10 seek 4 seats on Bluffton council


By Merri Hanjora - mhanjora@limanews.com



BLUFFTON — The Bluffton Village Council race sees 10 contenders for four positions.

Councilors seeking re-election include Sean Burrell, Phil Talavinia, Ralph Miller and Roger Warren.

There are three residents running for council who have had previous Village Council experience: Jerry Cupples, Mitchell Kingsley and David Steiner.

Finally, there are three who have not served before, Tony Pinks, Benjamin Stahl and Deborah Weihrauch.

Of the four councilors seeking re-election, all four are interested in keeping the village of Bluffton moving forward.

For Roger Warren, the pay has nothing to do with why he is seeking re-election.

“It’s a public service, it certainly isn’t for the money. I would do it if I had to do it for nothing. I just think the village needs to get projects done, like we’ve been doing,” Warren said.

He would like to see the village moving forward and has a list of items that he would like to see get done.

“I just think the village needs to get projects done, like we’ve been doing. For example, we are involved with the state to do a [state Route] 103 corridor study from [Interstate 75] to the county line, which is three quarters of a mile. We are applying for grant money so that we can eventually have a corridor, we have plans down the road for hopefully a new fire station four or five years down the road,” Warren said.

Phil Talavinia was appointed to his council position, and is now seeking re-election. He, too, sees the position of Village Council as being a public servant.

“I’ve had people that I know and respect that have taught me over a period of time that it is very important to be involved and give back to the community that you live in. And certainly being a part of council is a good way to do this. You need to be involved. People did it before me and people are going to do it after me, and it’s certainly a very important piece,” Talavinia said.

Talavinia, too, would like to see the village get projects done.

“I think obviously there are always infrastructure needs and wants. I think we have to figure out a better way to work with our village records; updating the website and things like that. Then, zoning. It’s been years since our zoning codes have been updated, and then certainly economic development whether it’s attraction of some new businesses that could potentially come to town and certainly retain the ones we have,” Talavinia said.

Ralph Miller is on Village Vouncil, filling the two-year term that Mayor Judy Augsburger had left when she became mayor of Bluffton.

Miller’s reason for running is to help the residents of Bluffton.

“I’m a rather newcomer, I’ve only lived there eight years, but my wife has been there 32 years and she has a business there, so I have a vested interest in keeping Bluffton going. The downtown is doing wonderful. I want to keep that up. I’d like to promote our geographical location for maybe small industry. Because, as you know, we are half way between Findlay and Lima and right on I-75, an ideal location. We have a wonderful community to live in and it would be a good location for some new industry to locate. I would like to work on that if I have the opportunity,” Miller said.

Finally, Sean Burrell is seeking re-election to the village council. He enjoys what he is doing for the village and feels he can do more with his no-nonsense approach to things.

“I guess I’m seeking re-election because for the most part I have enjoyed it and think I bring a relatively no-nonsense viewpoint to the issues,” Burrell said.

Burrell would like to see what the current Village Council has initiated to continue and move forward.

“I just hope to keep a lot of the things that we’ve accomplished in the last four years that seems like some of the people who are running to be councilors think need to be either stopped or readjusted. I guess I just don’t want the last four years to go by the by and revert back to the way things were before us. Also, the big thing for any villager is keeping abreast with [Environmental Protection Agency] legislation that is constantly changing and keeping up with continuing village infrastructure needs and employee and employment relations is always important,” Burrell said.

The three former Village Council members said they feel they could do more for the village and each has his own reason for seeking to be back on the Village Council.

Jerry Cupples had served five terms previously, and he’s just frustrated.

“I am concerned about the current direction of the village. We have the highest water rates in the area. We lost our fiscal officer and our former village administrator. We have Shannon Cemetery that has been going on for four years and the first headstone has not been returned yet. I am just frustrated with everything. But what concerns me most is our cost of water,” Cupples said.

Mitch Kingsley is disheartened with the Village Council as well. Kingsley served on Village Council from 2000 to 2014.

“Well, it feels to me like there are some problems in Town Hall. During the time that I was there, and I admit that maybe we had 14 years of kind of ignorant bliss or something like that, I just don’t think there was the kind of tension and unsettledness among village employees at that time, that I sense now,” Kingsley said.

Kingsley would like to fix the water surcharge that the Village Council initiated.

“There are particular issues that I would have done differently I think if I had been on council these three years here. One of those things is the water surcharge. Our water rates are pretty high in Bluffton. If you compare around the surrounding area, I think they are the highest in the area. So I think we ought to adjust our rates, get rid of the surcharge,” Kingsley said.

Other changes he would initiate include communication, strategic planning, updating the village’s website and addressing the zoning code.

David Steiner was on the council before and also served as clerk treasurer. He feels there needs to be someone on the Village Council with more knowledge.

“I think they need some institutional knowledge because the council is made up of people with not a whole lot of experience. So I would like to bring my institutional knowledge,” Steiner said.

Steiner feels there is tension in the village and he would like to alleviate that.

“There is a lot of tension with the employees. The fiscal officer resigned a couple of months ago and her letter of resignation was very revealing, how things are going over there. The three of us are running together and we have all been on council before and we’re trying to bring back some stability. The resignation letter of the fiscal officer had a lot to do with why I’m running,” Steiner said.

Finally, there are three candidates who have never been on the Village Council who are seeking seats.

For Tony Pinks, a sense of public duty calls him to run.

“I am running because I am a longtime resident of Bluffton and I feel that I could do my part in filling in and helping the local government, as a duty,” Pinks said. “I think a lot of residents feel the same as I do where we should give back to the community that you live in. So this is my part. I’m a lieutenant at the Fire Department in Bluffton. I’ve been a volunteer there since 2003 and I think I just upped my game, and help out the local government.“

Pinks would like to see several things change if he is elected.

“There’s a couple of things that we’d love to accomplish. One, would definitely be better communication between the individuals on the council seats and the mayor. And also oftentimes people forget, there’s a budget that needs balanced. So I would want to be part of balancing a budget. There’s a lot of things that have been engineered in our village and where individuals in the past have spent some money to have things engineered and no ones’s acted on it, they just had the engineering done. So, things just need settled, and I think I could probably help out,” Pinks said.

For Benjamin Stahl, serving on Village Council is his way of getting involved in his community.

“My wife and I are both Pandora-Gilboa graduates and then moved away to New York for a couple of years, and just last year we came back. After we moved into Bluffton, I wanted to get involved,” Stahl said. “When we did come back it really was the feeling of let’s jump in with both feet and let’s get involved. Right off the bat we joined community organizations and clubs and got involved in different things going around because there’s so much happening in Bluffton all of the time. It’s amazing! And so this is the logical step.”

Stahl would like to ensure better communication.

“I am campaigning on increasing communication between local village government and the residents in a two-way fashion, both what’s going on in the government and the reasoning’s and justification behind that and then also from the residents their concerns and any issues they are having up to village government,” Stahl said.

Deborah Weihrauch has never been on the council, but said she feels she could improve the village.

I think they need new eyes looking on the village to help improve it,” Weihrauch said. “ There’s a lot of things that need to be updated and fixed. I want to be a good steward of my town.”

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By Merri Hanjora

mhanjora@limanews.com

Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511.

Reach Merri Hanjora at 567-242-0511.