When young Jacob Heberling needed a heart transplant, Amherst rallied.
Now his father, Martin Heberling III, wants to pay back the city for its kindness. A Democrat, he’s thrown his hat into the race for city council’s open fourth ward seat.
“I want to give back to the community that’s done so much for my family. The last couple of years have been challenging to say the least,” he told the News-Times.
Heberling is unopposed in the May primary. But come November, he’ll face Republican Matt Nahorn, who announced his bid late last year.
Neither has prior political experience. Either could significantly impact council’s balance by taking the seat held these past 18 years by Republican Jennifer Wasilk, who instead chose to run this year for council president.
Heberling, 40, is a 1995 graduate of Amherst Steele High School who now teaches sixth grade language arts and social studies at Longfellow Middle School in Lorain. He holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Ashland University and is working on a master’s in education.
Two years ago, he met Democratic councilmen David Janik and Joe Miller and Republican councilman Chuck Winiarski through a fundraiser for his ill son.
“I met a lot of people in that moment who worked tirelessly for a person they didn’t even know. It blew my away because that person was my son. I said, wow, what can I do? How can I give back? I thought maybe this was a way,” Heberling said.
Another inspiration was his grandfather, Martin Heberling I, who served as a longtime Oberlin Municipal Court judge.
Heberling said he has few complaints about the job the current council is doing. But he’s found, going door-to-door, that yard flooding is a big issue in the fourth ward that still needs addressed; he deals with the same problem on his own property.
Nahorn, 27, is a graduate of Oberlin College with a bachelor of arts degree, vice president of the Amherst Historical Society, maintains Amherst’s Old Spring historic site, and is founder of the New Indian Ridge Museum located at his Cooper Foster Park Road home.
He also is director of the Lake Ridge Academy archive, works with the Beaver Creek Watershed Protection Group, and is a naturalist and guide at West River Paddle Sports in Vermilion.
His passion is for local history, kindled at an early age when his family learned its home was built by Amherst founder Jacob Shupe around 1813.
His interest is environmental awareness. Nahorn has said he aims to promote responsible growth of the downtown business district, “honoring our past while preparing for a strong future, serving the fourth ward.”
If elected, he wants to continue to run “a smooth and efficient city government.” Nahorn said he sees election to the seat as a passing of the torch from Wasilk.
“I think she’s done a great job and I hope to continue many of the things she has instituted in her relatively lengthy time on council,” he said.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Heberling and Nahorn