Council interviews 15 candidates for open seat

Ward 6 Councilwoman Tracy Wallach asks a candidate a question at the City Council meeting last night. About 15 people were interviewing for a spot on the council left vacant by the death of William Schultz. CAITLIN PRARAT| DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

After two hours and nine interviews done with six more to go, one thing became clear: Kent City Council needs a greater diversity of ideas and people.

The special council meeting started at 7 p.m. and continued until each of the applicants had completed their interviews. The at-large position opened after the death of longtime Councilman William Schultz.

Candidates came from all walks of life. Some were business owners, some were students and some were retired, but they were all after the same thing – change in the city of Kent.

From the 15 candidates, the meeting focused on the relationship between the city and the university as well as the revitalization of the economy, especially in the downtown area. The applicants had a variety of ideas.

Mayor John Fender said he was pleased with the number of applicants, calling it, “Democracy at work.”

William Anderson, 83, believes taxes can come to Kent by targeting various companies and making arrangements for them to start branches here.

John Gwinn, former Cuyahoga Falls councilman, agreed that economic development is important, but differed on the means of reaching that goal.

“Council should not be afraid to raise taxes and fees,” Gwinn said. “We need to take care of ourselves.”

Most council members and applicants agreed Kent State was a vital part of the economy and wanted to bridge the gap between the two.

“We need to pay attention to Kent State University,” Elizabeth Howard, Kent State English professor, said. “We don’t need to go cap in hand and say, ‘Please do nice things for us.’ It needs to be a two-way street.”

John Bard said the university students are a problem in Kent that needs to be tamed.

“I came from railroad stock, not university stock,” Bard, a lifelong resident, said. “The university is king now, a whole different animal.”

Each applicant was given a few moments to talk about him or herself. In turn, the council members were allowed to ask up to two questions as part of the interview process.

In an unexpected twist, Sean Buchanan withdrew his candidacy during his interview time, citing a possible conflict of interest because of his work with Democratic Sen. Tim Ryan. He is a constituent liaison in Ryan’s Akron office.

Buchanan said while it is legal for him to be on Kent City Council and work for Ryan, he did not want other communities to think that Kent is getting special treatment with appropriations because he is on the council.

The final decision will be announced Monday during another special meeting in which the council expects to fill out several ballots to narrow the candidates, said Fender. The meeting will be held in council chambers at 5:30 p.m.

Contact public affairs reporters Christina Anthony at [email protected], Allison Bray at [email protected] and Cory Smith at [email protected].