Three seats on Delaware City Council are up for grabs as representatives for the second, third, and fourth wards will be voted on in the upcoming November election. Chris Jones, the current council representative for the First Ward, is running unopposed.
In the city’s Second Ward, three hopefuls will vie for the seat on council. The incumbent, Lisa Keller, will attempt to hold off newcomers Stephen Tackett and Mike Rush.
The Gazette spoke with each candidate to discuss their backgrounds, reasons for running, and what they would like to accomplish should they win the election.
Keller, a former police officer and teacher, was first appointed to Delaware City Council in 2008 following the resignation of a council member. Since then, she has been re-elected twice and has served in total for more than 11 years on council. Keller has lived in Delaware for 21 years, mostly in the Second Ward she currently represents.
Asked what she is most proud of in her time with council, Keller said the completion of Veterans Park and Splash Pad on South Houk Road comes to mind. Keller said she was the lead on council in the designing of the park.
“After the recreation levy was passed, there was a large chunk of money that the city had to divide up based upon some things that were promised as part of the levy, like the Community Center and some sports fields,” Keller said. “And then I had to advocate for some of the money to be allocated towards building Veterans Park and Splash Pad.
“And when I say advocate, I mean I had to tirelessly advocate. I had to convince council members why it was important to invest in another community park in our city, why it needed to be bigger than they thought it needed to be, and why we need to expand it so it was all-inclusive for all different abilities so that children born with mobility issues or various handicaps would be able to play at that park as well.”
Keller added there have been two community centers — the Delaware Community Center YMCA and the Second Ward Community Initiative — built in the Second Ward during her time on council, with two new park projects in the works for her ward.
She added another accomplishment she is most proud of playing a part in is the construction of two new fire stations in the city, which she said has cut the response times of emergency services from 10-12 minutes to 4-6 minutes.
Keller said she feels the top priorities she hears most often from her constituents is maintaining the character of their neighborhoods, keeping them safe and family-friendly.
As for her concerns, Keller said the “massive growth” in Delaware and “the challenges and opportunities that presents” would be among her top focuses should she be re-elected.
Keller said the challenges or opportunities “depend on how (council) responds to them. I think that unfettered growth strains our services, it adds to the congestion on our roads, and it eats up our green space.”
She went on to say the residential growth needs to be balanced with focused growth for the city’s business sector to keep jobs in Delaware.
Along with the city’s general growth, Keller said she is strongly against council members receiving campaign contributions from the very developers who are pushing for that growth and are “trying to exert influence in our city.”
“What’s at stake in this election is who runs Delaware — big developers or the people,” she said. “I am not for sale and refuse to accept a penny from big developers, their lobbyists, or their attorneys. I do what’s best for the people I represent and not outside interests.”
She later said, “This is still a small town. This isn’t Columbus, where politicians are paid for by special interests. I think that is just as important to maintain as the character of our downtown — the character of our city council.”
For more information on Keller, or for any questions, visit her Facebook page by searching “Councilwoman Lisa Keller.”
Tackett moved to Delaware in 1998 when he was 4 years old and has lived in the city since. He joined the United States Air Force in 2015 and was stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, although he said he continued to live in Delaware and would drive home from Dayton every night because “that’s how much Delaware has always meant to me.”
“Why I want to run is what’s made Delaware so great is that small-town feel,” Tackett said, adding as a member of city council he would have a hand in “keeping Delaware what makes Delaware great.”
“Now, there are Burger Kings going up in people’s front yards, there are apartments being built that nobody can afford,” Tackett said of some of the concerning trends he is seeing.
“One of the biggest things I have heard from people is they can’t afford to live here,” Tackett said, adding he has had two friends move out of Delaware due to the increasing prices and a third currently looking to do the same.
“Delaware needs more affordable housing, and I want to be the one to help in trying to alleviate those money concerns for people.”
Tackett went on to say he wants Delaware to avoid becoming overcrowded in the same vein as areas such as Polaris or Sawmill Road.
“I always tell people I live in Delaware and work in Columbus for a reason,” he said. “I want to keep those two entities separate.”
