Westerville City Council {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

Westerville voters will choose from seven candidates for four Westerville City Council seats on their Nov. 7 ballots.All four incumbents -- John Bokros, Kathy Cocuzzi, Michael Heyeck and Larry Jenkins -- are running for re-election. They are joined on the ballot by challengers Valerie Cumming, Alex Heckman and Lee Alan Peters.Read more:Westerville City Council hopefuls differ in views of city mattersWesterville council candidates state positions, discuss goals
Choose two candidates from below to compare.
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    John M. Bokros retired

  • Candidate picture

    Kathy Cocuzzi Westerville City Council/Mayor

  • Candidate picture

    Valerie Cumming Freelance Writer

  • Candidate picture

    Alex Heckman Professor

  • Candidate picture

    Michael Heyeck Electric Utility Executive

  • Candidate picture

    Larry C. Jenkins Human Resource Consultant

  • Lee Alan Peters Hospital Materials Manager

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Biographical Information

Many road construction projects in recent years have brought several headaches for city residents. What do you believe would be the most useful improvements to travel within Westerville, including pedestrian access, bicycle accommodation or other roadway improvements?

Westerville is considering changes to the streetscape of the busiest part of Uptown Westerville and has begun asking for input. Design is scheduled for 2018 with construction in 2019. The project intends to widen sidewalks by two feet, improve sewers and meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Some amenities could be added, but at a loss of parking space. Do you have thoughts on what you would like to see take place in Uptown?

At the beginning of this year, council had some intense debates on the use of tax-increment financing deals in the development of Westerville. Some council members voiced opposition; others were solidly in favor. What are your thoughts on the use of TIFs and how they affect Westerville?

What else would you like to say to voters?

Age 65
Education Graduate Westerville Schools Class of 1971.Post High School Education:Hocking Tech,Paramedic State of Ohio firefighter.
Experience Lifetime resident of Westervillle /Blendon township. Retired as Chief Fire Marshal from Westerville Division of Fire with 38 years of service. Extensive knowledge of city operations, budgeting and history. Community volunteer.
Family Married 35 years to wife Linda, 3 grown children Michael, Daniel, Paige
Religion Presbyterian
The improvement and changes in the road infrastructure is a ongoing issue. A large amount of vehicle traffic originates from outside our city limits. We can only improve traffic flow within our city. Improvements to S. State St., Sunbury Rd., and the current project on S. Cleveland Ave. are just some of the examples of improvements.

Traffic improvements should not just be limited to more efficient movements of automobiles. Public transportation should be encouraged and accessible. Use of bikes and other forms of transportation should be improved and expanded.
State Street is scheduled to be paved in 2019 as part of the city’s paving schedule. In the Uptown Plan and the Comprehensive Plan discussed are ideas to make possible changes to the Uptown streetscape. The time to consider any possible changes is prior to the scheduled repaving in 2019.

The city has reached out for public input from the community about possible changes in the streetscape. Those comments will be assembled and submitted to City Council for discussion and decision in 2018, with construction in 2019. There are many factors that need to be considered in this process. Safety, traffic flow, feelings of our community all must be evaluated and analyzed prior to start of the project.
The use of tax-increment financing is a legal way to promote development and the creation of jobs, and infrastructure. To stay competitive in creating jobs, they are an effective tool in the economic development tool box. We have to compete with not only other cities in our region, but with Ohio as well as the United States. TIF’s should not be the first thing that is offered, and should be used for commercial projects only.
As a 50-year resident of our community, I am proud of our heritage and believe that it’s important to preserve the values that make our city such a great place for families, business and education.

