Four running for three seats on Springfield City Commission

Four candidates, including two incumbents, are competing for three seats on the Springfield City Commission in the Nov. 2 election.

The candidates include commissioners Rob Rue and David Estrop, as well as Wittenberg professor Julius Dion Bailey and public educator Krystal Phillips.

Springfield city commissioners serve four-year terms, and both Estrop and Rue were elected in 2017. Longtime Commissioner Joyce Chilton announced early this year that she would not seek re-election.

All four candidates recently responded to Springfield News-Sun questionnaire, and they highlighted issues they think are facing Springfield as well as potential solutions.

Topics discussed by candidates included economic development, available and affordable housing in the city, clean water, representation and equal opportunities and access to resources.

Each candidate has been involved in the community. Estop is a previous superintendent of the Springfield City School District. Bailey is an associate professor of philosophy, a pre-law advisor, African & Diaspora Studies director and director of Justice, Law & Public Policy at Wittenberg University. Rue is the president and general manager of Littleton & Rue Funeral Home and Crematory in Springfield. Phillips is a special education administrator for the Springfield City School District.

Early voting has already begun at the Clark County Board of Elections, and those commissioner candidates who are elected on Nov. 2 are expected to start their term in the beginning of next year.

The city of Springfield is the largest city in Clark County and is the county seat. It has a population of 58,662, according to U.S. Census estimates as of 2020. The city operates with a general fund of around $48 million annually.

Julius Dion Bailey

Credit: Andrew Grimm

Credit: Andrew Grimm

Bailey, originally from Chicago, has been with Wittenberg University since 2010. Prior to that, he worked at Central State University.

He is a published author, dealing with a number of themes including racism and social inequality, and has previously worked for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition.

He has also been involved with the NAACP and is a board member of the NorthEast Ohio Black Health Coalition and is also a board member of Youth With a Positive Direction (Illinois).

Bailey said that his inspiration to run for city commissioner was based around the question of what he could do to better help others. He has called his electoral bid the Care Campaign.

“For me, that answer manifested in working with local stakeholders, holistically, to meet the needs of people, especially, but not exclusively, the marginalized. By holistic, I mean from economic to social, from emotional to spiritual, Springfield is in need of a renewal, revival and rebranding,” Bailey said

He said that includes focusing on ways to not only revitalize the downtown area but to also generate investment into every corner of the city.

“Too many of our citizens work hard each day only to drive down streets riddled with garbage and blighted homes. A clean neighborhood is one that revitalizes and reinvigorates the spirit as well as protects the environment,” he said.

Bailey said he would work to enact an initiative called 1 Broom, 1 Block that would aim to hold each block accountable for the beautification and pride of their neighborhoods. He said it is something he has already begun by purchasing 20 commercial-grade brooms and hopes to increase that to 50, then 250 and 500 by year four of his term if elected.

He also wants to work closely on redevelopment projects such as a new grocery store that is slated to come to the southside this year after the area become a food dessert in 2020.

David Estrop

Estrop has served as city commissioner since being elected in that position in 2017. Before that he served 10 years as the superintendent at the Springfield City School District.

He is currently a member of Springfield Rotary, Keep Clark County Beautiful, Clark County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, Springfield Housing Consortium (co-chair), Springfield Airport Advisory Committee, Community Improvement Corporation (economic development), Solid Waste Advisory Policy Committee, Alternative Energy Advisory Group and People for Safe Water.

His term as Springfield City Commissioner was his first time seeking that office and he said that he is running for re-election because he feels there’s still much more work he can do.

“We have made great progress in Springfield in the last four years. However, much remains to be done. I want to continue the work and move us forward together,” Estrop said.

Estop said if he is reelected he would make sure the city’s water supply remains safe.

He said that includes pressuring federal authorities and national companies into enacting a cleanup plan related to the Tremont Barrel Fill, which contains industrial waste and is located near an aquifer that provides drinking water for tens of thousands of area residents.

A plan to deal with the barrel fill has been in a state of limbo as companies that would be involved in the cleanup are still in the process of signing a consent decree.

