ST. PARIS – Mayor Joe Reneer will seek re-election against village council member Brad Kennedy in the race for St. Paris mayor next month.
A graduate of Graham High School, Reneer said he has enjoyed serving as village mayor for the last 21 months. Reneer lives in the village with his wife and four children who attend Graham Local Schools.
After graduating from high school, Reneer enlisted in the U.S. Army on active duty for just over four years. While on active duty, Reneer did two tours in Iraq.
Reneer said he is running for re-election because village residents trusted him enough to elect him 21 months ago.
“I have enjoyed serving the citizens to the very best of my ability and doing everything possible to benefit the village,” Reneer said. “At the end of the day, the citizens are who I work for and who I represent. With every decision that is made the citizens’ best interests are fully considered and are of the utmost importance to me. This is why I would like to continue to serve the citizens of St. Paris.”
Kennedy also graduated from Graham High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in organizational management as well as a master’s degree in business administration. He has served on council for two years.
Kennedy and his wife, Jamie, stay busy with their son, Troy, who attends Graham Middle School.
Kennedy holds the rank of major in the Army Guard, serving as the operations officer for the state of Ohio MED DET. Kennedy was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he commanded his own company and was awarded a Bronze Star in addition to other military accommodations for his service.
Kennedy is employed as an engineer for a manufacturing firm. He volunteers as a firefighter/EMT with the JSP Fire District and assists as a PRN nurse in the long-term care field.
Kennedy said St. Paris is a wonderful community with a lot to offer, but said there has been a lack of strategic direction throughout the past couple years.
“I believe that I can develop a vision which will bring needed change, transparency and development to the community,” Kennedy said. “We need to improve communication between the administration, elected officials and the residents. Improving these communication links will allow us to build a strong consensus on future direction and an excitement about selling our community.”
Kennedy added there needs to be a concerted effort on economic development, re-invigoration of the Community Improvement Corporation and a push to bring in new business.
“Leveraging dollars through available grant funds would help address infrastructure issues and ease the need to finance large-scale improvement projects,” Kennedy said. “We can’t continue to finance our future while overlooking preventive maintenance efforts and slashing our services.
“Those bills will have to be paid at some point at the expense of another project or service,” he said. “I am committed to exploring pragmatic solutions which can be developed to not only address these challenges, but also market our community and our entire region to have the greatest impact and benefit for all of our residence.”
Both candidates answered multiple questions given to them by the Daily Citizen:
•Describe the current state of the village’s finances. What are some ideas you have for increasing revenue into the general fund?
Kennedy: The village, like many others, has seen a decrease in revenue because of a number of variables including significant cuts to the state’s local government fund, public library fund, and tax reimbursements. These are cuts that have hurt economic recovery in a lot of communities and reduced services across the State. In correlation, the village budget has been impacted with cuts in areas such as the local police department and our ability to provide matching grant dollars in an effort to bring in available state and federal monies. We are financing projects with a shrinking purse and are committing ourselves to tying up our future cash flow. Economic development is a key element. We have to have the appropriate infrastructure in place as well as the ability to market ourselves to site selectors. This will give us the ability to look for potential areas to decrease costs while evaluating additional funding options that exist through the Ohio Local Government Initiatives and perhaps county resources which may be available for specific programs. Working with our Rural Community Assistance Program representatives give us the ability to bring other resources in but, again, only if we are able to produce the required match.
Reneer: At the current time the village’s finances are exactly like the majority of households in town, things are tight. Before any purchase is made we have to establish if it is a want or a need, as well as it had to pass the common sense test. As far as increasing revenue into the general fund, I wish there was a magic pill to do this unfortunately we haven’t found it yet. We need to attract businesses to our village by showing how we take care of the ones we do have. By having pride in our community and working extremely hard to make an environment where our businesses can flourish. That is how we can increase revenue, not by raising citizens taxes but by taking care of what we do have.
•What can village government do to attract more businesses in the village?
Reneer: We can attract more businesses to Saint Paris by showing how we work with the companies who already call St. Paris home. A new business will want to come to a place that responds to their needs, helps them grow and is willing to assist them. Not a place that is there to to take their tax dollars. You can ease a business’s mind by having a proven track record of helping the companies that we currently have.
Kennedy: The Village has the capacity and ability to attract more business into the community by generating a business development plan and partnering with the other agencies for funding, program planning support and other assistance as needed to move the village forward. Those potential partners include HUD which provides guidance on community development block grants, the Ohio Development Services Agency for guidance on cooperating with and assisting our existing and future community businesses, and participation in the community development efforts currently underway through the Regional Planning Commission to which the village belongs. In addition, we need to form an ongoing working relationship with the Community Improvement Corporation of Champaign County. St. Paris would benefit greatly by taking advantage of the many economic development programs, services and funding opportunities which this agency provides. The same could hold true of working with the Dayton Development Coalition which focuses on a wider regional development effort. We have to market our community in unique ways to potential companies and businesses. We need to highlight our rural workforce which is well known for its hard-working ethic, a trait desired by businesses across America and around the world. We need to highlight the positive impact of being a community which is in proximity to a number of major highways and the Dayton International Airport, the schools we have in the area from primary through college level and the benefits of the vast acreage around our village. We need to get the existing businesses involved and engaged in our planning model and explore the ways in which we may incorporate the smart city concepts into our plan that are taking off in communities around the world.
•What is your greatest concern about the village’s present state or potential future? What can the village do to address it?
Kennedy: My biggest concerns are not new to the village. They include pending legislative changes requiring significant investment for compliance; the condition of our streets, water and sewer infrastructure, and the recent discussions regarding the elimination of the police department – a department which I strongly feel holds value to the community. We can capitalize on State programs that the county and village would qualify for and lobby to change those State rules that exclude communities like ours because of the low county population.
Reneer: One of my greatest concerns for our village is the citizens. If we as public servants don’t look out for their best interests then we will be out of a job. The citizens are what makes Saint Paris a great place to live. If we try to constantly tax them of raise their rates of services then eventually the people who make us great will get fed up and will no longer be there. So we as elected officials need to do everything in our power to benefit our citizens not hurt them.
•What is your ideal vision of the village 10 years from now? What can the village government do to arrive at this place?
Kennedy: My ideal vision for our village would see our fiscally sound community grow outward, the housing development completed near State Route 235, and the addition of light manufacturing facilities with perhaps an industrial park in our area. The store fronts would be full of vibrant long term businesses downtown and there would be a sense of communal pride within the village. The village would capitalize on its small town neighborly culture and retain the social capital built over generations rather than see our residents move out over time. A beautified community with a solid utility system, common areas residents may utilize, and perhaps a bike path linked with other communities. I’d like to see the village take advantage of its local neighbors. For example this could be through cooperation with the communities around us or the local State Park at Kiser Lake in which we work together to capitalize on regional improvement opportunities that benefit all involved. In addition, we have a lot of smart energetic people doing great things through their respective offices, local planning committees and our strong faith community. It would be great to see these groups grow and more individuals become excited about taking a constructive part in where they live. It all comes down to establishing that strategic plan around a vision and gaining momentum that will include time, effort and, of course, money to sustain.
Reneer: My ideal vision of Saint Paris ten years from now would not be much unlike today. I want Saint Paris to continue to be a safe place to raise a family. A place where a person can enjoy their retirement. A place where a you can take kids or grand kids for a walk to get ice cream not worry about crime. A place where people are proud to call home. A place that if you move away you think of with fond memories and want to come back to someday. That is my ideal vision of Saint Paris.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.
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