At the same time, we need to look ahead at how we can continue to meet the needs of our residents in a world that’s changing fast. We’re fortunate in that we’ve had great leadership in Westerville, so part of our job is to maintain that level of excellence, yet we can always improve.It’s been the greatest honor of my life over the past three years to serve this community on City Council. And what I’ve learned through my decades of service, is that we need leaders who know what it means to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty and get involved in the day-to-day activities of living here; the traffic, the relationship with the schools, the families, the businesses, the service and charitable causes. As your council person, I have loved every aspect of that responsibility. Thank you.
Age 66
Education BA Psychology BA Speech Pathology/Audiology
Experience 12 years on Westerville City Council, 6 years as Mayor. Charter Review Commission, Planning Commission, Parks & Rec Advisory Board. Central Ohio Mayors & Managers Assn.Ohio Municipal Electric Assn. Board of Trustees
Family Husband David. Three children, three grandchildren
Religion Catholic
Road construction is always painful when in the midst of it. These improvements are designed to improve traffic flow & reduce congestion and the completed projects have done that. Westerville is always careful not to undertake more than one major project at a time, so it may seem that there is always road construction until we complete the major upgrades. Right now we are entering into the Cleveland and Schrock Rd improvements. This will be a headache for those who travel that way daily, but in the end will be adding lanes and reducing wait time. The City is constantly expanding its multi-use paths which allow safer pedestrian access and increased bicycle routes. There are almost 30 miles paved so far, with new additions added each year. The E. College path is highest on my priority list to provide east/west access to Uptown. We also need to work with our partners to get the Big Walnut interchange completed and reduce traffic flowing through our City to areas north of Westerville.
Discussion about Uptown streetscape changes came about because State St is scheduled to be paved in 2019. Uptown is the jewel of Westerville, so what, if any improvements/changes we can do to make it better? As with any major project our staff was asked to come up with some plans and then get community response. Many people have given their suggestions and for that I am grateful. My first priority is to comply with ADA requirements and that may include widening the sidewalk, as well as fixing the brick walks so that people of all abilities can walk safely throughout Uptown. I would like to see spaces marked for handicap access. I do not believe in wholesale elimination of all spaces on State St but there may be some areas where it is advantageous to pedestrian safety to remove some. The City has added 197 parking spaces and is always looking for more places for people to park.I'm still processing all the comments and suggestions at this time. Please keep the suggestions coming.
Tax Increment Financing has been useful as an economic development tool in Westerville. Without it there would be no infrastructure in northern parts of the City, nor would we have the many and varied businesses that contribute to our income tax base.The City has used TIFs to spur development in areas of undeveloped land and to stay competitive in today's fierce development market. We are fortunate to live in an area that businesses want to come to. Central Ohio is growing fast and we need to stay competitive. Thousands of jobs have located here and millions of dollars have not only increased our tax revenues, but brought other businesses to the City as well. For example, the building of a medical facility also brings with it doctors offices. A new hotel brings restaurants, coffee shops. And funding from the TIF will repay the City for its costs for new roads and other infrastructure needed.
i am grateful for the support the voters have given me. I take this responsibility very seriously and if I am re-elected, I will continue to work hard for all of our residents and business partners. I truly believe that Westerville is the best place to live and will do my best in the next 4 years to keep it that way. I ask for your vote on November 7!
Age 39
Education BA with Honors and Distinction, The Ohio State University,2000. MFA in Creative Writing, The University of Michigan,2002
Experience Author of "BTW: Stuff You Should Know," an educational current events blog. Delegate, Westerville Parent Council. Service Unit Member, Westerville Girl Scouts. Troop Leader, Westerville Girl Scouts. Graduate of Westerville Citizens' Academy
Family Husband: Mark. Children: Abigail, 13; Mabel, 11; Martha, 8; and Penelope, 5
Religion N/A
Campaign website http://valeriecummingoh.com
As the city continues to grow, we must promote public transportation and other alternative transit options. 60% of millennials say that access to public transportation is one of the most important factors in determining where they will live, but currently, only 20% of Westerville residents live within a quarter mile of a bus stop. I would like to look at investing in a local circulator to move people around within the city and help alleviate traffic congestion issues. A trolley or shuttle to move throughout the Uptown district would enable people to park south of Uptown and then ride a short distance north to eat and shop, avoiding traffic and parking hassles.

