Six villagers vie for vacated Council seat
- Published: November 22, 2018
Six villagers have thrown their hats into the ring in the hopes of being chosen next week by Village Council to fill the seat left open by the resignation of Judith Hempfling. The person chosen will serve on Council for a year; their seat will be up for re-election in November 2019.
“We have great applicants who bring different strengths to the job,” Council President Brian Housh said in an interview this week.
Three of the applicants — Leo Brandon, Andrea Carr and Kineta Sanford — are new to local politics, while the other three — Dino Pallotta, Dan Reyes and Gerry Simms — have either previously served on Council, run for Council or served on Village government committees.
Council will make its choice at its upcoming Nov. 19 regular meeting. At the meeting, each candidate will speak for three minutes. Council will later go into executive session to discuss the applicants, and will return to the public meeting to take a vote. Council members will likely speak on the reasons for their choices in the public session, Housh said.
In response to a question regarding what he’s looking for in a candidate, Housh said he is seeking someone who shares Hempfling’s priorities, since the interim Council member is filling out the remainder of her term. Those priorities have been reforming the local criminal justice system, addressing local affordability and working to make Yellow Springs a welcoming community, among other progressive stances.
“I’m looking for someone to represent Judith’s constituency,” Housh said, stating that filling her seat for a year “is different from an election.”
In recent meetings Council members have discussed their desire to go further than just finding someone who agrees with Hempfling on the issues, according to Housh, by selecting someone who would appeal to sectors of the village that are currently underrepresented on Council, especially young people.
“I see this as an opportunity to not only represent what Judith values, but also find a younger person who could help get younger people engaged,” Housh said. “I believe there’s a consensus around that.”
Council does welcome input from the public, Housh said, stating that villagers could write letters or call Council members with their comments before the Nov. 19 meeting.
Hempfling, who announced her resignation at the end of September, cited personal reasons for leaving her position a year early. First elected to a four-year Council seat in 2006, she was re-elected in 2010, and served until 2013, with six of those years as Council president. She again ran for Council in 2015 and was elected again for a four-year term.
In the past week, the News asked two questions of all candidates for the open Council seat. The questions are: What do you see as the main priority or priorities of Council? What experience, skills or personal qualities are strengths you believe you would bring to the job?
A 2017 graduate of Antioch College, Leo Brandon works as event coordinator at the Mills Park Hotel. At 23, he is the youngest applicant for the Council seat.
His youth is his main reason for running for the interim seat, Brandon said in an interview last week. As a college student he worked for the Village filming Council meetings, and doing so he was struck by how few young people ever attended them.
“I thought, why isn’t the younger generation here?” he said.
Living as a young person in Yellow Springs has also shaped Brandon’s sense of the most important issues before Council.
“Affordable housing is always on my mind,” Brandon said, stating that several of his friends have moved to Xenia or Cedarville because they couldn’t afford to live in Yellow Springs.
Keeping Yellow Springs affordable is necessary for having a vibrant population of young people, he believes, and practically speaking, young people tend to fill service jobs.
“We’re losing a lot of young people,” he said. “You want to keep that young pool of talent.”
Council should continue to address local policing issues, Brandon believes, and he’d like to see the Justice System Task Force, or JSTF, be ongoing, “but it needs to get more done.” He’d also like to see if Council could reach beyond Village borders and become more involved in county issues, such as the proposed new Greene County Jail.
“I think Yellow Springs needs to play a part to see what we can do to make a difference beyond our little niche,” he said, describing this stance as “looking out rather than looking in.”
From South Carolina, Brandon comes from a family in which he’s not only the only college graduate, but the only high school graduate. His background, which also included time spent in foster care, gives him a perspective different from most villagers, he said.
“I think the outsider perspective gives me an advantage,” he said.
That perspective was further honed when he spent one Antioch co-op in the Obama White House in the Office of Presidential Correspondence, helping with that office’s mission of reading and responding to letters from constituents, helping to select 10 letters a day to be read by President Obama.
“I was exposed to so many people’s pain and grief,” Brandon said.
Andrea Carr, 38, has a long relationship with Yellow Springs. She spent most of her growing up years in the village and met her husband, Joe, in local public schools. The two moved back here as adults to raise a family but left after a few years due to the high cost of living. In 2017 the couple returned to the village. She is a certified nurse midwife with three children in Mills Lawn School.
Her own family’s experience has helped to shape Carr’s sense of the most important issues before Council. For instance, the affordability issue is not abstract, but very real to her.
“We left Yellow Springs because we couldn’t afford to live here,” she said.
While Carr doesn’t necessarily see Village government’s role as building affordable homes, she believes there are many ways Council can help address the issue. For instance, she believes Council did the right thing by commissioning the Housing Needs Assessment. And Village government can directly impact the price of utilities, another aspect to the affordability puzzle.
Affordability also connects to a second issue that she sees as critical, that of the relationship between local police and the community. Carr is troubled by the ongoing problems between villagers and the police, and believes that part of the disconnect is that local police don’t live in town. When she was growing up, police officers always lived right down the street, she said, and that community connection was critical.
“People need that connection,” she said.
Carr also cares deeply about maintaining the uniqueness and sustainability of Yellow Springs.
“What we’re doing is not perfect, but what we have here is special,” she said.
Regarding the strengths she brings to the job, Carr stated that working in a variety of area hospitals has helped hone her skills as a team player. Those skills include communicating clearly and having clear expectations, along with advocating for those who are powerless. And as a member of Council, she would listen.
“More than anything, what people want is to have their voices heard,” she said.
Dino Pallotta has for the past 20 years operated the popular local coffee shop, Dino’s Cappuccinos. He has been a member of the nonprofit Community Resources and, for Village government, served as a member of the Economic Sustainability Commission and the Utility Resolution Board.
