Delaware’s First Ward representative on the City Council will be decided by residents on Election Day. Two candidates — Dustin Nanna and Linsey Griffith — are vying to fill the role, and both have previously run for council seats. Each candidate spoke with The Gazette to discuss their campaigns and what they’d like to accomplish in Delaware if elected.
Nanna ran for an at-large council seat in 2o17 but said he was “pretty young and didn’t really have much of an idea of what I was doing.” However, despite the loss, he was encouraged by the results and remained active in the local government, serving on a board or commission since 2018.
Nanna served on the city’s Steering Committee before being appointed to the Board of Zoning Appeals. This spring, he was appointed to the city’s Planning Commission.
“It’s about pounding the pavement, getting out there, and figuring out the wants and needs of the community,” Nanna told The Gazette of how he’s approached his second campaign. “I came into that campaign kind of with my own vision rather than what the proper role now is for a council person, which is to figure out what the community wants and then take that back to the City Council.”
His time on the Planning Commission has given Nanna “great experience” with the procedural elements of serving on the council. Nanna also noted that everything involving land use in the city comes through the Planning Commission prior to heading to the City Council.
“I think my experience there is invaluable,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun, honestly. I’m kind of a nerd about this stuff, so I enjoy spending my time doing it and knowing what’s going on in the city. Hearing it first through Planning (Commission) helps me to get a grasp on what’s happening even before the general public hears about it.”
Asked what he sees as the biggest challenges facing Delaware, Nanna identified the revenue shortfall as the primary obstacle.
“We’re projected to be running at a deficit in the very near future,” he said. “City Council is currently proposing a five-year tax increase to kind of shore up some of the issues we’re facing, chiefly roads. We’ve been running a road deficit for a very long time, at least as long as I’ve been involved and probably before that.
“Tackling that revenue situation is top-of-mind for me. It’s tough because nobody wants to increase taxes; I don’t want to increase taxes either. I wish we could increase our tax base and find a way to bring more than just residential (tax revenue) into Delaware.”
Nanna believes the city needs to “be careful” with how it’s approaching the challenge of growth in Delaware, saying, “Growth for the sake of growth isn’t sustainable.”
“We have to be careful about what we approve and how we approve it, how we look at things, and try to adhere to the current zoning as much as possible unless a project is truly beneficial for the city,” he said. “It’s great that we can have some of the developments come in and help complete some of our thoroughfare plan, but once that’s done and the roads are completed, there’s maintenance on top of it, which just makes our road deficit even bigger.”
Nanna went on to say many residents don’t feel like their opinions are being heard when developments come before the council.
“There doesn’t seem to be anybody acting as a liaison between the people currently living here and the developers who want to come in and build something,” he said. “I want to be that person for them. Not everyone can make a City Council meeting at 7 p.m. or all the other various boards and commissions throughout the week, so I want to represent what they want and be a sounding board for them.”
Griffith is back for her second attempt at securing the First Ward seat on the council after being defeated in 2021. While she may have come up short, Griffith said there was plenty to take away from the campaigning experience.
“I feel like the first time, we weren’t very prepared to run, and we didn’t really know what it took to run in a city of this size,” Griffith told The Gazette. “There were lots of lessons learned. I’m still running a very lean campaign with not a ton of funding because I don’t accept any kind of funding from developers, large businesses, or anything like that. It’s very grassroots. But we’re being much more intentional, doing things like targeted mailers and targeted canvassing to registered voters instead of just trying to do kind of the scattershot approach.”
Asked how the challenges she hoped to address as part of her last campaign compare to what she is seeing today, Griffith said she believes the situation is worse now than before.
“My biggest issue that I’m running on is development and growth,” she said. “I am absolutely pro-development and growth, but I am pro-intentional, functional, smart, sustainable development that serves our city and increases our tax base. I am not for unrestrained growth that only financially benefits out-of-town residential developers, drains our tax base, and puts a larger strain on our city services. Unfortunately, we’ve had 20 years of that in Delaware because nobody in leadership feels like we can hold developers accountable.”
Griffith said Delaware doesn’t have the same “regulations and requirements” for residential development that other communities in the area require developers to abide by.
“I’m not advocating to make it hard for people to do business and build homes in Delaware,” she said. “I am advocating for these residential developments to not be a financial strain on the city and for us to focus more on economic development. We have more potential than being a bedroom community of Columbus.”
Griffith praised Delaware’s “incredible” economic development team, which she called “small but mighty.” However, she said their annual budget does not afford them the ability to provide build-ready pads to attract companies to Delaware.
“That’s ridiculous,” she said. “We need to invest in economic development, but we have a great team in place that is doing amazing things with very, very little. If we’ll invest a little bit in them, and we invest in public-private partnerships, we’ve seen it work in Dublin, seen it work in New Albany and Westerville. It’s worked in the city of Columbus.”
She added, “These public-private partnerships don’t mean we have to use taxpayer money to do it, but there has to be some kind of investment from the city, whether it’s resources, time, energy or money. We need a Cardinal Health, we need an Intel. But what those companies want is mixed-use developments and areas where people can live, work and play. Right now, Delaware does not have that. We have residential areas, and we have commercial areas. That is it.”
With her educational experience in economic development, Griffith believes she is “well-equipped” to help Delaware grow in the right direction. She added that her professional experience as a doula and healthcare advocate makes her used to “speaking truth to power in a very polite and positive way where we create collaboration and get positive outcomes.”
“When I’m doing that at work, I’m doing it in a way so that people aren’t having medication interactions, and we’re not getting hospital-required infections,” she added. “A lot of times, it’s life or death. So it’s even easier to be polite and collaborative when it’s not life or death. To me, that’s something I do every day, speaking truth to power but also building teams and helping people get what they need in a way that serves everybody. As a council member, I’d just be doing that on a city level. I’m representing the needs of the community to outside interests.”
Griffith went on to say, “I’m open, honest, and authentic. The reason I’m running is because I’m raising kids here. I’d like to retire here. I’d like this to be a wonderful place for my kids to live. I grew up in a town that was dying, and I could not wait to leave. That is not what I want for my children. I want them to be proud of their hometown, love where they live, and be willing and wanting to come home. I think everybody who has invested in the community feels the same way.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.