Improving walkability and bikeability is also a priority. I am in favor of adding sidewalks and recreational paths to neighborhoods that don't currently have them, such as on College between Spring and Otterbein Ave, and I also support supplementing mass transit with private alternative transportation options, such as Bike2Go.
While I am in favor of bringing our Uptown sidewalks up to ADA compliance, I am against the extra amenities the city has proposed. We all want to live in a pretty town; however, our city currently spends far too much on beautification projects which are expensive and unnecessary. I am also concerned about the impact such a project could have on Uptown business owners. Already, Westerville residents complain about traffic congestion and lack of parking in Uptown and many take pains to avoid the area as a result. Adding another lengthy construction project will cause even more residents to take their business elsewhere. Once the project is completed, the loss of street parking, which is already limited, could be devastating to local businesses. Other suggestions, such as adding bump-outs to corners, would make Uptown even more difficult for large trucks to navigate than it already is. In my opinion, this proposed project is unnecessary at best and detrimental to local business at worst.
Bringing business to Westerville is crucial, but the question is whether or not TIFs and tax abatements are always the best way to do it. TIFs and tax abatements were originally designed as a way to bring businesses to rural areas. But businesses are drawn to Westerville because it is a growing, thriving community with a high average income. My concern is that the city is making the mistake of giving out abatements to businesses which would have come here anyway. Furthermore, the city has no way to independently confirm how many jobs these new businesses are creating, or how many of these jobs are going to Westerville residents. Currently, the city requires a payment to the school district of about 33% of abated taxes. This doesn't make the school district whole. While we all want to see strong businesses choosing Westerville, we also need to ensure that TIFs and tax abatements are used sparingly, and that businesses are paying their fair share to our community.
As the mother of four young daughters, my main goal is to build a strong Westerville for the future. I want to remain committed to our schools and parks, while refocusing our city’s vision from beautifying Uptown to prioritizing the needs of our residents. Public transportation, sustainable energy, providing strong services for seniors, and promoting diversity and inclusivity so that all of our residents feel safe and welcome are all keys to creating a community that will remain strong for generations to come.
Age 45
Education Westerville South H.S. BA, History & Social Studies Education, Capital University MPA and Ph.D. in Public Policy, OSU
Experience Chair, Public Administration Department, Franklin University Professor, OSU; Westerville School Board; Instructor, Capital U; Performance Auditor, Auditor of State; Budget Analyst, Ohio Legislature; Asst. Dir. Otterbein Career Center
Family Wife - Vanessa Heckman Daughters: Alise, Ava, and Arden
Religion Westerville Community United Church of Christ
Westerville needs to do a better planning and executing projects so we can reduce the time and expense arising from having to do rework or paying exorbitant amounts for small pieces of land that are not truly necessary for the project. The best example, of this is the road to nowhere that was built near Starbucks on South State. Better planning would have avoided creating a dangerous intersection that may have to be redone at great expense. A key part of improving traffic is also engaging in better planning and zoning so that we can create more mixed use, walkable developments where residents can access home, work, retail, parks, etc. without having to drive. Such proactive planning can help avoid creating more traffic and road construction headaches. Finally, the city needs to do more to create mobility options for residents. All these steps are critical for creating a more affordable and livable community that will benefit young families and senior citizens.
The factors that should be taken into account when making this decision should be the impact on local businesses in uptown and whether the project is beneficial overall to citizens and taxpayers. We should continue to upgrade the historic and distinctive uptown area in ways that are sensible and that minimize the costs to taxpayers. The current uptown road and sidewalks could be repaired and upgraded for several hundred thousand dollars, while other proposals would cost between $2 million and $3 million. The higher end proposals would include features, such as bump outs, that are not necessary and would eliminate too many parking spaces. We should not remove parking from uptown, particularly parking that is closest to local businesses. Also, the time frame for any construction should be as short as possible, to minimize the negative impact on local businesses. The City should not invest in costly projects that do not appear to have a significant benefit for businesses or residents.
The primary purpose of a tax increment financing deal or TIF is to ensure that the City will provide the necessary infrastructure - roads, sewers, etc. - to meet the increased traffic and service demands resulting from a developed property. For example, land that was green space that is developed into a shopping center has a much greater need for infrastructure as the new development will attract more traffic. If the infrastructure around the development is not improved this exacerbates congestion in the area. Therefore, it is critical to do an accurate estimate of what the additional infrastructure needs will be for the developed property. The value of the TIF should be based on what cost of these actual additional infrastructure needs. We should not abate more taxes that are really needed. Also, we should only grant TIFs when their is a good return on the investment to taxpayers. Finally, the City should ensure that schools do not lose tax dollars as a result of TIF.
I am a lifelong resident of Westerville who wants to make sure Westerville is affordable for young people, families and seniors. One key goal I will have while serving on City Council is to help make Westerville a leader in sustainability and going green. The City should undertake projects to reduce energy usage, increase use of renewables, give citizens renewable energy options, and move toward zero waste in our parks. Done intelligently, these initiatives will save the city and residents money and make our community more affordable for everyone. It will also make a better future for our children and grandchildren.
Age 63
Education MBA (Dayton); Darden Exec Program (Virginia); AEP Mgmt Program (OSU); BS, MS, Electrical Engineering (NJ Inst of Tech).
Experience Experienced leadership on Council including Chairman, Mayor, Planning Commission; Volunteer for many City Commissions and Civic Boards since 1984; Retired AEP Exec after 37 yrs; Started small business for electric utility industry in 2013.
Family Fernanda, my wife of 43 years, & our three children, Jim & Rick (both married), & Laura; In Westerville since 1980.
Religion Roman Catholic
Campaign email mikeh@columbus.rr.com
On my watch, we spent well over $200 million on roads and infrastructure, with tripling the budget for street maintenance and curb replacement. We also built 44 miles of trails for pedestrians and bicycles. We had the foresight to build Polaris, N Cleveland, County Line W, and widen Sunbury, Worthington, and Africa Rds, plus other improvements. This is bound to cause orange barrel fever, but the result is less congestion in the long run. The project many found most troubling (including me) was the S State St project. It was complex due to burial of several overhead electrical lines with undocumented existing underground utilities, compounded by a contractor that did not do well with the complexity. For the future, projects include Cleveland Ave widening, N State St turn lanes, Westar area, Cooper Rd area, Huber Village re-paving, McCorkle extended, and several other road improvements. More trails will be added too. Every year, we update our 5-year capital plan posted on our website.
The Uptown streetscape investment should meet safety, long-term street performance, drainage, and ADA requirements to the extent practical (limited by road width). Over the last 3 years, we increased Uptown parking by 197 spaces, but parking losses and Uptown business impacts for this project should be absolutely kept to a minimum. Some sidewalks are now sloping towards the businesses and need replacement for proper drainage (including development of proper curb heights). Some sidewalks may need repairs or replacement to meet ADA. Slight extensions of sidewalks by one foot may help, but the total of two feet extensions on each side may not be needed, and we should not go further than two feet in my opinion. Travel lanes south of Park are 10 feet wide, and north of College are 12 feet wide. The minimum width is 10 feet, but that may be too tight north of College, with the higher pedestrian use. Ultimately, we want a properly designed road and pedestrian space without wholesale impacts.
Tax increment financing (TIF) provides directed cash flows for needed road and infrastructure improvements to avoid impacts such as traffic congestion from specific commercial development that is designated by the TIF. Property taxes for the undeveloped property are unaffected. Property taxes for the specific incremental development are paid, but directed to an account for limited periods to fund infrastructure. TIFs are not forever, and we typically use non-school TIFs so that school funding is not impacted. If TIFs are not allowed, development (jobs) will not occur (commercial development being highly competitive), and income tax revenue growth to fund Police, roads improvements and city services will stagnate. This places upward pressure to raise income tax rates as others (e.g., Upper Arlington) have done. Westerville uses TIFs in limited ways so we do not need to raise income tax rates. And I will not advocate raising income tax rates.
My family moved to Westerville in 1980, and we remain in the same home in Annehurst subdivision. I have volunteered for numerous City Commissions and Civic Boards since 1984. I have three college degrees in business, finance and engineering. I retired as AEP senior executive after 37 years and started a small business for the electric industry in 2013. On my watch on Council, we increased safety forces by over 50%, we added our third Fire Station, we spent well over $200 million on roads and infrastructure, we added thousands of jobs, and we achieved one of the best financial (fiscal management) ratings in Ohio as established by independent rating agencies (S&P and Moody's). For 33 years, we received awards from the Auditor of State. Let's continue to preserve our safe, family-friendly, small-town atmosphere for Westerville, a "City Within A Park." Re-elect Michael Heyeck on November 7th and see my facebook page >> https://www.facebook.com/HeyeckForCouncil << for more information.
Age 45
Education B.S. of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University
Experience Westerville City Council member since 2009; currently Vice Chair, and served on Planning Commission. Business owner and member of the Westerville Chamber of Commerce. Community involvement through multiple community organizations.
Family Married to wife Tiffany for 22 years and has two children, Son age 15 and Daughter age 11
Campaign email ljenkins@hrserve.net
Traffic is always an important issue for Westerville residents. On one hand they value the strong business economy and local access to retail, amenities, and services but with that comes with the added burden of increased traffic. This situation is exasperated by the high volume of traffic from neighborhoods to the north that must use Westerville roads to access our services and gain access to the greater Columbus area. The City must continue to expand and improve our roadways, even if that means some construction disruption, and invest in infrastructure so that we can continue to meet the needs of Westerville now and in the future. It is also important that we continue to invest in sidewalks, multi-use paths, bike lanes, and bus routes so that we can provide connections to all parts of the City, meet the desires for a more active lifestyle, and encourage other forms of transportation.
Today’s consumer wants to go to a place close to work and home, that is walkable, offers various options, and where they can socialize and dine out with friends and family. Uptown Westerville is such a place, not just for our residents but for the surrounding area. In order to meet the growing demand and stay competitive, the City must improve the accessibility and walkability of Uptown. We also must continue to add space for the growing number of visitors to sit, socialize and enjoy Uptown. In order to accommodate these changes we must address the size of our sidewalks, safety issues with regards to the traffic on State Street, and accessibility to those with disabilities. The growing need for parking and any loss of parking caused by changes must be addressed at the same time by continuing to create new parking options in Uptown through public/private partnerships or additional infrastructure.
TIFs are an effective and efficient way to finance the needed new infrastructure required to support and attract new development and investment to Westerville. Without the use of TIFs the City of Westerville would not be able to be competitive and we would lose economic opportunities to our neighbors. By using TIFs, the City can capture the value of new development and focus it back into infrastructure needs without having to raise taxes on our residents or impacting the ability to deliver the City services they cherish. The City of Westerville has successfully used our economic development tools, like TIFs, for the past four decades and should continue to do so in the appropriate areas and for the appropriate projects.
We are experiencing a time of great success within the City of Westerville. Through careful planning, long range budgeting and conservative financial management, the City has seen tremendous private investment within the City. This year alone we will see two new hotels and multiple corporate headquarters move to or stay in the City. This success allows us to continue to have the best Parks & Rec system in the area, extraordinary City services and a strong finance position. Our five year plan and fiscal policy guarantees that there will be no need to raise taxes and that we are living within our means. As a member of City Council, I would continue to support our economic development efforts and investments in infrastructure, parks, and City services, while maintaining our strong fiscal planning and AAA bond rating.
Age 52
Education The Ohio State University Business, Public Administration - Ohio University Health Care Administration
Family Married to Dawn (Harpst) Peters for 25 years. Two adult sons who live in Columbus
Religion Episcopa
Road construction projects hurt commuters and harms businesses. I believe that creating incentives for contractors to finish on time or earlier and penalties for late or incomplete work might help with construction schedules. Having written agreements with property owners before projects commence might also alleviate some of the issues Westerville has had with imminent domain or with traffic flow from new projects. Businesses should certainty be consulted prior to all construction projects with as long of a lead time as possible so they can prepare their customers for the disruption and create marketing strategies during the construction.

