Council candidates discuss issues

By Cecilia Fox -

TIPP CITY — In Tipp City, six citizens are vying for three seats on city council. At the Meet the Candidates event held Thursday night, residents had the chance to meet the candidates seeking their vote.

Discussion during the event ranged from residential growth to the city-owned high school football stadium. Incumbent councilman John Kessler was joined by the five other candidates on the ballot, including Tom Merritt, John Roberts, Carrie Arblaster, Andrew Thornbury, and William Roberts.

John Roberts said that he is running to be a voice for the community and that he has no other agenda or “ax to grind.” He has been active in the community through his church and his involvement in youth sports and activities.

The primary focus of his campaign is protecting Tipp City’s small town charm, “that everybody who comes here feels and everybody who lives here loves,” he said.

Merritt said that he is leaving his seat on the Board of Education and running for council in order to allow new ideas on the school board while remaining involved in his community.

“I am a cheerleader for Tipp City,” he said, adding that he feels privileged to serve the community. He also discussed his commitment to public safety and to supporting the city’s first responders.

Thornbury, a third generation Tipp City resident, aims to be the fiscally conservative voice on council. He highlighted his involvement in community organizations, including his position on the city’s Planning Board.

To Thornbury, being conservative means finding the “most effective and efficient” solutions. He said that he appreciates Tipp City’s strong sense of community, which is why he and his wife decided to stay in Tipp City to raise their family.

William Roberts, president of the Vandalia-Butler Chamber of Commerce, said his foremost goal if elected would be to deal with increasing operating costs while being responsible with the tax money the city receives.

He asked voters to consider his record of service to the community, including his work with the Mum Festival board. Roberts said that he is not running against the other candidates, but for the community.

Arblaster touched on her five points of vision for the city during the event, which include sustainable growth and public safety. She said that she hopes to apply her experience in the non-profit world and in the state legislature to the position.

Arblaster previously ran for council and currently serves on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

“I take this job, should it be mine, very seriously,” Arblaster said. “I will do my due diligence of being open and remaining to the community and their input.”

Kessler has served two terms on council and said that he is excited for the possibility of having another four years to accomplish more long term goals.

He said that he believes the city is on the right track, and mentioned that the city must continue to manage funds from the capital improvement levy responsibly, so that residents will favor renewing the levy in the future. He also mentioned that he has frequently urged the city to consider the installation of a railroad overpass, which he acknowledges would be a substantial project in cost and scale.

On the subject of growth in the city, the candidates all agreed on the need to balance growth with the city’s small town feel.

“Tipp is positioned on a great spot on the I-75 corridor and we’ve brought in great companies like Meijer and Abbott,” John Roberts said. “We continue to try to find other opportunities for big business to come, but we shouldn’t ignore the downtown area.”

Merritt agreed that the rate of the city’s growth should be carefully measured, saying that the city’s small town charm is attractive and will draw in new people. But, he said, a tipping point will come soon.

“I actually feel that our city right now is at a crossroads of growth and identity,” Thornbury said. “The vision of our community, I feel, has been in jeopardy.”

Thornbury said he supports responsible growth within “a small town structure,” saying he is committed to maintaining the city’s historic charm. He said that he is not in favor of the new Cedar Grove subdivision, arguing that he does not believe in “growth for growth’s sake.”

Arblaster echoed Thornbury’s comments, but said that the city has overall done a good job of balancing industry and other needs like infrastructure.

“A vision is absolutely crucial, because if we don’t understand where we’re going, we won’t know how to get there,” she said. “Growth has to be balanced by sustainability.”

In Kessler’s opinion, the city needs to explore new residential growth ideas. He suggested that city should look into lower-priced starter homes to draw young people and families.

“We also have to watch with our residential growth, we can’t forget about the old part of town,” he said.

The candidates also addressed concerns for public safety, specifically the current heroin issues facing the state.

“Heroin is present in our community,” Arblaster said. “Our first line of defense, first and foremost, is our police officers.”

She said that one of the most important things council members could do to combat heroin in the community is to support public safety officers. She said city officials should also advocate for the city to receive funds for programs to fight drug use.

“The short answer is yes,” John Roberts said. “And I think it starts at home.”

He said that he has had the opportunity to minister to imprisoned youth, and has seen the end result of what heroin does.

William Roberts acknowledged that heroin is problem facing the community. He took aim at Issue 3 and the legalization of recreational marijuana, calling it a “gateway drug.”

“We all need to have an eye on what our children are doing and promote a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

According to Merritt, Tipp City has its share of the problem, though many believe the city is insulated from issues like heroin.

“It’s a symptom of our culture,” he said, also pointing to Issue 3.

Kessler said that he has experience working with recovering addicts, but there are not enough services in Miami County to counsel people struggling with addiction.

Thornbury pointed out that the city sits on “a major drug corridor” and that sometimes things get swept under the rug in smaller communities like Tipp City. He said that the community needs to be invested in educational programs like D.A.R.E.

By Cecilia Fox