FOSTORIA - Mayor John Davoli, who has presided over a continuing budget crunch, layoffs, and plenty of controversy, will have to get past two opponents to win a second term.
The former teacher and carpet cleaner is opposed in the Republican primary by Casey Keckler-Yerkes, 25, a graduate student who thinks the city needs better planning and communication with council and residents.
If Mr. Davoli, 41, survives the May 6 primary, he'll face Barbara Marley, a Democrat who was mayor from 1990 to 1995. Mrs. Marley believes the city needs a mayor who's less of a hands-on leader than Mr. Davoli, who has gone on drug raids with police and acted as his own zoning inspector.
According to Mr. Davoli, Fostoria already has the right person for the job.
“I've been married for 18 years, I ran a small business for about 10 years,” he said. “Those life experiences have made me a better mayor.”
So has the challenge of dealing with plunging revenues and the Nov. 10 tornado that pummeled the city, the mayor said.
The city laid off more than a dozen city workers, including police officers, dispatchers, and street employees, in 2001-02, and made up a $1.7 million budget deficit last year.
“When times got tough last year, with the layoffs, with the tornado, that helped me,” Mr. Davoli said. “The bottom line is, I really love the job, and I've been an active, hard-working mayor.”
Mr. Keckler-Yerkes, who is making his first run for office, argues that the city could use a change, and that he has plenty of governmental experience.
Besides his studies at Bowling Green State University, Mr. Keckler-Yerkes is a teaching assistant at the school. He works as an intern with the Fostoria Economic Development Corp. and the village of North Baltimore.
In addition, he was an intern with the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and spent nearly two years as a probation officer with Seneca County Juvenile Court.
“All those encompass the major elements of governmental management,” Mr. Keckler-Yerkes said. “I've got more education than Mayor Davoli, I've got as much or more experience than Mayor Davoli did going into it, and as far as maturity, I think I've got as much as him, and he's 41.”
The mayor's response: “The fellow running against me is 25 years old. My experience is actually going out on the drug raids and being there at 3 in the morning and seeing what's actually going on.”
If elected, Mr. Keckler-Yerkes said he would ask a local university to develop a strategic plan for Fostoria. He also would try to tighten city spending, and focus on cleaning up blighted neighborhoods.
In some instances, the Republican challenger said, Mr. Davoli's administration has failed to communicate with city council members and residents. He cited the recent endorsement of plans for a housing project in east Fostoria.
According to Mr. Keckler-Yerkes, the mayor and his aides pushed council to back the project, which includes low-income housing units, without a full public debate.
“At this point, I'm against it, solely because I feel the community was misinformed and council was misinformed,” he said.
The mayor said council had plenty of time to consider the issue. “Council knew about it a couple days after I knew about it,” he said. “Then they had a two-week time period to study it.”
The winner of the GOP primary will face Mrs. Marley, an attorney who is unopposed in the Democratic race. Since leaving the mayor's office, Mrs. Marley, 55, has served on the Seneca County Regional Planning Commission and has been on the Fostoria Civil Service Commission for the past several years.
If returned to the mayor's office, Mrs. Marley said she would take a lower-key approach to the job than Mr. Davoli.
“I just think he has a different style than I do. ... The folks that are trained to do various things - police, fire, water treatment - I believe I would listen to them a little more than he does,” she said. “He's probably more hands-on, and I guess I look at it more as an administrative job.”
She also said she'd take a different approach to the budget, arguing that Mr. Davoli waited too long to reduce spending.
“We need to be realistic and start making the cuts in January instead of June,” she said.