PIQUA — The opponents in contested races in the city of Piqua gathered during the YWCA’s annual Meet the Candidates night on Wednesday to give the community another up close look at who the voters will be choosing from in the upcoming Nov. 3 election.
Nick Alexander, candidate for 1st Ward Commissioner for the city of Piqua, was the first of the candidates to speak that evening. He stated that he graduated from Piqua High School in 1998 before pursuing a bachelor’s of science degree in geography and a master’s degree in organizational leadership.
Alexander stated that he knows the intricacies of local government and will work to keep progress moving forward in the city of Piqua.
John Martin, current 1st Ward Commissioner for the city of Piqua and running for re-election, was up next. He graduated from Lehman High School in 1981 and has been a lifelong resident of Piqua.
Martin stated that he was the first president of the Neighborhood Improvement Team, or the first Neighborhood Association, in Piqua. Martin was a part of helping neighborhoods help themselves.
“We had a lot of things that happen that were good for our neighborhood,” Martin said, including establishing a community garden and painting houses.
Martin has currently served as the 1st Ward Commissioner for the city of Piqua for almost eight years.
“In the eight years, I’ve learned a lot,” Martin said. “I’m kind of a jump in with both feet type of person.”
Martin explained that one thing he has learned is how city departments interact with the public. As commissioner, Martin has sometimes had “to get in the middle between the city and the residents to make things smoother.”
Kathryn “Kazy” Hinds, candidate for both 5th Ward Commissioner for the city of Piqua and Piqua Mayor, promised “to work diligently to increase economic growth.”
Hinds stated that the downtown is one of the biggest assets in Piqua and that she wants to help small businesses grow and thrive. Hinds also explained that she will make sure that the positive movement with the Downtown Riverfront Redevelopment Strategy will continue.
“The important thing for us to remember is that we all are a part of Piqua,” Hinds said.
Hinds also has experience working with budgets, she said. That includes at her church at Westminster Presbyterian Church and on numerous boards for non-profit organizations.
“Our parks are another one of the assets we have here in our community,” Hinds said, explaining that a city must be safe, comfortable, and friendly.
Hinds also stated later that she will have an open-door policy if elected mayor and commissioner and will work to cultivate “a sense of belonging” and “moving toward a common goal.”
“I promise to find more ways for us to do things like this and come together in our community,” Hinds said.
Hinds will also introduce “Coffee with the Mayor” gatherings at various locations and times.
“I’ll even come to your home and have coffee with you,” Hinds said. “I love Piqua … and I give thanks that this is where I was called to live some seven years ago.”
Gary Koenig, candidate for 5th Ward Commissioner for the city of Piqua and Piqua Mayor, stated that he believes he is the most qualified for the position of commissioner and mayor due to his extensive background in civil engineering.
Koenig graduated from West Point with a bachelor’s of science degree in civil engineering before working with the U.S. Army Core on parks, roads, and reservoirs. Since then, Koenig has worked as a civil engineer for the last 20 years at Wright Patterson Air Force Base.
Koenig stated that the focus of his career consists of working with the same types of departments and services as city government.
Koenig has found a real connection between how the city works and his day-to-day job, he said.
“My job is to take problems and turn them into the solutions,” Koenig said.
Koenig was also one of the first graduates of the Piqua Government Academy and serves as a volunteer on the Piqua Planning Commission.
Koenig stated that he has developed “plans to improve the level service to citizens of Piqua.” Economic development is also a part of his vision for Piqua.
“Promoting economic development … is critical,” Koenig said. “I’m a big fan of the Riverfront Redevelopment Project as I believe that will be a win-win for the city of Piqua.”
All of the candidates running for Piqua City Commision and mayor stated that they support the renewal levy for Piqua Public Library.
Each renewal levy that will be on the ballot for voters in Miami County was also represented and discussed during the YWCA’s Meet the Candidates night.
“The library is an integral part of our community,” Jim Oda, director of the Piqua Public Library said. Oda stated that the library is also a “cultural center,” home to history and art.
“We are an institution that is used, and we are used heavily,” Oda said, stating the material there is “always free.”
Oda also explained later that the library receives no income from the Fort Piqua Plaza rental on the fourth floor of that building or from any of the other rentals in that building. All of those funds go to the city of Piqua.
Paul Huelskamp, Miami County Engineer, explained that Miami County Bridges levy renewal will continue to provide significant funds for the county’s bridges.
Huelskamp stated that Miami County’s bridges are some of the best county bridges in the state. The funds generated from this levy is also “used as matching funds to bring money home back from Washington,” Huelskamp said.
Brian Green, superintendent of Riverside Development Disabilities, explained their purpose and their renewal tax. Green stated that they offer services to people of all ages and that their mission is to continue to empower the approximately 900 people that they serve. The levy is approximately 39 percent of the board’s operating budget.
Each levy discussed is a renewal, meaning that there will be no new taxes if approved by voters.
Reach reporter Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall