Contested races for Wapak city council, St. Marys school board

By Mackenzi Klemann -

WAPAKONETA — Lack of affordable housing — driven by new industry and new residents coming to Wapakoneta — and ongoing storm drainage problems are key concerns for Wapakoneta City Council at-large and first ward candidates, the only contested council races on the ballot this November.

Incumbent at-large councilors Terry Campbell, Chad Dunlap and Rodney Metz are campaigning for reelection alongside former councilor Rachel Barber for three open at-large seats.

“We’re bringing in people to work and we don’t have the housing that we need for all of those people to be able to live here,” said Barber, who previously served three terms on the council. “That’s a basic thing. We have a beautiful historic downtown, great shopping areas, but we can also see what our city can do to help people be able to live here comfortably, work here and make a decent living and enjoy (Wapakoneta).”

Barber said she wants to see councilors act as leaders and “equal partners in the life of the city (administration).”

“We need to step up and make sure that as subdivisions come into the community that the infrastructure is there to support new subdivisions as well as any issues it might create for older neighborhoods,” she said.

The issue has caught Councilor Chad Dunlap’s attention too.

“Your $100,000 homes are hard to come by anymore … If somebody’s coming here to work, the last thing we want them to do is stay outside Wapakoneta,” said Dunlap, who sees the council taking a supporting role as the administration talks to developers.

Dunlap’s primary role on council has been overseeing council rules and communication with the public.

“What councilmen are, are a voice for the people,” he said. “That’s what I campaigned on last time and that’s hopefully what I’ve been able to do.”

Drainage issues are also on the minds of councilors this fall.

Heavy rains in May “exposed all the deficiencies in our stormwater system,” Campbell told The Lima News. “We found a number of areas flooded that we’d never seen before and some areas that we neglected to improve over the years because we didn’t have the money.”

Campbell said Wapakoneta has hired an engineer, which he believes will help the city identify problem areas.

Similarly, former Wapakoneta mayor turned at-large councilor Rodney Metz said the administration is searching for a long-term solution to the problem.

“Could things move a little faster? Yes. But we don’t want to go back and fix something. We have to make sure that what we do is correct,” Metz said.

In the first ward contest, long-time councilman Jim Neumeier is seeking reelection as an independent after years of frustration with the Democratic Party. This year he faces Ross Kantner.

“People know what I stand for,” Neumeier said. “I’m running on my past record.”

The Lima News was unable to make contact with Kantner prior to publication.

The other contested race in Auglaize County is the St. Marys school board election. Incumbents Brian Little and Ronda Shelby are up for reelection this November alongside former board member Robert Valentine, who is vying for one of two open seats this term.

Valentine would like to see curriculum changes, as he believes today’s K-12 public system does not offer enough emphasis on history, current events, civics, logic or ethics.

“These are the subjects and tools that promote critical thinking rather than just being taught what to think,” Valentine told The Lima News via email.

Valentine pointed to his regular attendance at school board and committee meetings for 16 years, along with his participation on ad-hoc and special board committees.

“I believe I can be a positive influence for the betterment of how our school board operates and communicates with the public,” he said.

Shelby, a long-time educator within the St. Marys school system, is seeking a third term to continue the work the board has started during her tenure.

“I’m not running because there’s something wrong,” Shelby said. “I’m running because I see something right.”

Voters approved an earned income tax levy in 2018, which Shelby and Little both supported.

“We were one of the last school districts in this area that did not have one,” Little said. “We always relied on property tax. The property tax owners in our district were taxed out. … We did not want to keep trying to take more and more from property taxpayers. We wanted to try something different.”

Little hopes the revenue generated by the levy will keep St. Marys schools fiscally sound.

“We don’t want to get back into the situation we were in before, where we were under the watchful eye of the state because we were financially in trouble,” he said.

By Mackenzi Klemann

Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.

Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.

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