Candidates chat at chamber event


SUNBURY — Friday’s Quarterly Breakfast of the Sunbury/Big Walnut Area Chamber of Commerce at NorthStar Golf Club had a hearty serving of stump speeches by 15 local candidates leading up to the November election.

Brad Ebersole, of sponsor Consolidated Cooperative, started off the hour by reminding the candidates to look at Delaware County’s housing strategy in their decision-making and that “we’re thankful for growth” as many counties in Ohio are losing population. Before the individual candidates spoke, there were speakers urging attendees to support levies for the city’s Community Library and the Delaware Public Health District.

Three of the four men seeking two seats on the Big Walnut Board of Education spoke next. Zach Duffey said he would bring his business acumen and thinking outside the box to the school board. Incumbent Stephen P. Fujii spoke of his military background and previous experience in the district, including opening two buildings on time and on budget during a pandemic. Brandon Hoge said he liked to make things happen, such as improving safety, encouraging academic competition, expanding trades programming, all without political agendas.

The two candidates for Genoa Township fiscal officer were among those speaking. Challenger Wendell Dalton said he thinks in numbers, was called to run for the position, and thinks it’s unhealthy for the community to have someone in the office unopposed for 16 years. Incumbent Patrick Myers said he’s brought stability and consistency to the position, noting Genoa’s sterling bond rating and that the township is in the best financial position it’s ever been.

Many of the candidates referenced what one called the “tsunami” that is Intel in neighboring Licking County. A common talking point was they weren’t anti-development yet sought smart growth for their respective communities.

Michael Fry said he didn’t like government treating residents near a development like Intel as obstacles instead of as equal partners. Fry, who is running for reelection to Galena Village Council, also said he was instrumental in getting police to crack down on speeding along Walnut Street.

William “Rusty” Bell said Intel is only five miles away from Harlem Township, where he is seeking to replace a longtime retiring trustee. He said Harlem is facing many outside pressures, including an actual tunnel borer.

The three women who wish to be the new Kingston Township trustee spoke. Louise Douse said she wants to be proactive instead of reactive in respect to development, and she wants to add amenities to the new township hall. Maribeth Meluch said her legal experience would help “manage what’s about to hit us” and allow Kingston to stay rural and neighborly. Angela Willyerd said in going door to door she would work for residents to preserve, protect and connect better, the latter by means of social media.

Challenger Steve Mount said Genoa Township hadn’t done any planning for the impact of the Intel campus, only eight miles away. Mount wants to stop high-density development in a non-litigious manner and to avoid challenges experienced by another Intel city — Chandler, Arizona. However, incumbent Renee Vaughan insisted “We are prepared for Intel,” and she promoted responsible development. Vaughan said she is vice president of Delaware County Township Association, using state law to strengthen township governing powers.

Two of the three candidates for two Sunbury City Council seats also spoke. Incumbent Cindi Cooper said she believes the next four years will be crucial in the city’s development. She mentioned current proactive initiatives such as establishing a limited industrial district and a streetscape program around the city square. Challenger Molly Drayer spoke of her love for Sunbury, wanting to keep the small-town feel and make the city a “conservative, wholesome area.”

Speaking lastly was Sunbury Mayor Joe St. John. Although running unopposed for his seat, he thanked the other candidates who were running for their self-sacrifice and dedication as they learn about campaigning and constituencies.

Assistant Editor Gary Budzak covers the eastern half of Delaware County and surrounding areas. He may be reached at [email protected].

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