SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — Shawnee Township has been no stranger to changes in 2021.
Located just southwest of Lima, the township has become a focal point of some of Allen County’s most critical issues. Shawnee has been on the receiving end of the polarizing Birch Solar I project and has faced pressure to join Allen County on a centralized dispatch system for their emergency responders. Shawnee voters are also getting ready to vote on adding a 4.5 mill fire levy.
The next steps for Shawnee Township won’t be made until one big leadership change is determined. Longtime resident and former Shawnee Township Fire Chief Dave Belton chose to retire from the board, where he has been in office since 2014, instead of seeking re-election.
Between the departure of Belton and incumbent Clark Spieles being challenged for his seat, a total of five candidates are seeking the two seats.
Spieles, who owns the local nursery that carries his namesake, has touted his combination of business and government experience as a benefit to Shawnee.
“I’m real comfortable understanding budgets, finances, union contracts and personal matters,” Spieles said. “I’ve got a good citizen-employee track record working with the township because I’ve got residents that I have to take care of and I’ve got employees that I have to take care of. It’s a township that falls right in line with a different kind of small business.”
Besides Spieles seeking re-election, other candidates include photographer Michael Ayers and former Lima City Council President Keith Cunningham, who are running a joint campaign, American Pavements marketing manager Ted Ciminillo and James Thompson III, who has been a key community organizer of Against Birch Solar.
While Ayers and Cunningham are running together in an attempt to win both trustee seats, they will still need to be voted for on an individual basis, meaning that both, one or neither of them getting elected are all possible outcomes.
“Twenty years ago (Shawnee) was a very rural community,” Cunningham said. “It’s been becoming for a long time a very suburban community, almost a micropolitan type environment, and it’s really time for its elected officials to understand that and work in that direction to move the township forward in these matters.”
Both believe that the strategy has played to their advantage by bringing two different skill sets. Both candidates would also like to enhance Shawnee’s economic development by establishing a township business council.
“We have industry leaders and business officials in the community already that would either like to bring more business to the community,” Ayers said. “The goal would be more transparency, but the idea that we can increase and have more business and industry in the future.”
Thompson was initially compelled to run because of the Birch Solar situation, but he has evolved to develop an understanding of the township’s other issues. He also spoke about the importance of transparency.
“I would be pushing to put any resolution that is to be passed, make it available to the public online or otherwise, and then once passed, let it remain there. People need to know what business the township is doing,” Thompson said. “The government is supposed to work for (the people), not the other way around, and they need to be able to have full faith and confidence that that’s being done.”
Ciminillo believes that his experience working in the infrastructure industry will help the township financially in the long term.
“We need to be able to maintenance our roads so that we can spend a little bit of money, maintenance them and extend the life of the roads another five, seven, 10 years,” Ciminillo said. “That’s where I can help the township save some money, getting more into that type of road preservation so that we can spend our money elsewhere.”
On the major issues, all five candidates have said that they oppose the Birch Solar project. On the dispatch issue, Spieles, Ciminillo and Thompson all support keeping the emergency dispatch in Shawnee. Ayers and Cunningham said that they would take a ‘wait and see’ approach on the issue.
Each candidate could bring his own unique skill sets to Shawnee Township. With a wide variety of experience in government, business and infrastructure, voters will have to make tough choices and decide which issues are most critical for the future of Shawnee Township.
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Visit limaohio.com/tag/election for more local election coverage.
Reach Trevor Hubert at 567-242-0398