Mayor of Aurora, two city council members face challenges in elections


On November 2, Aurora voters will have a variety of city and school races to decide, including for the mayor, which will feature Ann Womer Benjamin defending her seat against challenger Keith Packard.

In Ward 1, longtime city councilor James Vaca faces a challenge from Brad Duguay and incumbent Pete French faces a challenge from Richard Duncan for a general seat on city council.

Ward 3 incumbent Reva Barner and Ward 5 incumbent Kathi Grandillo will be on the ballot without challengers.

Mayor: Womer Benjamin vs. Packard

Challenge Woman Benjamin, 68, is Packard, 50, a career software programmer with municipal experience on Lyndhurst City Council. After losing his job due to the pandemic, he is now a school bus driver for schools in the city of Aurora. He also sits on the city’s Architectural Review Board.

“The most important thing I’ve heard from residents is that we don’t have the amenities that they thought we should,” Packard said, adding that building a recreation or community center was part of his plans.

Woman Benjamin also said that a recreation center was among her plans. Several years ago, an ad hoc recreation-focused committee recommended a recreation center along with several other amenities, which she ticked off the city’s to-do list.

“We could look at our options there,” she said of plans for a possible recreation center. “We just had a demand study done for us which we are sort of evaluating. It’s a great discussion. Any type of recreation center or swimming pool is a very expensive endeavor and would require considerable public commitment. “

Other ideas developed by the ad hoc committee include reopening tennis courts, building a playground, and developing what has become Hartman Park, all of which Womer Benjamin lists among his accomplishments.

Packard also wants to make it easier for residents to install renewable energy elements on their properties.

“In fact, we had a man approach us to want to install solar panels on the roof of his house, and we had to refuse because it did not meet our guidelines,” he said. “We really need to see this as a viable option in our city. They only allow solar panels at the back of the house. It doesn’t work for every household in the city.

He said one option to consider is to reserve space to develop a municipal solar panel field or wind farm.

Woman Benjamin said she plans to continue updating and expanding the city’s infrastructure over a possible next term. If he is re-elected, it would be his third term.

“We started installing sidewalks and installed 2.5 miles of sidewalks,” she said. The expansion of sidewalks and the development of multimodal transportation options will continue over the next term, she added.

Other accomplishments of which she is proud include the modernization of four century-old water pipes, a traffic light modernization project and the finalization of a joint economic development district with Bainbridge facilitating the redevelopment of the Bainbridge side of the former property of Lake Geauga.

Packard also said it would be important to balance services with growth going forward, but focusing on police, fire and service personnel, as well as the water supply system and other areas of need.

“I’m not coming here to turn everything upside down,” he said. “I’m more interested in making sure the city is ready for the future. The city wants a new perspective to stand for election. People are looking for other options. I am ready to take the reins and lead us into the future.

Woman Benjamin said she plans to continue the work she started and explore new ways to improve Aurora.

“As I have shown, I have laid the groundwork for a number of things going forward, but there are other things that we are working on that are very exciting for the city,” he said. she declared.

In addition to being mayor of Aurora, Womer Benjamin served four terms in the Ohio House of Representatives.

District 1 municipal council: Vaca v. Duguay

Candidates for Aurora City Council in Ward 1. Incumbent James Vaca, left and Brad Duguay, right.

In the Ward 1 City Council race, residents will choose between city council veteran James Vaca, 78, and Brad Duguay, 52, director of customer service for a local business.

Ward 1 is located in the northwestern part of the city.

Vaca, now retired, worked at Heinen in Warrensville Heights as a meat cutter and assistant manager. He sporadically served on Aurora City Council for 25 years.

It focuses on providing infrastructure and amenities for Ward 1.

“We still have a few streets in Ward 1 that need to be addressed,” he said.

His aspirations for Ward 1 don’t end there, however.

“I worked on a hiking and biking trail to connect East Boulevard to Lake Aurora and the Nautilus Trail,” he said.

He would also like to develop a dog park at Picnic Lake Park.

Duguay pledged to fight hard for improvements to the infrastructure of Ward 1, and said economic development is essential to be able to continue this work.

“If you go through Aurora, some buildings are empty,” he said. “If we can fill these buildings with high paying jobs, they will pay taxes to the Aurora base and they will buy things, lunch, gasoline, dinners. All of this has a ripple effect in generating income for the city. “

Duguay also said it will be essential to continue adding staff to municipal services as the city continues to grow, which is almost assured with the development of Pulte near Lake Geauga.

Vaca said the city’s pace of development appears to be under control.

“It’s not overdeveloped, per se,” he said, adding that there is little the city can do to control whether an individual development goes forward if it complies with zoning laws. existing.

On the economic development front, Vaca said he would like to see development on about 40 acres of vacant land just northwest of the intersection of highways 43 and 82.

General municipal council race: French vs Duncan

Candidates for the Aurora At-Large Council.  Incumbent Pete French, left, and Richard Duncan, right.

In the race for At-Large City Council, incumbent Pete French faces a challenge from Richard Duncan. The members of the general council represent the whole city.

French, 55, was appointed to a vacant board seat in 2020. He works as an account manager for Palmer Holland Inc. Prior to serving on the board, he was on the Aurora Planning Commission.

He said it is essential to ensure that the city’s services grow along with its population.

“A key in my mind is smart growth, balancing residential and economic development in the community,” he said.

Duncan, 68, has worked part-time at the Kent Post Office and has a master’s degree in urban planning which he hopes to use to help the town. In 2016, he appeared on the ballots in Ohio as a presidential candidate.

He said he would like to see the city gain more control over development by revising the zoning code.

“I believe we need to keep an eye on the development of this city,” he said. “It’s a pretty charming and quaint town right now. There is little traffic; as far as I know there is little drug use.

Duncan said he believed it would be possible to preserve the city’s land without the city buying them back, as it has done on several occasions in recent years.

“I would like to use my planning skills to preserve what we have here,” he said. “There is a lot of support for not wanting the city to get out of hand.”

Considering the redevelopment of certain areas may be key to realizing their full potential, French said.

“If there’s a closed movie theater, trying to get a national channel to reinvest and grow into an industry where people can watch Netflix all of these things, you have to get creative,” he said. -he declares.

Aurora’s Cinemark cinema closed at the start of the pandemic, he added.

He said he regularly meets with Holly Harris Bane, Aurora’s director of economic development, to try and do what he can to help.

“I’m really trying to play an active role in looking at the different options for Aurora,” he said.

French and Duncan differ over land conservation. While Duncan would like to control new development via zoning, French said he liked the city’s strategy of identifying large plots and acquiring them to prevent development while giving the city the opportunity to potentially develop more. of parks.

Do you have a business or healthcare story you’d like to share? Journalist Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, [email protected] and @bobgaetjens_rc.

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