Five face-off in Perrysburg
Written by ALEX ASPACHER Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 30 October 2013 09:40
PERRYSBURG - Three city council seats are up for grabs by two current members and three hopefuls.
Sixteen-year councilor Joe Lawless is joined by recent appointee Sara Weisenburger in seeking re-election, with the two facing challenges from Barry VanHoozen, Rick Rettig and Jim Matuszak.
Lawless, who is finishing his fourth term on council, said the group needs a mixed membership of those with institutional knowledge about government, as well as others with fresh ideas.
"A lot of people think being involved in local government is easy to learn and pick up," he said. "It takes time to figure out how the whole system works, and what you need to do to get things done. Over the years I've kind of learned how to try to get things from point A to point B in an efficient manner."
Regardless in which group a candidate falls, Lawless said Perrysburg residents should look for council members who "do the job well."
Lawless, who serves as president of council, said the group should continue to look for areas where savings can be achieved without sacrificing service quality.
By contracting with the YMCA for management of the city pool, the city saved on personnel costs. When money is freed up, it can be used to upgrade other benefits for residents. Future projects could include new and improved soccer fields and baseball diamonds at Rotary Park, and a citizen committee is already working on a master plan to upgrade the city's parks, Lawless said.
Weisenburger, who was appointed in June to fill a seat vacated by Maria Ermie, said she's grown even more fond of city government over the past several months and hopes to continue for a full term.
"I've found I have a great passion" for working in government and listening to citizen concerns, she said.
Now an at-home mother and bookkeeper for her family's real-estate rental company, Weisenburger said her prior experience auditing governmental entities would serve residents well, particularly when addressing budgets, a yearly task that's presently before councilors.
"I have a good understanding of fund accounting and how budgets work. I'm detail-oriented, and it doesn't bother me in the least to go at the budget line by line."
Weisenburger said she supports involving Perrysburg Township and school officials in creating a layout for future development. Also, as the city moves closer to filling its reserve fund, Weisenburger said she hopes to develop a plan for reducing taxes.
Matuszak listed his own tax expertise as a reason why he would be a good choice to represent Perrysburg residents on council.
"Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to have one councilman who's in the business of helping businessmen run their businesses," suggested Matuszak, who is a CPA specializing in taxation with the firm Matuszak and Koder Ltd.
As the economy continues its recovery, Matuszak said it's important that increased tax receipts be invested in infrastructure like public buildings and parks to benefit residents, rather than using it to hire personnel and grow government.
"Government doesn't tax to get money they need. Government finds need for the money they get," he said.
Matuszak added that the city could do a better job informing residents before council considers issues rather than after decisions are made.
"Council doesn't seem to be motivated to engage the community in the deliberative process," he said.
VanHoozen, an insurance agent, said his job frequently puts him in the position of being a middle-man between people and insurance companies. Along those lines, he would serve as a conduit between residents and their city government, he said.
"I think that type of positioning is also what you do in public service. You represent the city and the schools, but also the taxpayers and consumers."
A 12-year Perrysburg school board member, VanHoozen suggested that his education experience would be a similar benefit. On that board, he worked with people with different backgrounds and values, whose opinions sometimes varied wildly.
"My message has been that we need people that have the ability to make the tough decisions," VanHoozen said. "We need people who are looking for solutions and not problems.
"I'm dedicated to this community and want to help it move forward."
Rettig, a counselor at Perrysburg High School, tabbed his own experience relating to students and their families as a benefit to those who will elect their council representatives Tuesday.
Rettig said he decided to seek the post when council voted to opt out of the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) without an alternate plan in place.
"I felt like that left a part of our constituents behind. I agree we weren't getting our full value," but an alternative should have been selected first, he said.
Rettig praised city administrators who helped Perrysburg get through a recession with fewer adverse consequences than other areas, but he said he could add something by being an approachable leader who's already well known in the community.
If elected, Rettig said Perrysburg matters would take precedence over any of this own thoughts of politics at the state and federal levels.
"I hope to be unpolitical in my approach," he said.
"I'm certainly focusing on Perrysburg issues first."