BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Three mayors in three weeks. That’s a first for the village of Whitehouse.
After Don Atkinson turned in his resignation on August 17 – upon learning council voted to put him under investigation – council president Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer assumed the role of acting mayor that same day.
On September 5, council voted 4-2 (with Conklin Kleiboemer and Mindy Curry voting no) to replace her with Bob Keogh as council president and acting mayor.
Louann Artiaga raised the topic of replacing Conklin Kleiboemer but refrained from comment, sharing with The Mirror later that she didn’t want to make the situation too awkward.
“What is the reasoning for doing it now?” Curry asked, noting that Conklin Kleiboemer was voted in as council president in January 2022 and again in January 2023.
Keogh said with both Rich Bingham and Conklin Kleiboemer now running for mayor, it would be unfair to give one an advantage by serving as mayor for these few months. Steve Connelly agreed.
“Just because they’re on the ballot isn’t a reason to step down and have someone else be appointed,” Curry said, noting that others running for office have been incumbents as well.
The council president is typically selected during the first meeting in January, or as soon after that date as a majority decision can be made without the mayor breaking a tie. Bingham noted that Conklin Kleiboemer was chosen when two members of council were absent, inferring an unfair advantage. Curry said it’s strange that Bingham would suggest replacing the council president now, when it could have been brought up at any time.
While Conklin Kleiboemer urged council to think of the “unintended consequences” of voting in a third mayor in such a short time – such as the impact on signing contracts – a vote was held, with Artiaga, Bingham, Connelly and Keogh comprising the majority needed to replace her. The same four voted to fill the position with Keogh as acting mayor. Keogh has served on council since being appointed in August 2015.
“I appreciate your patience. We’ll make it to the end of the year,” Keogh said, adding that he will do what he can to encourage support of a .5-percent income tax increase that will be on the November ballot.
The filing deadline for Whitehouse mayor was Friday, September 1. Four people turned in their petitions: Bingham, Conklin Kleiboemer, Tony Fronk and Robert Crowe. Bingham has been certified. If the other three are all certified, a primary will be held on Tuesday, October 3 – another first for the village. The cost to hold a special primary could range from $7,000 to $13,000, said Lucas County Board of Elections deputy director Tim Monaco. The board will also consider having just one polling location, as the schools will not be an option.
Running for the three four-year terms on council are Jennifer Bingham, Joe Bublick, Keogh, Carrie Tuohy, Dave Riggenbach and Larry Yunker. Steve Connelly is running unopposed to fill the remainder of a term he was appointed to in January.
The board of elections will certify candidates during a Monday, September 11 meeting.