Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Elections Shake Up Fort Thomas City Council, Board of Ed, Seats in Frankfort

A crowd gathered to hear City Council discuss the city's breed specific legislation, just one of numerous contentious issues Council faced this year/FTM file

After what, for some, was over a year of campaigning throughout Fort Thomas and Campbell County, this election cycle has come and gone, and the voters have exercised their democratic muscles and rebooted their government, once again.

This is certainly the case in Fort Thomas, as January will usher in a new city council, with three new faces, a new mayor in the executive seat, a new member of the School Board, new representation on the County Fiscal Court, and a new State Senator in Frankfort.

Campbell County outpaced it's Boone and Kenton counterparts in terms of voter turnout, churning out 44.87% of registered voters. In comparison, Boone and Kenton turned out 37.62% and 39.14%, respectively.

City council incumbents Ken Bowman, Lisa Kelly, and Roger Peterman all kept their seats, but will be joined by three freshmen, Jeff Bezold, John Muller and Adam Meier.

The leading vote getters in order were: Bezold, Bowman, Peterman, Kelly, Muller and Meier.

The freshmen are replacing Councilman Jay Fossett, who decided not to run for re-election, Councilman Tom Lampe, who was elected to the Campbell County Fiscal Court as Commissioner, and Eric Haas, who ran unopposed for Mayor of Fort Thomas. Fort Thomas voters seemed to like the idea of having incumbency represented on council with the departures of Lampe, Haas and Fossett.

Among the new faces on Council, Meier has probably been the most specific and most outspoken about his priorities upon taking office. As early as April, Meier has expressed his commitment to helping residents maintain the character of Fort Thomas' older homes, which has taken a tangible form as his "Pretty the City" initiative.

The new faces on Council will also mean committees, like Public Safety and Finance, for example, will need to be redrawn. While council members can submit requests for seats on particular committees, the roles are ultimately decided by the mayor. It will be interesting to see how Mayor-elect Haas sets up his committees.

The Public Safety Committee, chaired by Lampe until year's end, faced a contentious issue this summer, as council weighed (and ultimately voted against) repealing and replacing the city's current breed specific dog ownership restrictions. The deer hunting issue is also a concern that continues to challenge the committee, which will find new leadership with the new council.

The Law, Labor, and License Committee also faced questions this past year regarding eligibility requirements for city employees and beer sales licensing, and will also find new leadership with current Chair Fossett's departure.

Seats will also open on the Public Works Committee (chaired by Haas), the Finance Committee, and the Public Utilities and Buildings Committee.

For Haas, the current Mayor Pro Tem, taking the mayor's seat will likely be a smooth transition. Haas, a moderate by comparison to some of his colleagues on council, has often found himself in a position to cast decisive votes on contentious issues facing council, sometimes taking the path that would seem to make the least amount of waves.

As the new Mayor, he will continue to find himself in the tie-breaking position. Will he continue to do his best to play "peace keeper" or will he make decisions based on the best information available?

Lampe's move to a county-level seat will see him taking on new issues facing the county that might be less immediate or relevant to Fort Thomas specifically. Lampe made sure to address this on the campaign trail, pointing out how his experience on the Finance Committee has prepared him for larger-scale budgetary decisions, and how Fort Thomas' perceived demographics split between north and south reflect those also perceived on a county level.

The Fort Thomas Board of Education will also welcome a new member, as newcomer John Weyer unseated two-term incumbent Scott Johnson. Weyer secured the final spot of the BoE by an 11-vote margin, over challenger Mary Adams.

The new appointment comes as the district awaits a major, state-funded renovation of Moyer Elementary and an anticipated, similar renovation of Johnson Elementary in the coming years. In this respect, Johnson's unseating comes as a bit of a surprise, as he spent his eight years on the board as Chair of the fundraising task force, and campaigned on his expertise with school funding.

Also significant to the Board of Education's continued efforts to secure funding from Frankfort, Republican Wil Schroder, of Newport, will take State Senator Katie Stine's seat in the General Assembly. While Schroder's campaign touched on the mainstream issues of economic development and the heroin epidemic sweeping Northern Kentucky, it remains to be seen how he will advocate for Fort Thomas specifically, and its schools even more specifically, an agenda Stine was known for championing.

Schroder defeated Democrat, elementary school principal, Highlands grad, and Fort Thomas native Jason Steffen in the race for State Senate District 24, which includes Bracken, Campbell, and Pendleton Counties.

- Written by Pat LaFleur, Associate Editor, and Mark Collier, Editor-in-Chief

2 comments:

  1. Had a great time covering the election and a wonderful time at the results parties last night meeting a lot of readers. Shout out to Mark, who I told I'd mention.

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  2. "Johnson's unseating comes as a bit of a surprise, as he spent his eight years on the board as Chair of the fundraising task force, and campaigned on his expertise with school funding."

    EXACTLY!

    While it is comforting to know that 2,498 discerning Fort Thomas voters recognized the value of experience, expertiese and a proven track record, it is disturbing that 200 MORE voters would make the "horse race" popularity contest between two challengers with A) Far less RELEVANT experience and an end game of stroking their family ego; and/or B) A demonstrated track record of being OUT-OF-STEP with the success stories of the past 8 years.

    Going from $100 million in unmet building needs to perhaps $20 - $25 million AFTER Moyer is completed, (which the State has agreed to do) came as no accident. Eight years of convening Districts from across the region and the state, lobbying at various levels in Frankfort, etc, (not just by me) ALL played a major role in this stellar accomplishment. The CURRENT Board, Superintendent Gene Kirchner, (former) Senator Katie Stine and selected high-profile community members ALL made a difference. Of course we would not wish to continue that kind of success, (not to mention the countless other accomplishments of the past 8 years).

    Having also sat on the Fort Thomas 4th of July Parade Committee over the past decade, I am reminded of a "parade" analogy from Fred Smith, (FEDX Founder):

    "It was just like Pogo the Possum said, 'If you want to be a great leader, find a big parade and run in front of it.' "

    Congrats go out to the new leader of the parade which I helped to orchestrate. You're welcome!

    Should the taxpayers, (voters) ever wish to actually deal with the $3.2 million that we are un-Constitutionally short-changed annually by the state and thereby secure some relief on the additonal 4% in property taxes which you must pay each year, please do let me know, as I would be more than happy to resume the work which has been cut short. As a footnote, having replaced our Senate President Pro Tem with a Freshman Senator, don't expect "talking to officials down state" to do anything different than has been done over the past 24 years as 14 graduating classes have gone from Kindergarten to College while we sit on our hands.

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