“The steel barrels are still there holding millions of gallons of toxic waste chemicals. We want and need action now,” Estrop said.

He said that another priority of his relates to housing. That includes rehabbing older properties as well as building more homes for those moving into the city and providing assisted housing for those displaced because of COVID and the economic impact of the virus.

“The housing priority is and will continue to be addressed by the public and private sectors of the community working together through organizations like the Housing Consortium,” Estrop said.

He said the commission has passed new legislation addressing vacant property in Springfield as well as passed ordinances providing tax incentives for building or refurbishing property on the southside of the city.

“We are currently looking at how to speed up the process of converting vacant property into productive property, as well as providing additional ways for homeowners to finance homes through other than traditional loans,” he said.

Estrop said a third priority of his would be jobs.

“We have made great headway on this subject, thanks to Chamber of Commerce, Clark County and the city working together to move economic development forward. Businesses are staying and expanding in Springfield, and new businesses are choosing to locate here because of what we as a community have to offer in terms living, working and playing in Springfield. We need to keep it going,” he said.

Rob Rue

Rue is a local business owner and is the president and general manager of Littleton & Rue Funeral Home and Crematory.

He ran for his first elected office in 2017, winning a seat on the Springfield City Commission. He is also part of the Springfield Rotary and was a past board member of the Greater Springfield Partnership.

“I’m seeking re-election because I believe we have made many steps forward in Springfield’s progress, and I would like to continue this journey in a second term,” Rue said.

“One of my strengths is to bring solid leadership and various situations that I have engaged within my role as a commissioner. I am passionate about Springfield, and invest my time and effort in being a part of discussions throughout the community to learn and make informed decisions,” he added.

Rue said that he wants to focus on bringing economic opportunities to Springfield as well as work with public and private organizations in order to save tax payers money.

In addition to that, the incumbent wants to continue to support efforts for redevelopment in the south quadrants of the city as well as participate in revitalization efforts of the downtown.

He said that includes staying available to be at the table for key discussions that advance the local economy.

“During my first four years, I have stayed available to hear citizens concerns and find answers or ask important questions that would either change an outcome to a positive or get answers that would better explain the outcome,” Rue told the News-Sun.

He said that he also wants to continue to vote for efforts that improve citizen’s lives and create more housing opportunities. That includes supporting efforts that develop comprehensive housing plans.

Krystal L. Phillips

Phillips is an educator and a Springfield native who is a city schools employee.

She wants to bring representation to the Springfield City Commission and says that if she is elected she will be the only woman on the board since Chilton is not seeking re-election.

“If I did not seek this office, there would be no one under 50 or anyone who identifies as female running. Action needed to be taken,” she said.

“We must have individuals in office who are willing to fight to ensure that all community members have equal opportunity to access healthy fresh food, jobs, transportation and safe spaces to be their authentic selves,” Phillips added.

This will be her first run for city commissioner, and she is seated on Springfield Promise Neighborhood Board of Directors, is a member of Restored Life Ministries, a superintendent of Christian education at Restored Life Ministries, a member of The Links Incorporated Springfield Chapter, and is a member of National Council of Negro Women Clark County Springfield Section.

She is also a Clark County Democratic Party Central and Executive Committee member and secretary of the Clark County Democratic Party.

If elected, Phillips said she would focus on three focal points during her tenure. That includes ensuring that all Springfield residents have equal opportunities and access to resources. She also wants to address Springfield’s growing concerns with homelessness, and assist Springfield’s police department in building sustainable relationships with populations who have historically been reluctant to do so with law enforcement.

“To ensure access to opportunities, I will promote knowledge. I will bring needed and relevant information to the people. Through the sharing of key government and community information, Springfield residents will become empowered and be about the business of disrupting systems that continue to sustain inequities,” Phillips said.

In addition to that, she said she wants to strengthen the local continuum of prevention efforts and support services in regards to individuals who could be at risk of experiencing homelessness.

“I will increase collaboration within current systems and structures to positively impact eviction prevention, mental health education and housing stability,” she added.

Phillips also wants to use her roots in the community to build more sustainable relationships between residents and local law enforcement.

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