By Ryan Berry
GREENVILLE — The Darke County Republican Women’s club (DCRW) recently welcomed the Republican candidates appearing on the ballot for the Primary Election on May 2. Most of the candidates are running unopposed, but a choice will need to be made between Jeff Whitaker and John Baumgardner for mayor of Greenville.
One newcomer will also be on the ballot, but she has been a staple at the city building for many years. With Roxanne Willman leaving her post as city auditor at the end of her term, Kim Davis, deputy auditor, is running to take that position. She is unopposed in the Primary Election and no Democrat filed to seek that seat.
Davis said she was hired by Auditor Marvella Fletcher in 1994 as a personnel clerk. In 2000, Auditor Nancy Myers promoted her to the position of deputy auditor. She continues to serve in the position under Auditor Willman.
Baumgardner and Whitaker each listed their credentials to become the next mayor of Greenville. Steve Willman, the current mayor, is not seeking reelection.
Baumgardner was asked about his campaign signs that say, “Vote Local.” He responded, “I was born and raised here my whole life. I’m your local candidate.”
Whitaker countered that he has lived in other places, and moved to Greenville from Melbourne, FL, 10 years ago to be closer to his wife’s family. “We have strong roots in this area,” he said. “I’m not a total stranger. We’ve got business being here. I didn’t come just carpetbagging wanting to be mayor.” He said having lived in other communities gives him a different perspective on what needs to be done in the city.
Both claim a strong background that would serve constituents well.
Baumgardner has been with Aramark for 37 years and will be retiring in September. He manages about 40 accounts with over $35 million in sales. He also owns several rental properties and owns or shares ownership of several businesses in the community, including Troy Sunshade. He said when they bought that company it was experiencing a $10,000 a month loss, but the company is now profitable and employees 35 people. He has also served on Greenville City Council for three terms and is currently council president. He believes city government should be ran more like a business.
Whitaker shared that he lived in the St. Louis area for 40 years and worked in county government for 16 ½ years as an administrative assistant where he handled the investment program with $120 million in investments.
Baumgardner said his top concern for the city is the drug problem. He believes that issue also causes and is related to some of the other issues the city faces, including crime and homelessness. He believes the next mayor needs to work with judges, court system, prosecutors, probation, and Darke County officials to find a solution. “We all live in this community, and we’ve got to find a way to solve it instead of saying the judge did this or the prosecutor did this,” he said.
Baumgardner is excited the city has a drug dog. He thinks this will help deter people coming to Greenville for illicit reasons because it will be harder to do business. He said, “I think it’s easy to do business in Greenville if you are homeless. We’ve got boxes with food everywhere. We are a very caring community and I think people know that. I’ve gotten familiar with several people that live under the bridge and most of them aren’t from here. Most of them are from outside our community.”
He has also put economic development as one of his priorities for the city. Baumgardner said he feels like job growth is stagnate and he wants to work closely with the county economic team to make sure we retain all of our businesses. “We have several large businesses here that are on the downturn right now, so we’ve got to make sure we keep those jobs,” he said.
Baumgardner is also a proponent of code enforcement in order to clean up the community. He said his neighborhood looks great because he actively turns in homes that have trash in their yards. He is calling for a part-time code enforcement official to warn residents and issue citations when the warnings aren’t heeded. However, he believes individuals need to be treated with respect and the city needs to work with them in order to get the home cleaned up.
Whitaker’s top priority is to provide for the safety and security of our families and have a strong and effective police and fire protection. He also stressed he will help to preserve clean, safe and healthy drinking water as well as effective sanitary wastewater. Those issues will “always have my highest level of attention,” he said.
Whitaker said he will also prioritize streets and sidewalks as the city’s number one asset.
The councilman is currently on a committee that is working on a comprehensive, long-range planning document for the city that outlines the city’s goals, vision, objectives, policies, and strategies for future growth. He said the document is nearing completion and will be presented in the next several months.
Whitaker also understands there is a drug and homeless problem in the city. He pointed to numerous opportunities people have to get assistance. He shared a story of an individual that refused to go to a shelter because they wanted to continue doing drugs. He asked, “What do you do about that? I don’t know, but we can’t have that here.” He said we live in a caring community that encourages people in need to seek help. He added, “Everybody, to a degree, is responsible for their own life and responsible for their own actions.”
Whitaker pushed for affordable housing and high-end housing because he believes it is important for our tax base. He believes you can’t attract people to live in the city if you have crumbling sidewalks and mentioned the city will soon hear a proposal to fix sidewalks. He also asked Realtors to fix the sidewalks of a home before it is sold and not let the new homeowner be saddled with the repairs.
When questioned about infrastructure, Whitaker again stressed the need for increasing the tax base. “Unfortunately, we only have so much money. That’s why you want to increase your tax base. That’s why you want to have people coming in here and filling these jobs that are available, so they are paying income tax and not have 200, 300, 400 jobs available in the city of Greenville because we’re just catering to low-income senior housing. We’ve got to build workforce affordable housing to get people moving into Greenville. We’re going to die off as a city if we don’t. That’s just a fact.”
The DCRW also heard from the Republican Party’s unopposed candidates for Greenville City Ward 1, Ward 2 and Ward 4 council seats. Clarence Godwin is running for Ward 1, Delores Ely for Ward 2 and Christopher Norris for Ward 4. Michael Rieman, running for the law director’s position, was unable to attend.
To contact Daily Advocate Editor Ryan Berry, email [email protected].