LIMA — After 32 years, a new chapter awaits the city of Lima. Longtime Mayor David Berger is stepping down at the end of his term on Nov. 30, giving way to whichever candidate voters choose in Tuesday’s election.
Although the voters haven’t yet decided between Sharetta Smith and Elizabeth Hardesty, one thing is guaranteed: It will be the first time a woman has ever held Lima’s highest office, making the occasion even more historic for the city.
After a long post-primary season of campaigning, debating and knocking on doors, both candidates have made their case. Now, it’s up to the voters to choose who has made the best pitch. Two different women, from two different backgrounds, with two different visions of what Lima should be.
Smith has touted her experience working in law and government as a means of making her the most qualified candidate. She currently works for the city as Berger’s Chief of Staff. Even though she’s worked closely with Berger on the city’s issues, Smith still has plans to shake things up if elected by making departmental changes.
“We’re very focused on providing those basic services to citizens: police, fire, water service, things of those nature, but I think there’s room for us to do more,” Smith said. “I would like to split the department of community development into two departments, economic development and then a department of neighborhoods and housing, because I think we need to do more for our neighborhoods.”
When it comes to being an outsider, Hardesty has branded herself as a true outsider who can help change Lima for the better. She believes that her background working with companies large and small as a geologist will help bring new jobs and new businesses that would help Lima’s economy flourish. She explained that the position of mayor piqued her interest when Berger announced he wouldn’t run again.
“I reached out to a couple people, especially some Lima Senior friends whose kids are in the school system, (they were) talking about the lack of growth, the lack of prosperity that has happened here in Lima in the last decade,” Hardesty said. “It just kind of got my wheels turning as maybe it’s time to give back to a community that gave back so much, that gave so much to me throughout my life.”
Hardesty wants to make business the focal point of Lima, and she believes that her experience working with Fortune 500 companies and managing large projects and budgets will help do just that.
“Everybody wants jobs. Everybody wants good-paying jobs,” Hardesty said. “Small businesses can provide those, but only to a limit. Most small businesses employ less than 10 people. If we’re going to get the majority of the people in Lima employed by really good jobs, we have to do things like work with P&G to expand and get their employership up. We’ve got to get some more international businesses here, and I feel I might be able to help Lima achieve that.”
Smith wants to put even more focus on Lima’s housing situation to make sure that the city is prepared for jobs that are already on the way, citing the need for mixed income development. During her work as Chief of Staff, she was a key member of the Housing Task Force and was instrumental in helping bring the recently established Community Improvement Corporation to Lima.
“We need to have the housing infrastructure be attractive and support those individuals wanting to come to our community,” Smith said. “But we also have to remember that people have an emotional connection to where they live. It’s not just a house for them. So if we only focus on one and not the other, we’ll still have an increased population of individuals that are experiencing housing instability, so we have to be concerned about both.
Both Sharetta Smith and Elizabeth Hardesty bring their own unique skills to the table that could potentially be of great benefit for Lima. Now it’s up to the voters to choose which path they want to go down. It’s impossible to tell if either candidate will match Berger’s 32-year run as mayor, but the decisions they could make within their respective administrations will impact the city for decades to come.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2021. Visit limaohio.com/tag/election for the latest election updates from across the region.
Reach Trevor Hubert at 567-242-0398