I am all for bicycle lanes to be installed when practical. Having parallel bicycle/walking paths would help with both traffic flow, accommodating walkers, bicyclists and automobiles. I would also like to explore a public transportation option in Westerville that might also reduce traffic.
This topic has come up frequently when I discuss issues in Westerville with potential voters. There is a perception that Uptown parking is already difficult - removing parking spaces does not help that perception. I believe there are two higher priorities in Uptown called for in the Uptown Master Plan. First would be to redo the alleyways for better traffic flow, parking, lighting and streetscaping. If we want to relegate parking to the rear of the buildings, people need to feel safe to park and to walk to the front of the buildings. Improving walkways from the alleyways could also be included in this option.

The second item in the plan called for a parking deck. Having partners, such as Otterbein University and some of the churches in Uptown, could get this project moving forward. Solving the parking issue will take some creative solutions but that needs to occur first before taking away street parking in Uptown. Such proposals may force several businesses to close.
If tax increment financing helps develop infrastructure around a business, I am not necessarily opposed to it. I am more concerned if a business directly benefits outside of the infrastructure. I do not believe that the City should be picking winners and losers when it comes to tax policy. I believe the schools should be made whole, not only in TIF Districts but when tax abatements are offered as well. Each project would need to stand on its own merit. In some cases, I believe that development will happen regardless of City incentives. Other areas of town might need some incentives to encourage investment or redevelopment. With the city down to a very small area of development acreage we need to develop it in a way that makes sense to keep Westerville financially viable yet maintain the small town charm that we have. ,
I believe there is opportunity for Westerville to improve. Creating a sustainability culture in what we buy and what we use as a city will help us leave a better world for our children. Creating opportunities to purchase renewable energy helps with long term energy costs and can lower our utility bills in the future. We need a program to encourage small business development by creating a playbook for businesses so they don't have sort out the complicated process on their own. We can develop a transportation network to move people around the city and take cars off the road. We can welcome all people by creating policies that help out those in need such as sliding scale admission fees to the Recreation Center or Highlands Pool. Westerville is a great place to live but we need to make it more affordable for those who are on fixed incomes.

Please vote for Lee Alan Peters for Westerville City Council
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