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Scheper: "A lof of confidence" in New Commission

"I'm proud of what we all accomplished and I'm excited for it to end," Covington Mayor Chuck Scheper said with a laugh Wednesday night. The Covington Business Council hosted an after-hours event at Mollie Malone's to introduce the new mayor and city commission to the business community. "I have a lot of confidence in this group," Scheper said of Mayor-elect Sherry Carran and City Commissioners-elect Chuck Eilerman, Steve Frank, Mildred Rains, and Michelle Williams.

Scheper said that he hopes the new commission will continue the momentum built up over the fifteen months that he served in the city's top elected position after being appointed in October 2011. "I'll still be around and continue to be a voice."

Just days after the new commission gathered for a retreat of sorts at the Radisson Hotel where they each signed a social contract that will at least loosely govern their working relationship, Carran mentioned that the contract did not originate from the elected officials, but rather from the city staff. "If we sign it and strive toward it, it will make a difference," the mayor-elect said. Carran also voiced support of the proposed business improvement district for Downtown Covington that is being spearheaded by the Covington Business Council's Urban Partnership. The BID would have property owners assess themselves to help pay for Downtown projects, maintenance, and marketing similar to what Downtown Cincinnati, Inc does across the river.

"The BID is a big component of the (Center City Action Plan which was developed concurrently with a BID feasibility study)," Carran said. "The physical appearance of our city has to improve if we want to keep and grow businesses."

The CBC/UP is still in the process of collecting the appropriate number of signatures that must represent more than half of the property owners and more than half the property value.

Meanwhile, some of Downtown's struggles need to be addressed more urgently, suggested Commissioner Steve Frank who was elected to his second term in November. Speaking with a hoarse voice because he had attended a concert at the Madison Theater the night before, Frank lamented the lack of options available to visitors who do make it to Downtown Covington. "We have five thousand people down there (at the Madison Theater) enjoying themselves and afterwards there was nowhere for the people to go," Frank said. "We have to get things going on in Downtown Covington."

Noting that the realization of the Gateway Community & Technical College urban campus in Downtown Covington as well as the development of The Hotel Covington will help turn the tide for a more prosperous future in the urban core. "We're on the ground floor of a whole new Covington," Frank cheered, "and it's going to be great. We need to make sure that the guys who have been here when times were not so great get their share of our attention."

Eilerman, Rains, and Williams will be newcomers to the city commission when they join Carran and Frank at City Hall in January. "I've been involved in Downtown Covington when it was vital and I'd like to see that come back with some new character," said Eilerman, whose family operated the Eilerman men's clothing store on Madison Avenue. Eilerman called the city staff "exceptional" and said he looks forward to tackling the city's zoning code.

Rains is not entirely a newcomer. She served the remainder of the term vacated by City Commissioner Steve Megerle when he was indicted and convicted of various election violations in an attack on Commissioner Shawn Masters in 2008. Rains lost her bid to retain the seat in 2010 but finished fourth, securing the final seat for the next commission. "Any kind of business we get in Covington is very important and I think Mayor Scheper has been real good in getting us a jump start," Rains said.

Williams, who finished second in the commission race, wants to focus on riverfront development and hinted that some projects in the works are going to be exciting. "I think the people are going to be shocked at what's coming to Covington and I'm very excited about it," she said.

The current city commission has one more meeting on its schedule set for Tuesday. The new commission will take office in January.

Written by Michael Monks, Editor & Publisher of The River City News

PHOTO: The next Covington City Commission: Michell Williams (front), Mildred Rains, Chuck Eilerman, Sherry Carran, and Steve Frank.

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