Area villages experience candidate shortages, council members to be appointed

The small villages in Butler County had a tough time fielding candidates this year, so some of the mayors will be appointing council members to serve the public, rather than voters making the choice.

The village governing boards 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 that’s already filled.

As of Jan. 1 there will only be two council members and College Corner Mayor James Jackson running things. According to the Secretary of State guidelines, when vacancies occur the remainder of council makes an appointment, if the vacancy isn’t filled after 30 days the mayor appoints. Jackson said he routinely has to appoint councilmen.

“It’s been an ongoing issue for a number of years, at one point we had six (vacancies),” Jackson said. “There’s just not much enthusiasm. There have people been appointed over the past umpteen years.”

Jackson said some of the current members probably want to stay on council but he will accept applications as well. There was a candidate line on the ballot for the public affairs board but he said they dissolved that entity.

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New Miami Mayor Stephanie Chandler said the virtually barren ballot for her village appears to be an oversight by some of the current council members, who failed to submit the necessary paperwork to the Board of Elections to get on it.

“If you want to be an elected official or continue in your role as an elected official, I don’t see why you can’t do those bare minimum requirements necessary to ensure that you stay in your seat,” Chandler said. “I was quite disappointed to see the ballot when I went to vote yesterday that it only had one person.”

New Miami Village Solicitor Dennis Adams said he knows two of the councilmen want to remain on the board but he hasn’t heard from the third. Vice Mayor Barbara Schick received 96 votes and the two people running for the two seats on the public affairs board, Eugene Beurlein and Donald Fox garnered 76 and 95 votes respectively.

He said there shouldn’t be a problem filling the vacant seats, they never have in New Miami, but he said there have been situations where the size of county government had to be adjusted.

“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.”

On Tuesday, Jacksonburg had a full slate of candidates for mayor and four council seats — each candidate received two votes in the tiny village. According to the 2020 Census the headcount in the four villages is: College Corner 387, Jacksonburg 55, New Miami 2,217 and Seven Mile 712.

Vivian Gorsuch, who has been Seven Mile’s mayor since 2004 and was on council for 8 years prior, said the one open seat was filled already because it had been vacated. She said they have had four open ballot slots previously because the candidates forgot they needed to run again.

Years ago she said some would skip the ballot process on purpose, “but I stopped that.”

“I poo-pooed that,” Gorsuch said. “Only the oldest ones that had done it for years and they’re now gone, would just not run, not spend the $35 or whatever it was, and then reapply for that position in January.”

Ohio Municipal League Executive Director Kent Scarrett said especially in the smaller jurisdictions like villages 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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