member of the commission is for it to serve as a “springboard” for him to take a more active role in the direction of the neighborhood.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to make a notable difference in the day-to-day life of my neighbors and their families.”
The commission is also looking to appoint a fifth seat at its meeting in January. Brudno said interested parties should reach out to the sitting commissioners for consideration. They can be reached via their Facebook page or at cbusareacommissions.org/greater-hilltop. The appointed seat will be for a three-year term.
In other news, the Hilltop commission will be partnering with the League of Women Voters of Metro Columbus for a get-out-the-vote registration drive on Sept. 29 from 6 p.m. to 7: 30 p.m. They will meet at Burroughs Elementary School, 551 S. Richardson Ave., and canvas the surrounding neighborhoods to try to get residents signed up to vote in the upcoming general election on Nov. 8.
They will also host a local candidates forum at the Hilltop Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, 511 S. Hague Ave., on Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m. It will be a non-partisan event.