Pickerington City Councilwoman Heidi Riggs and former city councilman Mitch O’Brien are seeking to become mayor of Pickerington as current Mayor David Shaver has decided not to run for re-election on Nov. 6.
Why seek the mayor’s office?
"I am running for mayor because I firmly believe that I am the right person to lead our community," said O’Brien. "I have a vision and a plan to take Pickerington into the future. I see the mayor being an envoy for the city assuring we are represented in all aspects when it comes to planning, economic development, and traffic solutions from a regional perspective."
"I want to be mayor because I believe I have the leadership ability to promote civil debate and can collaborate with council and other community leaders towards a common vision," Riggs said. "I also feel passionately about this community and I believe I can inspire and unite the community towards more noble endeavors."
"It is the responsibility of the mayor of Pickerington to ensure that city staff has the tools necessary to do their jobs effectively," Riggs said. "Further, the mayor must work cohesively with city council to encourage civil debate and ultimately lead the city towards consensus that promotes progress."
Growth and economic issues
Pickerington’s staggering growth has negatively impacted the traffic, schools and property taxes, Riggs said.
During her tenure on council, Riggs co-sponsored the moratorium that limited building permits for housing developments. She also supported impact fees on new developments "that required developers to pay for their financial impact they have on our community," Riggs said.
If elected Riggs proposes several community programs including "ConnectPick" that would place WiFi transmitters around Pickerington to provide free wireless access, the "YouthCorp" and "The Senior Advisory Council" (SAC).
"The Pickerington YouthCorp would bring together government, businesses, and educational institutions to work with Pickerington’s youth, and provide them with opportunities to obtain practical skills and learn the value of community service," Riggs said.
The SAC, comprised of individual seniors and senior organizations, would identify issues facing older Pickerington residents.
"I think the next set of goals for our city is to promote a broader and more diverse economic base that promotes economic development," Riggs said, "placing less emphasis on individual property taxes and generate more taxes from new economic development."
O’Brien also plans to encourage commercial developments. His previous experience on Pickerington’s planning and zoning commission enabled him to knowingly address "all viable commercial development that is beneficial to the school district."
A recent study identified several niche markets in Pickerington, including medical offices, O’Brien said. "The city needs to take that a step further and evaluate incentives that would attract the appropriate businesses and would be competitive with other central Ohio communities. Let’s not get too focused on a single opportunity and look for many. Are we a bedroom community for Columbus? If so, let’s take the steps necessary to become a premier bedroom community."
"I want to work with the Olde Pickerington Village Business Association to see what the city might be able to do to enhance the downtown businesses. We have made a great start in the vitalization of downtown. We need to see that effort through," O’Brien said.
O’Brien said he wants the city to actively apply for endowments and donations. More than a year ago the Ohio Department of Transportation offered Pickerington a grant in excess of $2 million for safety improvements to the intersection of Hill Road and Refugee.
"I feel the city did not act quickly enough or did not give the offer enough importance to bring safety improvements to that area to fruition," he said.
O’Brien said as a councilman he encouraged the city to borrow more than $200,000 to improve traffic signals along State Route 256 based on a traffic study. The city "has yet to implement more than a few dollars worth of improvements from that loan."
Partner with neighbor communities
Both candidates believe partnerships with neighboring communities are essential to the city.
"Pickerington’s role in central Ohio should be as an active participant in the development of our region, taking advantage of opportunities that our location between Columbus and Lancaster and our proximity to U.S. Route 33 present to our community," Riggs said.
"Our surrounding communities are bound together, often sharing the same schools, businesses, churches, and community organizations. The actions of one community have the potential to impact the school district and as a result, could impact the other community. Therefore, regional partnerships will continue to be important in how our community and surrounding neighbors prosper economically, educationally and socially," Riggs said.
To open dialogue with neighboring communities, Riggs proposes a town hall meeting.
"This will allow not only our leaders an opportunity to discuss issues but also enable citizens to voice how they believe our communities can facilitate the best regional relationships," she said.
"We do not and cannot live in a vacuum," O’Brien said. "While municipal boundaries matter as far as ability to generate revenue and identifying properties to serve, many issues such as traffic and economic development transcend those boundaries. It is imperative that Pickerington officials work with communities and counties in central Ohio to ensure that people can move freely on our roads and highways, and that every community prospers."
O’Brien said one way to create relationships with neighbors is to attend their meetings.
"While on council I made it a point to try to attend at least one (Violet Township) trustee meeting a month. I attended numerous school board meetings," said O’Brien. "I also extended invitations for those people to attend our council meetings which they accepted. I want to establish relationships with members of the Columbus City Council who are sensitive to the needs of their constituents along our borders and in our school district. We cannot ignore a single entity that borders us in any direction. I am committed to setting up a panel of representatives from all governing bodies and school districts in our area. I want us to meet quarterly in each other’s area and review common challenges, opportunities and solutions. I want to engage our respective staffs and make sure they are all acquainted with each other because that is where the real work is done."
Thoughts on Pickerington
Both candidates are proud to reside in Pickerington and have their children educated in the Pickerington school district.
"Pickerington is an attractive and safe community with a great school system, a variety of shopping and dining opportunities with more coming in daily, and numerous recreational programs, activities and events for families. It’s a great place to live and raise a family," O’Brien said.
The police department is the most positive aspect of the city, O’Brien said.
"Given the budget they have to work with, I think they provide an exemplary level of service," he said.
Riggs said, "We have one of the premier schools in the state, we have a safe community, we have a beautiful parks system, we have many successful businesses, but more importantly we have a diverse and strong mix of individual and families that make up our great city."