With the First Ward seat on Delaware City Council up for grabs in November, two candidates are vying to fill the vacancy. The seat was formerly held by Chris Jones before his resignation in June sent the remaining council members scrambling to appoint an interim representative to serve until the Nov. 2 election.
Stephen Tackett was ultimately chosen by council and appointed to the seat, and in November, he hopes to continue his service by being elected to serve the remainder of Jones’ term, which expires Nov. 19, 2023. Opposing him is Linsey Griffith, who was one of six candidates to be interviewed by council for the interim seat this summer.
Tackett said of his interim appointment, “It’s been interesting. There have definitely been some tough days. It’s tough trying to make everyone happy when you know you can’t make everyone happy. But if I didn’t think I could handle it, I wouldn’t have gone through the appointment and now try to go for reelection. At the end of the day, I’m still serving the community that I grew up in, and I think that, alone, is worth everything that’s gone on. I’m loving it.”
He said the role has been what he expected it to be “in some ways,” although the “intensity” of some projects has been eye-opening at times. “I will say I didn’t expect to get thrown right into it, but what better way than trial by fire,” Tackett said.
Prior to being appointed, Tackett said there was “no question” he was going to run for election in November.
“When I saw the appointment process, I had just recently moved back into my childhood neighborhood … ward one is the ward I grew up in. Being able to help take care of the area that I grew up in was a big plus for me. One of the things I’ve been saying is, ‘I want to take care of this place like it took care of me.’”
Tackett isn’t new to running for a council seat; he ran unsuccessfully for the Second Ward seat in 2019 but was defeated by current Councilwoman Lisa Keller. Asked how that experience has helped him with his current race, Tackett said he was admittedly naive the first time around.
“I learned that there is a lot of hard work that has to go into it,” he said. “Sometimes people are going to take some shots at you. You have to be willing to address them. You just have to take it and respond appropriately. Taking criticism was something that I definitely learned to deal with better during the last campaign. You just have to remain strong in your beliefs and do what is right. Hold true and do right by the people of Delaware.”
If elected, Tackett said he wants to bring more diverse housing options to the Delaware market. “That’s a real problem right now. The Gen Z (residents), the Millennials, and the fixed income folks, that’s a problem for them. We need lower-income stuff,” he said.
In addition to bringing more affordable housing to the city, Tackett said he wants to tackle the ever-pressing matter of parking in downtown Delaware. While he acknowledged a parking garage may be a “pipedream” given the costs associated with such a project, Tackett said if there is a way to “finagle that in,” he would be all for it to “keep folks spending money in Delaware.”
“I talk to a lot of folks who won’t even go downtown on a First Friday or a Saturday because they know parking is going to be atrocious,” Tackett said. “They just go to Polaris or Columbus, and that’s money that we’re losing out on. Especially with everything that’s happened over the last two years, our local businesses need those dollars to stay here.”
As for taxes, Tackett said he wants to avoid raising taxes in the city. Rather, he said growing the tax base by bringing businesses into the city’s industrial park, making better use of the airport, and attracting “some big name data center or headquarters into that area” would be a win for all in Delaware.
“That’s something that’s obviously not going to happen overnight, but I would love to help facilitate something like that and be more inviting for a business to come in,” he said.
Asked what he is hearing most often from residents in the First Ward about what they want to see from council, Tackett said the recently proposed 272-acre Addison Properties development remains a common thread.
“Since day one, the biggest thing is (residents) want accountability and for the city to do right by them with the Addison project,” Tackett said. “And I absolutely agree with them. … These are folks who are keeping tabs on it and all the kudos to them. Typically, people will complain and then they’ll taper off. But the Shelbourne Forest activists have absolutely knocked it out of the park by keeping on commissions, on folks. They’re emailing all of their questions and concerns, they’re sending all kinds of petitions. You just don’t typically see that now, but these folks really care, and they want to be sure their voices are being heard. I want to be there for them and make sure they know their voices really are being heard.”
This campaign marks Griffith’s second foray of sorts in running for elected office. She once ran for mayor of a village she lived in previously, and nearly won, she said. Despite the loss, Griffith called the campaign “a great experience,” which led to working together with the mayor on things such as writing MORPC grants for the village and launching a farmers market in town.
“It was a great experience with life lessons, and it helped improve the place I lived,” Griffith said.
Griffith, who moved to Delaware in 2015, is the owner of the Ohio Doula, which “serves birthing people through the birth years” with labor support, postpartum support, and childbirth education, she said.
When Jones stepped down in June, Griffith said the decision to apply for the remaining term came at the urging of friends in the community who saw her as a potential asset to the city.
“When Chris Jones stepped down from the ward one seat, several of my friends that work in the community reached out to me and were like, ‘You really need to apply for this. You care a lot, you’re knowledgeable, you have the education and experience, and we need people like that on council,” Griffith said.
“My opponent was appointed, and it was obvious that there was definitely a preference for a certain type of candidate during that process,” she said. “And so, I wanted to make sure that the residents of ward one had a qualified, educated, ethical, honest option for city council. So I decided I would go ahead and run so that my neighbors could have a great option, somebody who would truly listen and fight for them.”
Griffith said she doesn’t believe she is working at a disadvantage given Tackett’s appointment earlier this year. “I think my qualifications and experience speak for themselves,” she said.
According to Griffith, the two biggest issues currently facing Delaware are development and infrastructure. Specifically, Griffith pointed to the Addison Properties proposal and the recently-approved Park View subdivision as examples of the development coming to the First Ward.
“We have a lot going on here, and we need to be considerate of the residents who live here. We need to be considerate of the landowners, and we need to focus on smart and sustainable development that will bring in the tax base to the city but not at the loss of the identity of the city,” Griffith said. “I really want to focus on long-term planning, smart and sustainable development, and holding developers accountable to the city instead of giving away financing to developers. Having them truly invest in our city, and making sure that we have some affordable housing options, too.
“Right now, we don’t have anything that is available without a waitlist that would be considered affordable housing in Delaware. And yet we already know that we have a huge deficit with an additional projected 600 units needed in the next five years, so that’s a huge issue.”
As for infrastructure needs facing the city, Griffith said the city can’t maintain the roads it already has, yet is looking at building an additional 40 miles of roads in the next five years. Asked how the city can address the issuing of financing infrastructure improvements, Griffith said there are three ways to balance a budget — increasing the tax base, cutting spending, and raising taxes — and all three are needed. However, Griffith said any potential tax increase should be a decision left to the voters in the form of a levy.
In addition to development and infrastructure, Griffith said she has often heard from residents in the ward about the need to preserve the limited wetlands and tree canopies, something she is already working to protect.
“We want developers to invest in Delaware and make money, but it can be done in a way where we protect our natural resources and it works for our residents,” she said.
Griffith went on to say, “I’m available, I’m open, and I am honest. I don’t play dirty politics, and I want to be my neighbors’ advocate on city council. I’m always listening with a nonjudgmental ear because of what I do for a living. That’s what I do, and I help people find the resources that they need.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.