A former city manager may run for a seat on the city commission at a time when Springfield faces major budget cuts and an income tax increase heading to voters.
Former Springfield and New Carlisle City Manager James Caplinger has pulled petitions to run for office in November, but is still deciding if he will move forward with his campaign.
“I’ll be making that determination in the next few days,” he said.
Caplinger would join two other political newcomers and two incumbents who will vie for three seats on the commission.
Current Springfield City Commissioners Joyce Chilton and Daniel Martin both plan to run for re-election, while former Springfield City School District Superintendent Dave Estrop and co-owner of Littleton and Rue Funeral Home Rob Rue have both announced they’re running for the commission.
A sixth candidate, local financial adviser Brett Bumgarner, pulled petitions but has decided not to run for office due to other commitments.
Current Springfield City Commissioner Karen Duncan plans to end her 12-year political career and not seek re-election.
The deadline to file for petitions for the seats with the Clark County Board of Elections is Feb. 1, meaning more candidates could file petitions, Clark County Board of Elections Director Jason Baker told the Springfield News-Sun. Candidates must supply the board with petitions that include 250 valid signatures of registered Springfield voters to be placed on the ballot.
The board will meet on Feb. 13 to vote on the petitions, Baker said. At that time, the board will decide if a primary on May 2 is needed if there are seven or more valid candidates, he said.
A final election will be held in November for residents to select three candidates.
Caplinger has been the city manager of four different cities, including Kalamazoo, Mich., and Troy, N.Y., but has never run for public office. An Ohio State University graduate, Caplinger is the secretary for the Public Entities Pool of Ohio.
“I’ve been very involved in public service,” he said.
Last month a divided city commission passed its budget for this year, which included $800,000 in cuts to the municipal court, parks, and police and firefighters overtime. It still faces a $600,000 deficit this year. Springfield residents will vote again on an income tax increase on May 2, months after a similar proposal was rejected at the polls.
The city is in need of a new direction, Caplinger said.
“The budget needs balanced and the streets need fixed,” Caplinger said. “The entire budget process needs to be looked at. There’s a need for members on the city commission who have the background and experience to undertake that kind of review in order to properly handle city finances.”
He also wants to fix the relationship between the city and the Clark County Municipal Court. It appears the entities aren’t speaking but rather communicating through the media, which is inappropriate, Caplinger said.
“Obviously, the city should be motivated to sit down with the judges and court personnel and do it in a manner that the city commission does not actually control the court system,” he said. “It’s a separate operation of government, although there is a connection. It has to be pursued delicately. It’s clear to me that that has not been done.”
The Springfield News-Sun provides balanced and in-depth election coverage, digging into political races and tax requests.