This week Pallotta declined to identify issues he finds most important in front of Council. Rather, he said, he will address that question when he gives his presentation to Council on Nov. 19.
In response to the strengths he would bring to the job, Pallotta cited the application letter he wrote to Council.
“I have successfully operated a business for over 20 years and I believe that experience, along with the interaction with our villagers, has given me an understanding of how our village operates. I also believe that having a local business person would round out the makeup of Council,” he wrote. “In short, I bring a leadership quality in the decision-making process but also bring a team-first quality in order to achieve the goals tasked before us. I stand strongly in my beliefs but, more importantly, am willing to listen and compromise if it is for the betterment of the whole of the Village.”
Trained as an architect and with a doctorate in educational leadership, Dan Reyes, 56, currently teaches philosophy and ethics part-time at the University of Dayton. In his application letter to Council, Reyes describes himself as having followed Council with interest for many years, and also having served on the Village Design Advisory Committee and Board of Zoning Appeals. He also ran unsuccessfully for Council several years ago.
Shying away from a focus on issues, Reyes said he would bring to Council a focus on process. Especially, he would like to see a robust public process that addresses the complex issues before the Village.
“Enabling the participatory potential of the community” would be his highest goal, Reyes said in an interview last week. While local government could encourage even more participation, the village’s legacy of activism and public dialogue “is what makes Yellow Springs attractive to individuals and to businesses,” he said.
Such a process could help address such complicated issues as the future use of the Village-owned Glass Farm, Reyes believes. Currently, the land is used partly as a conservation area and partly as the site of solar energy production, with an ongoing Council discussion on the possibility of locating housing there as well.
“Keeping all these elements separate is puzzling to me,” he said.
Rather, Reyes would like to see Council provide the opportunity for the community to address the land use as a whole.
“It would be an interesting place for the Village to work out its values and priorities,” he said.
Reyes also sees himself playing a role on Council in “guiding and incentivizing ecological stewardship and smart growth.”
Strengths he would bring to Council include his experience as an architect and as a college teacher, he said.
He fully believes that an emphasis on the participatory process will benefit the community.
“A focus on a good process assumes trust in a good outcome,” he said.
Both Kineta Sanford’s personal and professional life have contributed to her sense of the most important issues facing Village Council.
“One of the biggest priorities for me is housing,” she said. “Not just affordable housing, but all housing.”
Sanford, 26, and her husband and daughter just moved to the village last spring, but she’s had a long relationship with Yellow Springs through her mother, Cindy Sanford, a longtime employee of the YS Credit Union and board member of Home, Inc., and her father, Greg Sanford, who worked at Vernay Labs. Growing up in Xenia, Kineta often came to the village with her mother on Saturdays, and grew to love “the warm and inviting spaces that Yellow Springs offers anyone who wants to partake,” she wrote in a letter to Council.
With a master’s in education, Sanford trained as a teacher, and taught in Dayton and Fairborn. She and her husband lived for several years in Columbus before choosing to raise their daughter in Yellow Springs. However, the couple quickly found that purchasing a home here was difficult.
“We didn’t want to spend more than $150,000 on a house and there was one house on the market that fit our criteria,” she said. The couple considered themselves lucky to have found anything in that price range, even though their house needs extensive repairs.
Last summer, Sanford began working for Home, Inc. as the nonprofit’s AmeriCorps VISTA employee, and in that position she writes grants for affordable housing projects.
While Sanford doesn’t see Village government’s role as directly developing affordable housing, she believes Council can play a significant part by requiring a percentage of affordable units in any housing project, and providing access to developers. She also believes that Village financial contributions to Home, Inc. should not be considered donations, but rather tools to leverage more funds from state and federal funding.
Along with housing, Sanford sees as a priority of Council to be “making government more accessible for younger people.”
While younger adults are sometimes accused of apathy, Sanford believes the problem is more one of young people not seeing themselves represented on governing bodies, and therefore not feeling connected to government.
“I want to have people feel more represented, and also illuminate places where citizens can be heard,” she said.
Regarding her strengths as a candidate, Sanford said she believes her experience both as a teacher and Home, Inc. employee have helped her develop empathy.
“Justice starts here, having access to food and a roof over your head,” she said.
To Gerald Simms, 70, the experience and continuity he would bring to the interim Council job is his main strength. He has served on Council two terms, until deciding not to run again in 2016. And he doesn’t plan to run in 2019, as he would like to see younger generations more involved.
“I think we need younger people on Council,” he said.
But in the next year, Council has some significant issues to address. And Simms believes his previous experience would help facilitate Council’s work.
For instance, this year Council will be looking for a new Village manager, to replace Patti Bates, who will retire next summer. Simms was on Council when Bates was hired five years ago, and he believes that experience could be helpful to Council. Council has not always found managers who fit well in Yellow Springs, but Bates has proved a good fit, Simms believes. And he gives considerable credit to the process used in hiring her, which he would like to see used again. That process included many opportunities for the manager candidates to get to know the village, and for villagers to get to know the candidates.
“It was an open process, with lots of interaction between villagers and the candidates,” he said.
Along with the continuity he would provide Council, Simms believes he would also bring to the job his strength and experience in finance as a longtime cost estimator for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Along with the manager search, Simms sees current Council priorities as addressing affordability. While he was on the Council that raised utility rates, he believes the current Council needs to revisit the issue because “quite a few residents can’t afford this increase.” Council needs to assess whether the Village can afford to have its own utilities, such as electricity, or whether it would be less expensive to pay DP&L to provide electricity.
“Council has to determine what the Village can afford to provide,” he said in an interview this week. “We have to put everything on the table.”