2 face off in Fostoria’s First Ward
FOSTORIA — Voters in Fostoria’s First Ward will choose between two candidates Nov. 7.
In May, incumbent Councilwoman Paula Dillon and Jonathon Puffenberger were the top vote-getters in the primary election for the position. Dillon received 109 votes, or 58.9 percent and Puffenberger garnered 52 votes, or 28.1 percent. Noah Davoli received 24 votes, or 13 percent, and was eliminated from contention.
Dillon has served on council for eight years and is retired from Honeywell, where she worked for 30 years.
She said she’s had the worst year of her life, between the death of her mother and the economic struggles the city has faced.
“This year, I could have walked away,” she said. “It’d be easy, but I care about the city.”
Dillon, who also was a trustee for UAW-533 and was a board member for Cash Mob, said being a union representative gave her the thick skin she needs to be a good council
Puffenberger, who is the chair of the Seneca County Democratic Party Executive Committee, never has been elected to council, but he grew up around city government because his mother, Seneca County Board of Elections member Mary Puffenberger, represented the city for several years.
“I got to see first-hand the good that someone, just a regular citizen, could do,” he said.
Puffenberger said he wants to do what he can to help the community.
“I know our community is suffering, I look around and just see that Fostoria has been in decline for awhile,” he said.
Puffenberger also serves as campaign manager for Janet Garrett’s U.S. Congressional campaign.
“Every aspect of my life is involved with politics of some sort,” he said. “(I’m) trying to make our government and our city better.”
Dillon said her priorities are balancing the budget and providing safety to city residents.
She said council has agreed to about $3.2 million in budget cuts over the next five years.
“I think we’ve done everything we could. I don’t know what else we can cut, besides fire and police,” she said.
Dillon said she has experienced how good the people of Fostoria can be and she said that must continue.
“This town’s got great people,” she said. “When you ask them, they come together. It’s one reason I still want to run for council again. There are good-hearted people out there who care about this town.”
Puffenberger said council and other city leaders need to discuss the long-term future.
“The ‘hope for the best’ mentality just makes us stagnant,” he said. “We don’t move forward because we don’t have a plan. Something I really want to work on is what my vision for the future is. In order to have a good vision, you need to work with other city leaders. You need to work with government, business leaders and folks in the community.
“I don’t have all the best ideas, but I know a good idea when I hear it.”
Property tax levy
Both candidates believe safety is a priority and urged voters to approve a five-year, 6-mill property tax levy on the ballot that is to help fund safety services.
Dillon said safety is her first priority.
“When people say more taxes, I’ll say no too, until you listen to the details,” she said. “I wish people would call me and ask me about the levy. This is to keep everybody safe.”
As an example, Dillon talked about a man who was injured when he was struck by an arrow on Walnut Street this week.
She said the man was in stable condition because of quick response from EMS.
“He would have bled to death if we didn’t have EMS (in the city),” she said. “It’s what scares me the most.”
Puffenberger had an analogy to explain the levy.
“Financially, Fostoria is sick,” he said. “Just like people when we get sick, sometimes we have to take medicine that we don’t like to take. It may make us feel bad, it may have bad side effects … We take the medicine so we can get better. I see the levy as a medicine that we have to take so our city can get better.”
A levy calculator is available at senecacountyauditor.org for those who wish to see how the levy would change their property tax payments.
Dillon said she believes city officials are doing everything they can to move the city out of fiscal emergency status.
“Everything has been cut that I know we can cut,” she said. “I’ll take any questions on fire and police to help people understand how important (the levy) is to keep everybody safe.”
Dillon said Fostoria Economic Development Corp. is playing a role in improving the city’s economy by recruiting new businesses and helping current businesses expand.
Dillon also said many hours were spent by council with State Auditor’s Office officials crafting a fiscal recovery plan.
“I wish more citizens would have sat through (those meetings) and understood what we did. It was a wake-up call to me,” she said.
Puffenberger said if the levy is approved, it will be only a temporary boost.
“We don’t want to get into a situation where we are going to the voters every five years to renew things,” he said. “We can’t be raising people’s taxes any more than we already are. I think the levy is a pretty big ask.”
Dillon said she is reliable, dependable and works with residents.
“I’m a caring person, I try to step in their shoes when they call about something,” she said. “I guess that’s why I’m running.”
Dillon said she likes council’s make-up and is ready to continue working with them.
“I like our mix,” she said. “At the end of the day, we can come up with a solution.”
Puffenberger said he will listen to constituents.
“I connect with people. I have a very open mind. I feel like I can identify with the voters, just through my own life,” he said. “I’m just a regular guy, I didn’t grow up with privilege. I’ve faced a lot of adversity in my life. The reality is, a lot of folks in Fostoria face adversity every single day. I can identify with that, I know what it’s like. We need representatives who have experienced good and bad in their lives.”
Puffenberger said he believes he has the qualities needed to be a good councilman.
“I’m not going to just go on with the group because it’s what the group does. I will vote what’s best for the people every time,” he said.