5 candidates seeking 3 available seats on Hamilton City Council

All five candidates for Hamilton City Council this year, who are vying for three available seats, agree that things are going well in the city. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for some tweaks, they say.

Challenger Danny Ivers, 22, a photographer, believes the council could use an infusion of youth to represent the city’s newest voters and young adults — the young people Hamilton and other cities want to stay where they live and grow their families here, rather than moving somewhere else.

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Challenger Kristina Latta-Landefeld, 37, whose job at Envision Partnerships is to promote healthier living and reduce unhealthy things such as drug abuse and smoking among area residents contends she could “give voice to some of those families and those communities that might feel left behind,” partly by asking more questions in public than are asked by council members.

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And challenger Joel Lauer, a 49-year-old teacher at Hamilton High School and assistant football coach at Badin High School, says as someone who grew up in Hamilton and has taught people from all the city’s neighborhoods, including the working-class people who make up the majority of citizens. “I’m a voice for those people, that they can hear what we’re doing.”

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Council Member Timothy Naab, 72, a council member since 2010 and a business manager at Par-Way Tryson Company, says he wants to continue progress on development efforts and other programs that began around that same time, amid the Great Recession, when council hired Joshua Smith as city manager.

Now, “All communities in Hamilton are experiencing positive results” Naab says, as the city and businesses create “exciting destinations and marked quality-of-life outcomes.”

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The other incumbent council member, Michael Ryan, 37, who was elected to his first council term four years ago, said he wants city government to continue pursuing economic development and job opportunities; further its neighborhood revitalization and beautification efforts; and support police and firefighters. He also wants to continue improving streets and traffic personnel, while investing more in utility infrastructure. Ryan works for Western Southern Financial Group in downtown Cincinnati.

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With the retirement this summer of Council Member Robert Brown, at least one new council will be sworn in during early January. Council members are paid $300 per year. The other three council members — Eric Pohlman, Carla Fiehrer and Susan Vaughn — serve four-year terms that next are up for election in 2023. Mayor Pat Moeller, the seventh member of council, also is seeking re-election but no opposition candidate’s name will appear on the ballot.

Here is some information about candidates based on remarks they provided at a recent candidates’ forum that was sponsored by the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, The Benison reception and co-working space, and the Journal-News. Their comments are lightly edited for clarity and space.

Please describe any previous board or strategic leadership experience and what you bring to the strategic-planning and policy-making process of Hamilton.

Ivers: In a variety of ways, my board and service experience includes a mixture of leadership and strategic planning. In 2019 I was elected by parents of students involved to the Hamilton High School Show Choir’s executive board as a vice president. In 2020 I was appointed unanimously by city council to the Charter Review Commission, which oversees the charter and proposes amendments to the city council. And in 2020 I began serving in the Ohio Army National Guard as an air-missile-defense crew member.

Latta-Landefeld: I started coaching when I was about 18 years old, and what that meant is I had to organize about 65 people around my peer group, to put equipment onto a boat trailer, and we had to work together as a team, not just on the water, but off the water. But my involvement wasn’t just about coaching. It was also about being on the board and planning out for the year. That included budgets, safety, strategic planning: How are we going to grow? How are we going to maintain this equipment that costs $40,000 per boat? In my current role as a prevention specialist at Envision Partnerships, we do planning all the time that initially started with what are we going to do with the city in terms of grant funds and how we serve the people best. I love planning, and I love policy work.

Ryan: I currently serve on the board of directors for Envision Partnerships, Booker T. Washington Community Center, the 17Strong executive committee and the Ohio Municipal Electric Association. All of these boards service multiple areas of need in our community, from addiction prevention, to neighborhood engagement, to municipal utilities. My involvement on these boards has educated me on many issues affecting our city, both knowledge and first-hand experience with these issues.

Naab: As a U.S. Army Vietnam War combat veteran, I learned the value of responsibly giving back to our country and community, church and businesses with whom I have been associated. I have been privileged to co-own two small businesses, as well as served on many boards, and dedicated my support during my career. I have served on professional boards of the Independent Food Manufacturers Association; National Food Brokers Association; as well as in an advisory capacity to the National Frozen Food Manufacturers Association boards. I chaired for four years Hamilton’s City of Sculpture, and remain on their advisory board. I served as president of Greater Hamilton Civic Theatre, and on that board for eight years. I currently serve on the board of Hamilton’s Veterans Hall of Fame as well as serving as a trustee of the Great Miami Valley YMCA and as chair of the board of the Fitton Family YMCA. In my church I have served as parish council president, finance commission chair and festival chair. I also served as advisor to our fraternity, Beta Theta Pi at the University of Cincinnati.

Lauer: “When I was hired as head football coach of Madison Junior/Senior High School, I was immediately forced to go to work. We had a levy to pass and weren’t sure of our extracurricular activities for students in the fall. I organized a group of parents and community members. Together we got to work and passed that levy, and students were able to participate in fall athletics. As an intervention specialist in the city of Hamilton, I manage individual education plans. I evaluate students, I analyze data, I develop improvement plans for some of the most challenging students of our district. I help them set goals, and I help them to achieve them. As a member of the HCTA, union representative, on our bargaining team, I have learned to view things from both sides. I resolve conflicts, I mediate discussions and I communicate the needs of everyone in order to develop a contract that benefits everyone in Hamilton City Schools.

Hamilton is rich in diversity. How should that be embraced for strategic planning and economic development?

Lauer: We need to embrace to embrace the diversity within our own town. But we also need to welcome new people and new ideas to our community. Studies indicate that diversity promotes innovation and creativity. It will create a new customer base. It will build up a new reputation among neighboring communities.

Ivers: Diversity can and should be embraced in a multitude of ways for strategic planning in our economic development. There’s many ways how diversity should be embraced. And as a young person myself, diverse in age, I believe I can help with that if elected.

Latta-Landefeld: One of my proudest moments the last year was being part of the Pride committee. This June there were thousands of people who came into Hamilton because Hamilton hosted its first Pride. I heard parents walking down the street sharing how excited they were that their kids came home from out of state. They were able to consider that they might even move back to Hamilton. I think that’s just one example of how embracing diversity of all kinds is only going to help the city grow.

Ryan: Hamilton gains its strength from all people, all ages, all walks of life, all socioeconomic backgrounds. All kinds of ideas. Our decision-making must begin with the mindset of not catering to one group of people, but rather, finding solutions that are beneficial to many groups, and harmful to none. We need to continue our practice of asking for input from all residents, all neighborhoods, so that every Hamiltonian gets their chance to profit from economic opportunity.

Naab: Diversity is a core of the city of Hamilton. Service agencies bring residents from all neighborhoods, of all backgrounds, ages and capabilities to be aligned with employers and jobs. Co-op programs collaborate with Hamilton companies to match job skills with candidates to deliver value to their organizations. Employers have shared with the city that these programs bring valued team members to their companies.

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