Four candidates have emerged for three open seats on Powell City Council on the Nov. 8 ballot.
In a race in which Richard Cline was the only council incumbent running, three other community members stepped forward, including Jon Bennehoof, Mike Crites and Trent Hartranft. Sitting council members Don Grubbs and Art Schultz (who also currently serves as Powell mayor) did not file for an election bid.
Listed in alphabetical order, the candidates are as follows:
Encouraged by Powell residents, Jon Bennehoof threw his hat into the ring for an open seat on city council.
Currently an independent consultant, Bennehoof, 62, wants to help formulate Powell’s future through a seat on city council.
“I have a few decades of leadership,” said Bennehoof, an eight-year Powell resident. “I’ve overseen large and small organizations, public and private. I’ve been involved with process improvement. I think my leadership and a critical eye can be helpful.”
If elected, Bennehoof’s priorities are fiscal responsibility, collaborative government and equitable representation.
Bennehoof said that while Powell has been responsible with its rainy day fund, the city should be looking at paying off its debts. Powell also should be partners with its Liberty Township neighbors and all other entities, instead of being antagonistic. Lastly, Bennehoof wants more residents to have a voice by getting involved, listening to them and encouraging them to take an active role in their city.
“This is a continuation of my community service,” said Bennehoof, who mentors students by doing mock interviewing and resume building.
Bennehoof has a 40-year information technology career; was a program management executive; business transformation executive; and previously worked as the deputy chief information officer for the Department of Taxation for three years.
He worked on the Community Oversight Foundation, an organization formed to fight Wal-Mart on the grounds that it would be detrimental to the preservation of the historic nature of Powell and would harm property values, and helped form the Golf Village Residents’ Association.
Bennehoof earned his bachelor’s of business administration in management with a minor in economics from Youngstown State University in 1980 and a master’s degree in organizational development from St. Michael’s College.
Prior to college, Bennehoof served in the United States Navy as a signalman on the U.S.S. Ranger in the Vietnam War from 1969 to 1972.
Bennehoof has been married to his wife, Shirley, for 27 years, and they have two daughters, ages 26 and 19.
Powell city’s lack of capital improvement funding is an unresolved issue that incumbent Richard Cline would like to address in his fifth term, if re-elected.
A practicing attorney since 1981, Cline, 56, has his eye on solving traffic congestion at the intersection of Olentangy and Liberty streets, or “Four Corners” in Powell by exploring a few different options to put the CIP funding in place.
A current property tax levy that pays for Powell’s park system expires in about a year. Cline said an option would be renewing that levy for the same amount, but as a capital improvements levy to be devoted to financing improvements around the city, including at “Four Corners.”
“The concept there is nobody’s taxes would increase, but a tax that would otherwise expire, would continue and be used for CIP,” Cline said.
A second option is asking voters for a 10-year income tax applying to everyone for capital improvements. Both options are still being explored in the finance committee, and Cline would like to see the process through.
Cline, a 16-year council member, said his experience as a Powell councilman sets him apart from the other candidates seeking a seat.
“I’ve been with city council and the issues for this entire time period,” Cline said. “Some of the others, while they have service in the community, they don’t have that familiarity with Powell. That’s the biggest distinction.”
Cline spent 25 years in the National Guard as an officer providing legal services to soldiers, retiring as a major in 2003, and previously served in a part-time capacity as the municipal court prosecutor for Powell, as a village, from 1984 to 1986. Before being elected to council, Cline served in an appointed position on the city’s parks and recreation advisory board from 1995 to 1996.
When Cline was elected to council in 1996, he recommended city council institute a committee structure for more in-depth exploration on issues facing the city. After research, the committees make recommendations to council for consideration. Cline served as Powell mayor, which is elected by a council vote, from 1998 to 1999 and was the chairman of the Charter Review Committee in the late 90s.
Cline earned two bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and political science from Kent State University in 1977 and his law degree from The Ohio State University in 1981.
Cline is married to Nora, and they have two children, Caitlin and Patrick.
A 20-year resident, Mike Crites thinks that Powell is a wonderful place to live and now has the opportunity to give back to the community he has enjoyed and benefited from over the last two decades.
Crites, 63, said he brings a wealth of experience from local, state and federal governments and as a longtime law director.
Although the city of Powell is experiencing declining revenues from the state, Crites said that raising the 0.75-percent income tax isn’t an option, and that the city should market its low taxes.
Powell also faces funding capital improvements in the city, and Crites suggests using the expiring park levy as a vehicle to generate funds for the work. A capital improvements levy could replace the expiring park levy in the same amount and no change in taxes.
“That’s probably the most critical,” Crites said. “We’re no longer the new city we once were. Our infrastructure is aging. We can’t wait until it’s falling down around our ears.”
The intersection at Olentangy and Liberty streets, or “Four Corners,” is a big unsolved problem facing Powell that has been the subject of discussion for the past 20 years, Crites said. He suggests extending Murphy Parkway as has been previously discussed, then installing left-hand turn lanes at the “Four Corners.”
“We need to bring that to fruition,” Crites said. “We’ve been talking for 15 to 20 years. This is one of my highest objectives to make sure this occurs in the next four years.”
Expanding the commercial tax base through responsible annexation, fostering and improving relations with Liberty Township and reviewing and potentially updating the comprehensive plan and city charter are also on Crites’ list if elected.
Crites currently serves as a partner with Dinsmore law firm in Columbus and has contract positions as law director for Granville and Commercial Point in Pickaway County. Previously, Crites was a United States District Attorney under presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush; president of the Olentangy School Board from 1993 to 1997; law director in Hilliard and Pataskala; and the first assistant prosecuting attorney in Delaware County.
Crites also ran as the Republican nominee for Ohio Attorney General in 2008 and was defeated by Democrat Rich Cordray.
He is active in his church, Beautiful Savior Lutheran in Powell; serves on the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame Board; and is involved in the Powell Veterans Memorial Foundation Association.
Crites, a Vietnam War veteran, was appointed to the United States Naval Academy and graduated in 1970, serving in the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve until 1999, retiring with the rank of captain. He received his law degree from Ohio Northern University in 1978.
Crites is single and has three daughters.
In an effort to get more involved in the community, Trent Hartranft is vying for a seat on the Powell City Council.
Already a member of the city’s planning and zoning board and the chairman of the Liberty Community Infrastructure Financial Authority, a community authority established to finance the costs of publicly-owned and operated community facilities with assessed community development charges, Hartranft, 37, wants a more active role in the community.
Hartranft wants to help make Powell a place not only businesses find attractive, but a place that residents are proud to be living in.
“I want to serve and give back to the city I live in,” Hartranft said. “On top of that, I want to get more involved in local events and happenings. I’m definitely interested in things that impact the residents in the community.”
A resident since 2004, Hartranft sees Powell’s lack of capital expenditures revenue as an important issue, as well as the congestion at the intersection of Olentangy and Liberty streets, or “Four Corners.”
“It’s a problem area for commuters, businesses and residents at certain times of the day,” Hartranft said.
Hartranft’s experience with business development gives him more a strategic mindset by considering many ways to solve a problem.
“It’s not just one way,” Hartranft said. “I look for all avenues, all different ways to find a solution to a problem. That’s something beneficial in the seat.”
Hartranft currently works in business development for DaVita, a dialysis company. He earned his bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology from Ohio University.
Hartranft is married to Kara, and they have three children, Avery, Aiden and Ardyn.