Christopher Washington

Following this summer’s resignation of Oxford’s city manager, Oxford City Council will see even more change come this November.

Scheduled for Nov. 6, this year’s city council elections hold three seats open-two councilor seats and one mayoral seat.

According to Oxford’s charter, members of city council are only eligible for two consecutive terms, equating to an eight-year period.

Due to these term limits, City Councilor Dave Prows and Oxford Mayor Jerome Conley will be required to step down from council this fall.

“The council selects the mayor from amongst (the council) itself,” Conley said. “Once the new council is sworn in, the council will go into executive session and choose the new mayor.”

Even though City Councilor Alan Kyger is still eligible for another four years with the council, it is not expected that he will run again.

However, the three seats available for new members of council have seen little interest among the Oxford community.

Nancy Piper, administrative assistant for the Butler County Board of Elections (BCBE), said Oxford citizens-including any Miami University student-who wish to obtain a position on city council are required to apply through the BCBE no later than Aug. 23.

Piper explained interested candidates are then required to acquire 50-100 petitions from Oxford residents to endorse the applicant. After the petitions are received, the BCBE office verifies each petition originated from an Oxford resident.

“When people sign their petitions, they’re not committed to that person,” Piper said. “But they are signing a person’s petition for them to qualify to get on the ballot.”

Following verification, the petitions are sent to the board members for certification where the candidate’s name is placed on the November ballot.

This process is required by Ohio’s secretary of state to ensure the validity and sufficiency of each petition, according to Piper.

Yet so far this process to become part of Oxford City Council has only been undertaken by a few. A list of upcoming candidates for the BCBE currently shows only five Oxford residents who wish to join the Oxford administration, yet according to Piper, none of the petitions have been submitted.

Kyger said this lack of interest stems from the negative perception many Oxford residents have of city council. He said council meetings are often times filled with complaints and discontent and that many people will not want to be subjected to the criticism.

“I think the citizens are shying away from (running for city council) right now because I think city council gets blamed for a lot,” Kyger said.

Vice Mayor Prue Dana echoed Kyger’s sentiments commenting on the amount of responsibility that is attached to city council.

“It takes a tremendous amount of time,” Dana said. “When you have a family or other obligations … it can be difficult. It’s a commitment having to be here the first and third week (of each month) and having to serve on committees of council.”

In addition, Dana said there has not been an interest expressed from current members of council to succeed Conley as mayor. If there is no specific candidate for mayor, city council will still choose from among its members to fill the position.

And while Dana said a thick skin is required to serve in government because of the criticism involved, Richard Keebler, an Oxford resident and candidate for city council, said he is willing to contribute to the city.

Keebler, who has spent 35 years with the Oxford fire department and is a former Miami director of business services, said he has the understanding required to govern Oxford.

“I’ve been involved with the city for a long time,” Keebler said. “I’m a lifelong resident and I think it’s important that people run for council and do their part. I don’t have any specific agendas, I’m just trying to do my part as a citizen.”

But Greig Rutherford, another city council candidate and Oxford resident, said he will bring his professional experience to council if he is elected. As an architect, Rutherford specifically said he hopes to impact issues pertaining to uptown planning and zoning within Oxford’s limits.

“I hope to bring objectivity and an appreciation for the rule of law and its equitable application to all of the citizens of Oxford,” Rutherford said.

Furthermore, Rutherford said he hopes he can assist Oxford to become more efficient as a modern city. As a strong believer of constitutional democracy, Rutherford said Oxford has suffered from the rule of opinion rather than the rule of law, which has caused obstruction to the city.

“It’s not the job of government to decide if they like or don’t like something,” Rutherford said. “It’s the job of government to decide if what their constituents are trying to do is legal or not legal.”

A former Miami student is also petitioning to join Oxford City Council. Kathryn Currie, a 1993 graduate and current Oxford resident, said she is also working to join the Oxford administration.

With the upcoming election, the new members of council will move forward with an update of Oxford’s Comprehensive Plan, the roadmap for development within the city. However, current City Councilor Alysia Fischer said she does not expect the new faces of council to change the course of the update.

With the Aug. 23 deadline for the candidates’ petitions approaching, certification of names for placement on the November ballot will begin after Aug. 30.

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