HUBER HEIGHTS — Huber Heights Mayoral candidates Jeff Gore, Albert Griggs, Jr., and David Wilson met in a friendly town hall forum on Thursday that was moderated by Susan Hesselgesser of the Dayton League of Women Voters.
A similar forum for the At-Large Council seat was not held because two of the three candidates were unavailable on the date chosen by the League of Women Voters.
Current District 5 Council Member Nancy Byrge, Richard Stan, and Chase D. Warden are competing to advance to the November election in that race.
Thursday’s affair was striking in that there were no fireworks and no serious disagreements on display between the three men. Questions were fielded from the audience with each given the same amount of time to answer.
The first question was about civility – or lack thereof – on City Council and in Huber Heights politics in general. Gore acknowledged such and said it was one of the main reasons he ran.
“I’m frustrated that we end up on front page of paper for wrong reasons,” he said. “It’s the Mayor’s job to be a cheerleader for the city, not bring divisiveness.”
“What some see as incivility is people with strong passions for our city and people have different views,” said Wilson. “We need to run meetings efficiently, get the facts presented, so people can vote on them.”
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with people around the world, working across the aisles with other people I’ve done is something I’ve done,” said Wilson. Civility in Huber is one of the thing that hit me in the eye. Partisan divide, somehow we have to bridge that gap and shake hands.”
He acknowledged difficulty in accomplishing that, however.
“Until we get a bridge across that I don’t know how we do that, but you have to keep working at it. It takes a lot of effort, lot of time.”
When asked about attracting development, Gore stressed the business environment of the city.
“Business had to feel there’s an environment that wants them there,” said Gore. “Businesses know they have the upper hand. Public private partnerships can be a good thing. We have to be aggressive and be outside the box. What’s been working isn’t working anymore – not just in Huber Heights but all around.”
Griggs talked about the importance of public/private partnerships.
“Huber Heights is disconnected from other regional issues like the Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) and the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission (MVRPC),” he said. “We need to bring small businesses into the area.”
“Success brings success,” said Wilson. “We need a firm plan for Shoppes at Huber, and continued support of the Brandt Pike Revitalization. I advocate a full time economic development director to work with DDC and MVRPC. There is a lot of money out there that city hasn’t applied for.”
Griggs disagreed, and said the Mayor should be the chief economic development director of the city.
“As Mayor I will work full time as the economic development director,” said Griggs. “I’m already cheerleader so why not the economic development director?”
“We need to hire someone who is a specialist in this type of work, success brings success,” said Wilson.
“That is my forte,” said Gore. “I have development and marketing experience. I know how to sell the city. Short of skirts and pom poms I will be the city’s biggest cheerleader. We have to have a group or team when someone calls city. An economic development director needs to be lead of team, and I will be biggest supporter. We do need someone with experience.”
Griggs said he wanted to improve the relationship between city staff and council members.
“My view is that it should be a working relationship,” said Griggs. “We have weak mayor, strong council, strong city administration. The relationship now is somewhat antagonistic. We have to set the environment, but that won’t happen overnight. It’s not easy stuff.”
Wilson said staff isn’t being measured appropriately.
“Staff carries out the wishes of council through the city manager,” he said. I think we need to put a little more effort into what the council expects of staff. I want to measure staff on metrics. There’s really no measured performance.”
“We have a city manager form of government,” said Gore. The role of council is oversight. Council is a board of directors who manages city manager who then manages staff. Council isn’t to dictate what they do, staff does research, makes decisions, brings to council. We need to understand roles, not overstep bounds, and if we establish that in Huber Heights amazing things will happen.”
All three men denied being endorsed by the county Democratic or Republican parties. Gore and Wilson are both registered Republicans and Griggs is registered as a Democrat. Huber Heights races are non-partisan.
“I know how to be non-partisan,” said Griggs. “Once I stop in side the ring, I’m no partisan. I work for all the people, not all the people.”
“There is too much partisanship going on in an environment that should be non-partisan,” said Gore. These aren’t Republican ideas or Democrat ideas, just Huber Heights ideas. Carriage trails
One hot button topic discussed was Carriage Trails. The housing development has been developing just north of the Miami County line in an area annexed by the city. Council has debated contributing to the infrastructure of the development many times and has sharp lines on both sides of the issue.
Gore called for the city to honor the agreement it made with the developer.
“An agreement was made, and the housing market crashed,” he said. “Not that its successful is not a reason to say wait a minute. Everyone can agree that the more houses are built the more people are in the city, and that’s better for the city. We need to honor the agreement the city made.”
“Move forward, approve, and move forward on it,” said Griggs. “Pay attention to the contracting get best contracting we can get.’
“In 2010 when on City Council I had the opportunity to vote for Carriage Trails,” Wilson said. “It was my proudest moment on council, and what’s come out of the ground is amazing. In 2010 I voted thinking it would be self sustaining by now. I do question how much money we are putting toward project.”
When asked what the city’s biggest challenge was, Gore cited commercial growth.
“We have to have people in place who have knowledge to market city,” said Gore. “Have to let outside industry know we are open for business, want their business, welcome their business. Success breeds success. We have to have jobs in this city that pay people enough to be able to live in the city.”
Griggs said trust was the biggest challenge
“Getting people to trust in me and believe I can do the job for them is job one,” he said. “That takes time. I want to have monthly discussions with city, not at council, just a way to talk.”
Wilson said economic development has to increase.
“We have to get economic development going,” said Wilson. “That takes time. Little successes can lead to bigger and bigger successes. Why is the Shoppes at the Heights not going anywhere.”
At the close of the forum, each got to make a closing pitch.
“The real winners are voters of Huber Heights because they are more informed now,” said Wilson. I didn’t know what to expect. If elected mayor, I will revitalize parks.”
Griggs cited his experience.
“I have a degree in public administration,” he said. “I’d like to bring that experience to give government that functions and gives people what they need. Service you deserve is what you get, leaders you deserve.”
“I love this place, been here since I was four years old,” said Gore. “Proud I’m from Huber Heights, went to Huber Heights schools. This city needs a cheerleader. Our northern border is exposed. I am pro growth, pro responsible growth.”
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.