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Park Hills Candidates Make Their Case as One Incumbent Withdraws

There are 13 candidates running for Park Hills city council and 9 showed up for meet-and-greet on Saturday, while one incumbent announced his plans to withdraw from the race.
 
Residents and candidates gathered early Saturday morning at Reality Tuesday coffee shop. That's when Councilman Monty O'Hara said he did not want to serve on the next council.
 
"First of all, serving the fourteen years on council, it is not about me," O'Hara said. "It is about my constituents. We need transparency. Nobody does things out of maliciousness, but I think we tend to play to the squeaky wheel. That's not the way the city should be run. Whoever is elected should take a deep breath. I would advise getting involved with the (Kentucky League of Cities) and finding out what your role is as council person. Think about the unintended consequences of the ordinances you vote to pass, and how they will affect everyone in the city."
 
Later, O'Hara admitted that he didn't know if he could quit the race formally as he hadn't looked into it, and that his was more of a spur of the moment decision. When asked if he was elected whether he would accept the job, he was uncertain.
 
Candidate Krista Morrison told the audience that she thought the council did a good job with infrastructure, but she wanted to be sure the council represented all constituents, and that they addressed issues with integrity and conducted city business with decency and civility. She said she planned on being very involved, physically and mentally, with everything that goes on.
 
Jason Reser is a business owner and has attended the council meetings for the last two years to keep up with what is happening. In 2014, he barely missed being elected to council as a write-in candidate. He said he is concerned with preserving the character and uniqueness of the city of Park Hills. Reser wants to leverage grants, and extend money by recruiting volunteers. He proposed establishing and maintaining a six-month cash reserve in the city. Reser wants to reinstate the caucus meetings and encourage smart growth on Dixie Highway, especially anything that is conducive to a healthy lifestyle.
 
Mary Cooper talked in place of her husband and candidate, Mark Cooper, who had to work. She told the audience that they have been in the city 12 years, and they love it, and want to spend the rest of their life in Park Hills.
 
Candidate Andrew Smith said he really liked the idea of the monthly caucus meetings also, and wants to build a budget reserve, and wants to improve spending priorities. Smith said Saturday that he wants to look at the overall vision for the city, and to put regulations in place with ordinances. That way they can shape the vision before issues come up, such as the recent problem with the forthcoming development of 25 houses off Audubon Road. He is in favor of adhering to a five-year plan in the city.
 
Candidate Brent Collins has been volunteering for the Memorial Day Parade, and that inspired him to run for office in Park Hills. He said that he is amazed with the amount of people who love the city and care enough to keep it unique. He said that although the council is doing a good job, he wants to keep the city beautiful, the fire department and police department strong, and to look into what he calls the untapped opportunity for business growth on Dixie Highway.
 
Incumbent Pam Spoor said that when she was first elected, the city was in financial distress, but now it has more than $600,000 in reserve. She said that reserve accounts have been set up so that large items, such as the police cruiser that was just approved, could be purchased outright. Spoor said she wants to keep taxes low, and keep police and fire strong. Green space is very important to her and she said she wants to expand that. She explained that she wanted a passive green space on the south side of Dixie Highway at the bottom of Mt. Allen.
 
Spoor also read a statement from fellow incumbent Kathy Zembrodt, who was unable to attend. In Zembrodt's statement, she also stressed the importance of getting the city out of financial distress in the six years that she has been on council. She talked about being a tireless worker for Park Hills, and agreed with Spoor that police and fire have to be adequately funded. She also stressed that she wanted to complete the streets improvement project.
 
Karl Oberjohn is a mechanical engineer who spoke about improving communication, both external and internal. He asked how a person would contact the council members because their information is not on the website. He compared that lack of information to that of websites of other cities and said anyone can get up to date information on the budget and most open records. He said all communication needs to be archived, and that should be a top priority for the new council. He alluded to "suspicion" that has existed for years and said people should choose their team wisely. He also said that the sound system should be improved at the council meetings.
 
Incumbent Greg Claypole used to be on council in the 1990s and came back to serve when he retired. He said that being retired allows him to spend more time on city affairs and said the city has more revenue, and now has new sidewalks, body cameras for the police, and other things because the city has its finances in order. He told the audience he loves the city and that he is all about keeping the community the way it is.
 
Candidate Benton Dammel said that he grew up in Hyde Park, and that the city was changed by developers. He told the audience that the first thing he would do is survey the citizens to see what their thoughts on the city are.  He stated that he wanted his daughter to grow up in the city like he did.
 
Incumbent Steve Elkins and candidate Bobby Fields did not attend.
 
Some interviews with candidates for Park Hills city council can be viewed at ParkHillsLife.org.
 
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
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