Middletown council candidates talk about best ways to move city forward

Six candidates running for two seats; two candidates running for mayor.

MIDDLETOWN — The face of Middletown City Council is about to change, and for the first time residents heard from most of the candidates.

There are six people running for the two council seats vacated after Vice Mayor Monica Thomas and longtime council member Tal Moon chose not to seek re-election.

Two people are running to be Middletown’s newest mayor after Mayor Nicole Condrey decided not to run after one term.

On Wednesday night, seven of the eight candidates attended a forum sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton. Jennifer Burg-Carter was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict, according to Rick Pearce, chamber president.

The candidates were asked numerous questions by moderator Michael Pitman, a Journal-News reporter. The questions were formulated by the chamber’s Government Relations Committee based on Middletown issues, Pearce said.

Each of the candidates made strong pitches as to why they deserve support Nov. 7 from voters.

Kristi Asbury, a write-in candidate, said she decided to run for political office because of the “calling in my heart.”

If elected to city council she assured residents “you’re in good hands, you’re in a leader’s hands. I feel strongly that I can lead this community and work with others to do the same.”

Clayton Castle promised to support hiring more police officers, firefighters and the building of an aquatic center. He sees development near Interstate 75 and the continued revitalization of downtown as two keys to Middletown’s success.

“Middletown has incredible potential for a flourished future,” he said.

Jeffrey Wellbaum reiterated numerous times during the one-hour forum that he believes the city needs to hire five to 10 police officers. He was severally beaten up three years ago in front of his wife by youths when they were harassing her in front of their house, he said.

“We need neighborhoods that are safe,” he said during his closing.

John Ferrando said he has worked with numerous Middletown groups, including Middletown Holiday Whopla, Downtown Middletown Inc., and the Middletown Arts Center.

“I care deeply about Middletown, about moving Middletown forward,” he said. “Let’s get together and move Middletown forward.”

Steven West II said for years Middletown sat back and allowed neighboring communities to build major attractions near I-75. He mentioned Austin Landing in Miami Twp., Miami Valley Gaming in Monroe and Liberty Center in Liberty Twp.

He said Middletown missed out on the tax revenue from those “key developments” that could have paid for some of the road paving project and other infrastructure improvements.

The two mayor candidates, Joe Mulligan, who served on council for eight years, and Elizabeth Slamka were asked about barriers that are hurting the city’s progress.

Slamka said when those around the region think of Middletown, negative thoughts fill their minds.

“We have not done a good job of marketing,” said Slamka, who added the city needs more manufacturing jobs and a better plan to handle homelessness.

Mulligan said he took exception to the question. He said according to the 2020 census, Middletown’s population grew by 2,300 residents (+4.7%) since 2010 and the city is experiencing increased income tax.

Then he pointed to the East End where a major $300 million entertainment/retail/residential district is planned. Developers have said 60% of the retail space has been rented before the first shovel of dirt has been lifted.

“We have bright things ahead,” Mulligan said. “These are great times for Middletown.”

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