A leadership challenge will result in the departure of one of Amherst city council’s two longest-serving members.
Council president John Dietrich, a Democrat who has held the seat since 2003, is seeking another term. He is running against Jennifer Wasilk, a Republican who gave up her fourth ward council seat of 18 years.
The council president calls for ordinances and resolutions to be discussed, presides over meetings, and casts tie-breaking votes.
The News-Times sent surveys in September to each candidate asking for their insights on five questions:
1) What do you believe you can accomplish on city council in the next four years, and why are you the right person to make that vision a reality?
2) What talents, skills, and qualifications do you bring to the table as a candidate?
3) Amherst is very nearly built out, with little developable property remaining. What do you feel city council should do to keep the city’s economy strong and residents happy without raising taxes?
4) Amherst’s infrastructure is aging and must be maintained. What should council’s priorities be when it come to streets, sewers, water lines, sidewalks, and other public utilities?
5) If you could propose any one new ordinance or resolution to affect change in Amherst, what would it be?
Editor’s note: In some cases, candidates’ responses were shortened to adhere to the word limit set by the questionnaire, ensuring all candidates were given equal opportunity.
JOHN DIETRICH Occupation: Retired owner, Wiegand Electric, Amherst Company Education: Amherst Central School, Bowling Green University, Lorain County Community College 1) I believe I have the background, experience, and qualifications to continue to represent the people as council president. I am proud to have been instrumental in bringing LorMet Credit Union headquarters, Lorain Creamery (now Premier Foods), and Precision Auto into Amherst. I will continue to help keep Amherst a destination that people and businesses want to locate in. I am a lifelong resident of Amherst and watching the city grow over the years makes me proud to be a part of all the things that have happened to make our city as prosperous as it is today. 2) I have worked with the city since 1972, serving as electrical inspector and on the zoning board of appeals. I was then elected to city council. I was part-owner of Wiegand Electric for 25 years and owner for 17 years. Learning to work and communicate with workers and the public as a whole, I bring these skills to the city as council president. I have served on numerous boards and committees on a local and national level. I have worked with large and small companies and can relate to both as to what they need to locate to a city like ours. 3) The first thing we have to do is make sure we keep our city in the black with our budget and live within our means. We need to work with our downtown and the Community Improvement Corp. to make the best use of the land that we have available within the city limits. We then need to enter into more JED agreements with Amherst Township and work with them on future expansion of businesses in the township. All the efforts will increase our tax income and keep our city taxes for our residents as low as we can. With providing of utilities to grow in the township, it will also help to keep our utility rates in check. This will be accomplished by working together. As council president, I will work with the administration to keep our city residents happy and our city economy growing. 4) We have addressed our existing sidewalk problems and we are looking at safety problems with areas that do not have sidewalks. This is not an easy fix but is being addressed. Our street repairs are addressed every year and we spend $1 million-plus every year from our street levy on repairs and replacements. We are presently changing out electrical poles that need to be replaced and constantly trimming trees to keep them off our overhead lines to eliminate outages. As far as our water lines, sewer lines, and storm sewers, we are constantly updating them. 5) No response.
JENNIFER WASILK Occupation: Environmental, Health, and Safety Trainer and Consultant Education: MS Engineering Sciences (Environmental Engineering), University of Toledo; MS Zoology, University of Michigan; BS Biology, Phi Beta Kappa Wayne State University 1) The president of city council is responsible for management of the legislative process and assuring that council actions are properly executed and documented. I have the experience and skills to chair city council and ensure that these duties are properly performed. If elected as president of council I would be a voice for my constituents. Constituents have the right to have their voices heard. Whether I disagree or agree, their messages will be taken to the proper authority for consideration. My goal would be less talking and more listening which would be a continuation of my longtime program of caring about, listening to, and acting on behalf of my constituents. 2) Nearly 18 years on city council, during which time I have attended 100 percent of the regular meetings. I’m in my third term as acting city council president (president pro tempore) and have substituted for the current council president more than two dozen times during his absences. I am an Ohio EPA licensed operator in both drinking water production and sewage treatment; I understand wastewater treatment and collection, and drinking water distribution systems. I am a member of the Lorain County emergency planning committee, which gives me additional insight into the requirements of our police and fire forces. 3) We need to attract high-value businesses to the undeveloped commercial land and encourage redevelopment of land that was once flourishing commercially. Environmental stewardship is the key to sustainable development. We need to continue supporting the responsible approaches to land use undertaken by the administration in the past decade. As an environmental professional, I understand that it takes more than lip service to preserve our environment. Having served as chair of the finance committee for five years, I understand the importance of achieving these goals through responsible fiscal management. 4) The mayor and his administration prioritize these actions. Council members are additional eyes and ears for the administration and should be in frequent contact with their constituents to assist the administration in the identification of problems in these areas. If a council member does not make frequent contact with constituents, then that member is not serving them. 5) Council must be cautious about passing new laws. New laws are not the answer to every problem. Before making new laws, council should support the law director and treasurer in their measured, thoughtful work to update and streamline existing laws and remove obsolete laws written for a bygone era.