He later added, “I’ve always felt Delaware has done a really good job … the city is the city, the industrial area is the industrial area, and the suburbs are the suburbs. I’ve never felt overcrowded. I hate going into places like Columbus and you just feel suffocated. The parks, the open spaces, the historical buildings. That’s what I really appreciate about Delaware.”
Tackett said he places high importance on green spaces and will try his best to preserve as much of it as he can within the city if elected.
Asked about the rate of growth in Delaware, Tackett said he wants to see what he deems high-density developments voted down.
“Growth is inevitable, we cant stop it,” Tackett said. “And that would be reckless to try to stop it … but it needs to me responsible. Filling every single piece of land with apartments … we can be responsible about it.”
Workforce housing has been a popular subject in Delaware development of late, but Tackett said the parameters of what constitutes workforce housing needs to be reconsidered when apartments being built in the city cost as much or more than a mortgage payment.
“It’s not workforce housing if we’re being honest,” Tackett said of some of the apartment developments being constructed in the Delaware. “They’re just apartments. Calling them anything else is just a flat out lie.”
Tackett said the most common thing he is hearing from Second Ward residents is the ongoing issues with the Community Center YMCA. He said getting control of recreational services back into the city’s hands is something he would want to accomplish.
As for how he is funding his campaign, Tackett said he believes it would be “unethical” to receive campaign contributions from developers. He said all contributions he has received come from friends and family.
To learn more about Tackett, visit his Facebook page by searching “Tackett for Council.”
Rush is a 51-year-old lifelong resident of the city of Delaware. Rush is the father of three and grandfather to another, all of whom still live in Delaware.
Rush currently serves on the Steering Committee for the city’s Comprehensive Plan, as well as the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
“The city has given so much to me, I feel like it’s time to pay it back,” Rush said of why decided to run for council. “I’d like to be more involved with city government, and the best way I can think of (to do that) is city council.”
“Delaware has an ever-growing population of Millennials and empty nesters, and studies show they both want the same thing,” Rush said. “And that’s not too much square footage in the way of living space. And our zoning code, as it is today, does not offer that. So, I think maybe it’s time we took a look at all zoning codes, which I think may be 10-15 years old.”
Rush singled out the Highpoint Place apartment development, proposed on Bowtown Road, that was before council recently as an example of how he felt the zoning codes might be outdated for what the city’s needs are today.
“(The developers) came up with a business plan after doing some research, and they came up with a square footage plan that was below our zoning code,” Rush said. “It was ultimately decided that because it didn’t meet the zoning code, it should not go through … I think our zoning code doesn’t match what our ever-growing population wants.”
He said of Delaware’s rate of growth, “I think there is a difference between development and reasonable development. Developing just to develop is not too forward-thinking.”
Rush added he felt the city has been “pretty good” about not allowing development that isn’t in the best interest of the city.
Road improvements are among the top priorities he hears from residents, Rush said. The YMCA is also a primary concern, he said.
He went on to say workforce housing and overdevelopment have come up often as well.
As for campaign contributions, Rush was asked about his relationship with Ron Sabatino, a developer who has ties to projects in the city and held a fundraiser back in August for Rush.
Rush said he met Sabatino through a mutual friend a couple of years ago, and what he likes about him is that he “doesn’t pull any punches. He tells it like it is.”
As for any potential conflict of interests in regard to his relationship with Sabatino, T&R Properties, or development attorney Steve Cuckler, Rush said there would be no such conflicts.
“People like Mr. Cuckler, Mr. Sabatino, and even the Builders Industry Association, they’re not looking for yes people,” Rush said. “They’re looking for people to work with, to not come before them and have people work against them. Let’s work together to make this city better than it already is.”
Rush said he is looking forward to the rest of the campaign season, knocking on doors, and making new acquaintances.
“It’s been fun, and I have nothing against the current Second Ward representative, Lisa Keller,” Rush said. “I think she has done a fantastic job. I just think it is time for a fresh voice.”
To learn more about Rush and to interact with him, visit his Facebook page by searching “Friends of Mike Rush.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.