LIMA — Elizabeth Hardesty remains one of four hopefuls seeking to succeed David Berger as Lima’s next mayor following a hearing Thursday by the Allen County Board of Elections which focused on whether her residency — and by extension her candidacy — was in compliance with the city’s charter.
Following written and oral testimony, and after spending more than an hour in executive session, board members voted 3-1, with Gary Frueh in opposition, to reject a challenge to Hardesty’s candidacy filed by city resident Bart Mills.
“First of all, I guess I’m surprised that I would need a lawyer to run for mayor of Lima,” Hardesty said following the board’s decision. “Now I’m looking forward to running a strong campaign and focusing on upcoming events.”
Mills said a rewrite of the city’s charter in 2013 inserted language requiring candidates for elected office to live in the city for six months prior to the deadline for filing petitions of candidacy. He alleged Hardesty did not meet that threshold.
Mills based his claims primarily on Facebook posts forwarded to him by a “friend of a friend” that cast suspicions on where Hardesty was calling home. He also submitted to the board documents that showed two of Hardesty’s vehicles were registered in Texas and Pennsylvania, states where the geologist spends much of her working time.
Under questioning by board member Mona Williamowski, Hardesty said she has a current driver’s license that was issued in Pennsylvania; her automobile registration lists Texas as an address and her three pets are currently being cared for by a friend in Texas.
Attorney Bradley Kelley, who represented Hardesty at the hearing, said his client “is and always has been a resident of Lima, Ohio. She has never stopped being a resident of Lima.” Kelley said the complaint “cherry-picked” select Facebook comments that did nothing to prove or disprove her residency anywhere except Lima.
“It’s pretty simple,” Kelley told the board. “Let the voters decide who will be the next mayor of Lima. Let the voters decide whether Elizabeth Hardesty is ‘Lima’ enough to be mayor.”
A graduate of Lima Senior High School, Hardesty earned her master’s degree in geological sciences from Michigan State University in 2006. Since then she has worked mostly in the oil and gas industries. She told the board she is currently working without pay for ChemoStrat, a rock analysis laboratory based in Houston after losing her previous paid position a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic, she said, made it difficult for her to return to Ohio for much of that time.
Hardesty, 40, admitted she had “probably not” been in Lima between the months of August and October of last year, but said she has spent “the majority of my time” in the city since she made the decision to run for mayor.
She lives on Lincoln Avenue in the city’s 6th Ward and voted in Republican primaries in 2020, 2016, 2008 and 2006, according to records from the Allen County Board of Elections. Ironically, she lives across the street from Sharetta Smith, another mayoral candidate.
Board members Keith Cheney, Jeff Rex and Williamowski votes to uphold Hardesty’s residency and her candidacy. She will join Smith, Autumn Swanson and Joshua Hayes on the May primary ballot. The top two vote-getters will face off in the November general election.