Perrysburg Mayor Jody Holbrook says the city is more in tune than ever with its residents, but his opponent in the November general election is singing a different song.
Jonathan Orser, who is seeking a return to the mayoral position, contends that city officials are failing to reach out to all of its taxpayers.
Based on conversations with residents during his door-to-door campaign, Mr. Orser said he has developed a feeling that city government is not interested in the wishes of people who live in the newer sections of the city.
Some of those people, he says, are feeling left out, such as residents who live near a new bikepath.
The residents, he said, were unaware that the path was being proposed.
All citizens in the city, Mr. Orser said, have the right to be represented by Perrysburg's government. If elected, he plans to make sure that residents are contacted personally when action is contemplated in their neighborhoods.
Letters could be sent out to obtain initial comments, but that should be followed up with “going out and ringing doorbells,” Mr. Orser said, noting that the effort to communicate with residents needs to be coordinated and organized to be effective.
But Mayor Holbrook contends that city officials are effectively working together with residents to make progress in many areas.
There has been a noticeable improvement in the attitude of the people in Perrysburg in the last couple of years, Mr. Holbrook said. It's a feeling of pride for the community, he said, noting that that feeling was clearly evident during a recent memorial service to honor victims of the New York disaster.
Mr. Holbrook doesn't hide his passion for Perrysburg. He proudly proclaims his adoration for the city in which he has lived since 1972.
“It's my hometown. For some reason, I absolutely love it,'' he said.
He also loves being mayor, and has no plans to use the position as a stepping stone for higher office. “I just want to be mayor.”
Mr. Holbrook, 58, chief executive officer of Cornish Containers in Maumee, said Perrysburg has made real progress since he became mayor nearly two years ago.
Mr. Orser, 59, was appointed mayor in 1998 after former Mayor Reeve Kelsey resigned to become a Wood County Common Pleas Court judge. Mr. Orser served as mayor from December, 1998, to December, 1999. During a city primary in 1999, Mr. Holbrook and Judith Verkin outdistanced Mr. Orser to pare the list of mayoral candidates from three to two.
Mr. Holbrook, a former councilman, was elected in the general election to finish Mr. Kelsey's unexpired term that ends this December.
Mrs. Verkin, a former councilwoman, is one of six candidates running for three seats on council. Mr. Orser was a Perrysburg council member for 11 years.
The mayor is paid $16,000 a year now; the salary will increase in January to $21,000.
If elected, Mr. Holbrook plans to pursue three priority projects.
“One is to embrace our need for economic development,” he said. The city will be looking at development possibilities along the State Rt. 25 corridor, he said.
Secondly, the city's comprehensive plan needs to be revised. “We're on the brink of getting that done,” he said. And, the city needs to draw up a five-year capital improvement plan.
“We're working on developing such a plan,” he said.
Officials also are looking at upgrading city facilities, such as the police station, water division building, and municipal building, he said.
As mayor, he would work to make sure those projects are done as “efficiently and economically as possible,” he said.
Mayor Holbrook also plans to continue efforts to keep the downtown area thriving.
Mr. Orser also is interested in the downtown area. “I would like to see an increase in efforts to market historic tourism,” he said.
The town's collection of homes with Victorian architecture, along with Fort Meigs, are assets that should be promoted to draw tourists, he said.
In addition to drawing tourists, Mr. Orser, if elected mayor, would like to draw industries to the Route 25 corridor to help raise the tax base.
A primary goal for him: filling the economic development director's job.
When he was mayor, he attended trade shows with the city's economic development director, he said, to encourage interest in the community.
By bringing in more revenue, the city could have money to pay for projects such as completing the park system, Mr. Orser said. The park project would require a “lot of citizen input” and a lot of research, he said.
Mr. Orser said he wants to hire more police officers and look into the possibility of expanding the police station.
During his campaign, he has been repeatedly asked for his opinion on the city's annexation and utilities agreements with Perrysburg and Middleton Townships and the Northwestern Water and Sewer District.
Mr. Orser said that there was a perception that he had personally attempted to expand the city's level of annexation when he was previously in office.
The new annexation policy, he said, is a policy that was set by council, Mr. Orser noted.
The mayor will have to follow the new annexation policy until council chooses to change it again, Mr. Orser said, adding that annexation issues will only resurface if council changes policy or if the townships break the agreements.