All five Middletown council candidates talk about improving their hometown

Rick Pearce, CEO and president of the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, welcomes those who attended a Middletown City Council candidates forum Thursday night in the Council Chambers. Candidates are, from left, Jennifer Carter, Zachary Ferrell, Julia Lewis-Smith. Joe Mulligan and Rodney Muterspaw. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

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Rick Pearce, CEO and president of the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton, welcomes those who attended a Middletown City Council candidates forum Thursday night in the Council Chambers. Candidates are, from left, Jennifer Carter, Zachary Ferrell, Julia Lewis-Smith. Joe Mulligan and Rodney Muterspaw. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

Voters to decide Nov. 2 who wins two seats.

Regardless of who wins the two seats on Middletown City Council next month, voters will elect longtime Middletown residents.

All five candidates talked about their Middletown upbringings, childhoods sometimes filled with food stamps, sleepless nights and empty dinner plates Thursday night during a candidates forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton.

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 on the five-person council, Mayor Nicole Condrey, Tal Moon and Monica Nenni, are not up for re-election.

Vice Mayor Joe Mulligan is running against political newcomers Jennifer Carter, Zachary Ferrell, Julia Lewis-Smith and Rodney Muterspaw. All five have deep roots in Middletown, they said.

Lenny Robinson, a local developer, served as moderator and the candidates were not told the questions before the forum, he said.

Robinson talked about some of the economic growth seen in nearby cities. He asked the candidates what barriers they see for Middletown. Each was given two minutes.

“Can I have 15 minutes for this one?” asked Muterspaw, who spent 30 years with the Middletown Division of Police, the last five as chief. “People are leaving. People do not feel safe here. A safe city is a welcoming city. They want a safe city.”

Carter said younger residents need to be taught the importance of “financial literacy.”

Ferrell mentioned a recent Middletown High School football game that was moved from Barnitz Stadium to Colerain High School following a shooting near the stadium the day before.

“It’s not the Middletown I grew up in 10 years ago,” he said.

Ferrell, a Realtor with Keller Williams, said he knows of 25 residents who recently moved out of the city.

Lewis-Smith said the city is “divided” and there is a lack of visibility and accountability on council.

Mulligan said Middletown had seven straight years of income tax growth before the coronavirus pandemic and Middletown ranks fourth in housing starts in the Cincinnati region.

When asked whether they support the recently proposed $1.3 billion “Hollywoodland,” a 50-acre entertainment destination near the Great Miami River and downtown, four of the five candidates said they oppose the plan.

Ferrell said when he reads the headlines the project “sounds great,” but there are too many “holes in the plan” and he’s concerned about the additional traffic and strain on public safety.

Lewis-Smith said she’s excited about prospects of thousands of jobs coming to the city, but she thinks the money would be better spent on education and housing.

Muterspaw said he “wasn’t impressed” by the presentation made by the developers at a council meeting because there were questions they didn’t answer.

Carter said she had “no full answer,” but she’d like to see more money spent on the city’s homeless.

Mulligan said he didn’t want to comment because he’s on council and needs to vote on the emergency legislation at the next meeting Oct. 21.

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Credit: TOMBAKER

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Rodney Muterspaw

Rodney Muterspaw

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Rodney Muterspaw


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

WORK HISTORY: Small business owner and attorney at law in private practice in Middletown and Dayton since 2011. From 1997-2008, worked in media sales/sales management for TV and cable operations in Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Dayton.

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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