The smaller villages in Butler County saw many vacancies on the November ballot, so the councils have begun appointing citizens to sit on the governing boards but it hasn’t been easy.
The village councils are comprised of an elected mayor, six council members, in some cases a treasurer and those with utilities like water service have a three-member board of public affairs. In the Nov. 2 general election, College Corner had no candidates for four council seats; Millville and New Miami each had a single person run for four open seats and Seven Mile had one open seat on the ballot.
New Miami Mayor Stephanie Chandler said her council voted Thursday to appoint two former council members Ken Flick and Wyatt Stewart — who did not go through the election process — and newcomer Victoria Hall who tried to get on the ballot but issues with her petitions kept her off.
“She had pulled petitions and she made every effort to do it the way you’re supposed to do it, but there was an issue with a signature on one of her petitions and there wasn’t time to recollect them,” Chandler said. “I’ll give her credit for going through the whole process, I think she’ll be great.”
According to the 2020 Census the headcount in the four villages is: College Corner, 387; Jacksonburg, 55; Millville, 634; New Miami, 2,217 and Seven Mile, 712.
The villages in most cases are so small it is difficult to get people to want to serve, and New Miami Solicitor Dennis Adams said sometimes you have to improvise.
“It’s an issue that’s happened before, it happens all the time in Jacksonburg,” Adams said. “The Attorney General’s Office and Supreme Court have said essentially if we have a vacancy and it can’t be filled, then the number on council is reduced accordingly, so if we can only fill four then our council consists of four.”
That’s what has happened in College Corner, according to Mayor Jim Jackson. He said since the election they had five elected/appointed council members, but one has since dropped out, so they are probably going to stay at a four-person council in addition to him as mayor.
“No interest; it’s not an issue with me because I’ve been dealing with this for a long, long time,” Jackson said. “It’s not really like the end of the world for me. Now if somebody decides to drop out, it becomes really problematic, but so far everybody that’s on there seems to be on there.”
Millville Mayor Curt Pennington, who was elected in November along with council member Daniel Schmidt, said since former mayor Bob Settles, their village solicitor and another councilmember all died within the past year or so, it has been kind of a “fiasco” trying to figure out what to do. But they have appointed three members and have a full council now.
Seven Mile Mayor Vivian Gorsuch said she received one application for the vacant seat and the council should vote to appoint tonight.
“We will be good go,” Gorsuch said. “We will be good to go with six acting members of council.”
She said there was a time when some people would sidestep the electoral process but she “poo-pooed that,” and stopped the practice years ago.
The Butler County Board of Elections keeps track of all elected officials but it is hard to keep track when so many people are appointed. Deputy BOE Director Eric Corbin said they send out forms every year but sometimes the small villages don’t respond, so it is hard for residents to know who is representing them and spending their tax dollars.
Ohio Municipal League Executive Director Kent Scarrett said especially in the smaller jurisdictions it is hard to get people to serve in what can “often a thankless job.”
“It’s an uphill battle for smaller communities, in larger municipalities there’s a larger field of people who have that calling or that interest, it’s difficult,” Scarrett said. “They still have to deliver the services and the things that residents and businesses depend on. It’s a cliche but it is the frontline of what people live and experience in their daily lives for the quality of life.”
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