Ward 5 candidate ‘honest’ and ‘calm’

Morgan Day

Heidi Shaffer, City Council candidate from Ward 5, instructed her seven Kent Yoga Center clients to face their chests forward to “keep an open heart” throughout their poses.

Shaffer’s goals once on City Council:

-Tighten building codes and enforce them

-Turn around the ratio of rental properties to owned homes

-Increase stability in neighborhoods through homeowner incentive programs

-Create ways for residents to get to know each other

-Increase student participation in government committees

-Strengthen the link between Kent State and the city

-Revitalize downtown Kent and promote growth of existing and new businesses

-Improve sidewalks

“It’s more important than opening the hips or to get the arms straight up in the air,” she said before heading toward Al Pomplas, a 20-year Kent resident, to offer a helpful critique. “Let’s start this process again, Al.”

Pomplas has been a student at the center, located in the basement of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, for the past six months. He said it’s Shaffer’s ability to communicate, her honesty and sense of appreciation that will make her a good councilwoman.

“I think she would bring some integrity,” Pomplas said. “That’s something that’s thoroughly lacking in the world around me.”

Betty Rinella, Cuyahoga Falls resident and a student of Shaffer for two-and-a-half years, said she and the other students have faithfully followed Shaffer throughout her campaign and are eager to see her in the role of councilwoman.

“Because she teaches yoga, she doesn’t get all uptight and calmly listens to what (people) have to say,” Rinella said.

Shaffer studied political science at Penn State, where she met her late husband Kenneth Shaffer. The couple moved to California and attended UC Santa Cruz, where she studied sociology and then took a job as residence coordinator.

After a major earthquake, the two decided to come back to Ohio. Shaffer went on to receive her master’s in journalism from Kent State, while her husband became a popular sociology professor at the university. She published Wellness Connection magazine for two years and began instructing yoga.

She now lives at 814 S. Depeyster St. with her partner Bret Orsburn, a software engineer who grew up in Kent. She said she kept looking for “that little Santa Cruz” and found it here in Kent.

This will be Shaffer’s first role in city government, but she said she’s ready for the challenge. She is becoming more comfortable with being a public figure, as she’s taken part in various committees, such as Main Street Kent.

Also, she reads City Manager Dave Ruller’s blog and weekly packets. She has also ridden with Kent police officers at the advice of Councilman Wayne Wilson to observe police interaction with residents, and she’s becoming more familiar with parliamentary procedures, she said.

Although Edward Bargerstock, the current Ward 5 City councilman, supported Shaffer’s opponent in the primary election, she hopes he would be willing to offer guidance if needed.

Bargerstock, who is moving to Stow after his term expires, had few words for Shaffer.

“All I can suggest for Miss Shaffer is if you make campaign promises, live up to them,” he said. “That’s what I did.”

Shaffer said she, along with other Ward 5 residents, kept waiting for someone new to run for council, but no one ever did.

“I really felt like we needed new leadership in Ward 5, and I think a lot of people felt like that in the city,” she said.

She said she will be an asset to City Council because she is respectful, approachable, open-minded and will seek out all viewpoints.

“I want people to know that I care,” she said. “I want people to know that I’m an enthusiastic supporter of Kent. I want to make Kent great, and I’m going to work hard to do that.”

Contact public affairs reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].