5 running for 2 seats on Middletown City Council

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Only Vice Mayor Joe Mulligan has any political experience

Five candidates are running for two open seats on Middletown City Council.

Incumbent and Vice Mayor Joe Mulligan, who is seeking his third term, is running against political newcomers Jennifer Carter, Zachary Ferrell, Julia Lewis-Smith and Rodney Muterspaw.

Ami Vitori, who served one term on council, isn’t seeking re-election so she can concentrate on her downtown businesses and family, she said. The other three people on the five-person council, Mayor Nicole Condrey, Tal Moon and Monica Nenni, are not up for re-election.

Here is a look at the five candidates, in alphabetical order:

Jennifer Carter

Carter, 72, a 1968 Middletown High School graduate, is seeking her first political office, though she has served on numerous boards in Butler County.

She lived in California from 1973 to 1995 when she returned to her hometown. She has worked at several criminal facilities, including Lebanon Correctional Institution and Community Corrections and businesses that deal with substance abuse and mental health.

When asked why she decided to run for council, Carter said: “I love Middletown. I want to sit at the table and speak for those who have no voice.”

Some of her priorities include providing Middletown residents the resources they need to repair their homes, reducing infant mortality be hiring more experts in the city, and creating a broader range of employment opportunities so residents can earn a “livable wage.”

Zachary Ferrell

Ferrell believes it’s time for Middletown, once an All-American City, to rely on a “new generation” to return the city to its glory days.

That’s one of the reasons Ferrell, 29, a Realtor, decided to sell his “dream home” in Madison Twp. and move back to Middletown so he’d be eligible to run for council.

Ferrell said he grew up in a single family home and his mother showed him the “value of hard work.”

“I came from nothing and became something,” he said. “It’s time for a new era because the old school ideas are not working. I’m all in making a difference.”

He said the city needs to understand why families are leaving the community at an alarming rate. He said Middletown must provide single-family homes that attract younger families.

“We can paint the walls, put in new granite tops in the kitchen, but that does nothing unless you fix the foundation first,” he said. “We have to invest in our future and that starts with homes. Without places for people to live, nothing is going to change.”

Julia Lewis-Smith

Lewis-Smith said she wants to “create an atmosphere of change” and be “the voice of the people.”

The 49-year-old said the city is so concerned with economic development and infrastructure it has left behind its No. 1 resource: its residents.

“Middletown is about people,” said Lewis-Smith, a 1990 Middletown High graduate. “Everyone wants Middletown to be vibrant and a thriving city to live. What are those those without the people?”

She hopes to bring diversity to the council, she said.

“A voice for the voiceless,” she said. “We need to return to village values that made Middletown.”

Lewis-Smith said she was raised in the Robert “Sonny” Hill Community Center and she supports the city’s proposal to renovate or build a new center. She said the center also needs to be accessible to all Middletown residents.

She said the center was the place that “taught me the values that I hold near and dear to my heart.”

Joe Mulligan

Mulligan said he will focus on his record as a proven leader during the city’s comeback.

Mulligan, who was born and raised in Middletown, said that his experience continues to serve the city well.

“My background in business, public service, and law are assets in the decision-making process and strategic planning for our city,” he said.

For the city to continue its renaissance, Mulligan said voters must elect council members who “understand the importance of keeping government efficient, effective, and accountable.”

His priorities, he said, will remain public safety, infrastructure, economic development, and healthy neighborhoods.

“Consistent leadership with sound policies will help Middletown retain current residents and businesses, while attracting new residents and new employers,” said Mulligan, 46, who practices law in two Middletown offices Singer & McCausland, L.P.A. and Kaup Mulligan Law Group LLC. “We need for all areas of the city to be part of Middletown’s comeback.”

He said Middletown is growing faster than the state and Hamilton, its Butler County neighbor.

“Middletown is an attractive place for residents and businesses,” said Mulligan, who added the city needs to invest in public safety and parks and recreation.

Rodney Muterspaw

When Muterspaw retired as Middletown’s police chief in 2019, he was approached by those at the state and county level who encouraged him to run for political office.

Instead, Muterspaw, 52, earned his real estate license.

But now, at a time when Muterspaw said Middletown is “in a little bit of a mess,” he decided to run for city council.

He called the support from residents and businesses “humbling.”

Even though he spent his career in law enforcement, Muterspaw said he has no political platform, but he sees a need to improve the city’s public safety, including police, fire and public works. He said the city has lost 40 paramedics and police officers the last two years, either through retirement or resignations.

“Morale is horrible here,” he said when asked for a reason. “We are a training ground for everybody.”

In the last 30 years, Middletown went from 93 police officers to about 70, he said. This, he said, at a time when the city is “overrun with criminals.”

He also believes the city needs to be more supportive of its small businesses, what he called “the backbone of our city.”

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Julia Lewis-Smith

Julia Lewis-Smith
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Julia Lewis-Smith

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Credit: TOMBAKER

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Rodney Muterspaw

Rodney Muterspaw
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Rodney Muterspaw

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HERE ARE THE FIVE CANDIDATES RUNNING FOR MIDDLETOWN CITY COUNCIL

NAME: Jennifer Carter

AGE: 72

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None

FAMILY: Husband William

WORK HISTORY: Carter has spent her career working in criminal justice, and with those impacted by substance abuse, mental health and infant mortality. She most recently worked and retired from Places, a mental health facility in Dayton.

NAME: Zachary Ferrell

AGE: 29

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None

FAMILY: Single

WORK HISTORY: Has worked as a Realtor for Keller Williams for more than eight years.

NAME: Julia Lewis-Smith

AGE: 49

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None

FAMILY: Husband Matthew

WORK HISTORY: Substitute teacher in the Middletown City School District for four years and before that, served as program director for Caregivers, a home health care for people with disabilities.

NAME: Joe Mulligan

AGE: 46

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Has served two terms on city council, winning in 2011 and in 2017.

FAMILY: Single

NAME: Rodney Muterspaw

AGE: 52

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None

FAMILY: Wife: Julie; Children: Lauren, Matthew, Maddie; three grandchildren

WORK HISTORY: Worked for the Middletown Division of Police for 30 years, retiring after five years as police chief in 2019.

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