City council seat vacant, possibility of a student stepping in

Ozie Ikuenobe

Kent city councilman Erik Valenta described his last council meeting as “bittersweet” when he announced his resignation from the position due to his wife accepting a job offer in North Carolina.

Valenta, who became a member of the council in 2010, was described by the other council members as “a hard worker,” “dedicated” and “a man of integrity.”

Valenta said that the highlight of his term on the council has been the development of downtown.

“You have Acorn Alley, Acorn Alley II, the Fairmont project, the new hotel,” he said. “The main thing is purchasing the old Kent hotel and (turning) it into the gem of the city instead of the blight of the city.”

Valenta said that some of the duties he tended to while being on the council were going out and meeting with the public, listening to their concerns and complaints and finding solutions for them.

“You’re here for the people, and your job is to answer them,” he said of being a member of city council.

With his seat on the council now vacant, there is a possibility of a student becoming a member of council if he or she decides to apply.

Kevin Papp, senior international relations major and executive director for Undergraduate Student Government, said that a student’s perspective could help with the university’s latest expansions into the city of Kent.

“With the increasing population of students in the city, I think students play a vital and vibrant part of our city’s community, and I think that students voices should be represented equally so, on the council,” he said.

Evan Gildenblatt, junior applied conflict management major and director of governmental affairs for Undergraduate Student Government, said that one issue a student would be able to help City Council address is the lack of reasonably priced housing in Kent.

“Often times students at the university struggle to find places around campus that they can afford,” he said. “It’s becoming an increasing problem because on the one hand, it’s fantastic that our enrollment is increasing. We would love for a student (on city council) to focus on increasing the levels of affordable housing.”

Valenta said that a student becoming a member of City Council will depend solely on the decision of the other council members.

“If it’s what my fellow council people want,” he said. “I want everybody to apply. If he doesn’t get this, go out for one of the social clubs. Help the boy scouts out, help the [Kent] lions [club], help the rotary, help the Kiwanis.”

After devoting his time to making sure Kent’s citizens get what they need, Valenta said that the best thing they can do is to volunteer their services in any way they can.

“There’s a lot of things for people to do in Kent that a lot of people just don’t do,” he said. “You don’t have to sit on council for all the notoriety. Use your time to help other people. That’s what it should be all about.”

Contact Ozie Ikuenobe at [email protected].