Jennifer Wasilk has signaled she will give up her fourth ward seat to seek election in November 2017 as Amherst city council president.
A Republican, Wasilk has been a constant on council for 18 years. Today she both represents Ward 4 and serves as president pro tempore, stepping into the presiding legislative role when council president John Dietrich is absent.
Dietrich, a Democrat, appointed Wasilk to the honorary position four years ago.
First elected in 1999, he has been opposed for president in the general election only once — in 2003, when Republican candidate Dennis Walters sought the office.
The Amherst city council president is a “gatekeeper” position through which legislation flows. He or she not only officiates at meetings but guides policy by calling proposed ordinances to the floor. While the president does not normally vote, he decides whether ordinances live or die during rare ties.
Dietrich said he has not decided whether he oppose Wasilk by seeking reelection this cycle.
“I’ve been there so long. My grandkids are growing up,” he said. “I haven’t decided yet. I have to talk to my wife a little more.”
Wasilk, who has built an email list that reaches 1,500 Amherstonians, said she has “great feedback on the concerns the residents in our community are facing.”
She serves on the steering committee of the Lorain County Safety Council, the Black River Area of Concern advisory committee, and the Lorain County emergency planning committee. She is active at St. Peter United Church of Christ where she volunteers as the choir director for the men’s a capella chorus.
This week, Republican Matt Nahorn declared his candidacy for Wasilk’s open fourth ward seat.
“My passion for local history, coupled with my interest in environmental awareness, drive me to serve my community,” he said.
Nahorn, 27, has never held public office but does hold a degree from Oberlin College and is a docent and vice president of the Amherst Historical Society. He serves on several historical and archaeological society boards and maintains Amherst’s Old Spring historic site. In 2000, he founded the New Indian Ridge Museum and established a private wildlife preserve.
He dedicates time to environmental awareness committees and provides educational talks.
“Amherst is in a unique position to continue responsible growth while promoting our downtown businesses here in the Sandstone Center of the World,” he said. “I look forward to honoring our past while preparing for a strong future, serving the fourth ward.”
All Amherst council seats — including the city’s four wards and three at-large seats — are up for grabs. The carry two-year terms.
Amherst is a statutory city, which means it holds partisan primaries. This year’s Ohio primary elections will be held May 2.
The deadline to file to run for office is Feb. 1.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.