BOWLING GREEN - Two Bowling Green State University students are making a run for City Council against two slightly more seasoned opponents.
In the First Ward, which includes much of the campus, Republican Ashley Harlett, a junior at BGSU, faces Democrat Gordy Heminger, a BGSU graduate who works as coordinator for Greek affairs at the university. Mr. Heminger also served two terms on Maumee City Council during his undergraduate years at BGSU.
In the Second Ward, BGSU junior Ashley Gilbert, a Republican, is challenging John Zanfardino, a Democrat who was appointed to City Council in May to replace Mike Zickar, who moved out of Bowling Green. Mr. Zanfardino is a habilitation coordinator at Lott Industries in Toledo.
While a college student has never been elected to represent the Second Ward, the First Ward has had a student elected to council for all but two years since 1988.
"I think it's important that whoever is on council remembers that they have two constituencies - students and long-term residents," said Mr. Zanfardino, who came to Bowling Green from New York in 1969 to attend BGSU.
Ms. Gilbert, 20, a Toledo native majoring in business and prelaw, said she became interested in local politics after joining the College Republicans and volunteering with the Bush-Cheney campaign last year. Because the Second Ward has a mix of students and year-round residents, she said she plans to hold town-hall style meetings where both sides could sit down and talk out their differences.
"I just want to bring everyone together," she said.
Mr. Zanfardino, 54, said he would encourage residents to get to know their neighbors and find ways to foster mutual respect, but he would also make sure the city enforced the laws it has to control the activities that cause friction in the neighborhoods such as noise, vandalism, and illegal parking.
Ms. Harlett, 20, a middle childhood education major from St. Marys, Ohio, said she believes she'd be able to relate to the students in her ward better than a nonstudent.
"They need someone who's going to be in there with them in the classroom, someone who's walking around campus, someone who's going to be like them and know how hard it is to be a student," Ms. Harlett said. "I just want to reach out to everyone in Ward 1 and get their views."
She said if elected she would like to see council revisit the occupancy law that became controversial last year when students learned they were breaking the law by renting homes where more than three unrelated persons lived. Ms. Harlett said she believes occupancy rates should be based on the number of bedrooms in the house.
Mr. Heminger, 28, said he would bring to City Council the unique view of someone who works with students on campus every day but owns a home in the First Ward as well.
Among the growing issues in the area around campus, he said, are, "How do we protect the integrity of our residential neighborhoods? How do we deal with the increased student population. Students need a place to live but we don't want our residential neighborhoods and historic homes turned into rental property."
Also on Nov. 8, city voters will elect two at-large council members from a field of three candidates: Republicans Stanley Bortel and Robert McOmber and Democrat Larry Sorrells. The winners will replace Councilmen B.J. Fischer and Bill Culbertson, who are not seeking re-election.
- JENNIFER FEEHAN