BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Registered voters in Whitehouse will have a decision to make on Tuesday, October 3 – or sooner, for those doing early voting.
An unprecedented primary election is underway to whittle down the selection of mayoral candidates from four to two top finishers who will then appear on a separate ballot during the Tuesday, November 7 general election.
The Mirror asked the four candidates for information on their decision to run for mayor, their definition of the role of mayor, the priorities and goals for the village and their relevant experience.
These profiles are listed in alphabetical order by last name.
Once published, candidate profiles will be archived here on The Mirror’s website through Tuesday, November 7.
With six years on village council and over 20 years of law enforcement management experience, Richard Bingham believes he is ready for the next step in village government.
“Having been actively engaged in council provides me with an awareness of the opportunities and challenges facing the village, the great staff that we have and the citizens who volunteer their time to the many committees,” he said. “I would like to continue my engagement as mayor to work collectively with these groups to move the village forward.”
A mayor should be a great role model and leader – someone who is approachable and makes time with an open mind to the concerns and needs of residents, he said. Bingham promises that same approach with the staff members, who he values for their unique skills and assets. Working with council, Bingham said he would use a collaborative approach to address the village’s needs.
“The mayor should be a trusted and respected representative of the village to the neighboring communities and businesses as well as federal, state and local governments,” he said.
As mayor, Bingham said the first major priority is addressing finances, to ensure that the village can continue to provide the services that citizens come to expect. He also plans to look ahead, anticipating how the village will grow and how to plan and budget for those needs. These two areas would be accomplished by working with council, area chambers of commerce and staff while ensuring the voice of the citizens are at the table as well, he said.
The third priority is to collaborate with partner communities and businesses to ensure growth of the community that meets the expressed ideals of the citizens, he said.
Bingham also listed plans to work on updating and maintaining the village’s charter to make sure it is in line with federal and state laws.
An Anthony Wayne High School graduate, Bingham has spent most of his adulthood in public service. After serving as a security police specialist in the U.S. Air Force, Bingham joined the Ohio Civil Rights Commission as an investigator before entering into a long career in law enforcement. He has served with departments for the city of Wauseon, state of Ohio, village of Pemberville, Waterville Township and, currently, as chief of police in Fayette, Ohio. Bingham completed his education in criminal justice management through Northwest State Community College and various police educational academies.
In his spare time, Bingham also served on the Awake Community Coali-tion Board, the Lourdes University Criminal Justice Advisory Board, the Whitehouse Tree Commission and the Destination Whitehouse Committee. He also assists teens as a member of the Spring Green Educational Foundation Youth Diversion Program.
“All of my educational, career and volunteer experiences will come in handy in the role of mayor,” he said. “Whether it is interpreting and upholding laws, dealing with difficult situations or people, managing conflicts or managing employees, each experience will be beneficial in serving as mayor for the village.”
Bingham has been married to his high school sweetheart, Jennifer, for 37 years. They have two married sons, three grandchildren and two small dogs. In their free time, the Binghams enjoy spending time with family, watching grandkids’ sporting events and traveling.
Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer
Whitehouse’s mayor should be a fierce advocate for the unique character and strength of the community, engage with staff and council in full transparency, and relate to regional municipal partners and economic leaders with a commitment to healthy growth, said Rebecca Conklin Kleiboemer.
“Whitehouse deserves a mayor who can give full-time attention to this office and who will tell the people the truth,” she said.
During her eight years on village council, Conklin Kleiboemer never missed a meeting, including the 18 months she served as president. She is Whitehouse’s first trustee to serve on the Fallen Timbers Union Cemetery District board and has served on the village’s Charter Review Commission and its Tree Commission.
When Whitehouse Park playground equipment was in dire need of replacement, she met with parents and vendors, and reviewed bids and the budget to make the replacement happen. When the village looked at outsourcing trash pickup, she rode around with Public Works crews, visited the landfill and went to the negotiation table to seek the best contract.
While not always the most exciting part of government, Conklin Kleiboemer also has focused on improving internal processes, like staff reorganization, interview panels for seat vacancies and public hearing procedures.
“I sought to make everything council does open, fair and inclusive,” she said.
As mayor, Conklin Kleiboemer said she intends to stay in her lane – on the administrative side – and leave space for council to lead on the legislative side.
“That’s how our charter designed it,” she said.
Though serving just a brief time as acting mayor, Conklin Kleiboemer said it was immediately evident to her that the concerns prompting the council investigation of former Mayor Don Atkinson were valid.
“This was a painful experience for everyone involved but it was our duty,” she said. “As the next mayor, I promise to model servant leadership, to treat people how they deserve to be treated and to attend to public business with the utmost professionalism and honesty,” she said.
Conklin Kleiboemer said that while any candidate elected mayor would have to address pressing issues like revenue and growth, experience is what matters.
“We can’t afford our leader to be someone who has never or rarely been to a public meeting before now,” she said.
Economic development comes to places with leadership that can support the process in stability, she added.
“In me, Whitehouse would have a mayor with zero self-interest in my own pocket, so all businesses can thrive, and we can seek new enterprises that are the best fit for Whitehouse,” she said.
Conklin Kleiboemer’s goals as mayor include presenting efficient, effective budgets; reinvigorating capital projects; preparing the village for cityhood; promoting and protecting Whitehouse’s quality of life for all; advocating for its employees’ rights and compensation; and clearly communicating with the public.
An experienced newspaper editor, Conklin Kleiboemer is focused on facts.
“I get to the bottom of things, and I am unfazed by anyone’s personal attacks or political maneuvering to keep me from holding government accountable to the people, myself included,” she said.
An Anthony Wayne graduate, Conklin Kleib-oemer holds a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University. She is married to Dan Kleiboemer, a merchant marine captain and retired U.S. Navy officer, and has two sons. She’s been involved in school groups, the arts, church and advocating for children with autism.
Robert Crowe wants to be a voice for the average citizen.
“I wasn’t happy with how some things were being done in the village, and it was like the common person had no say,” he said.
He pointed out a decision a few years ago to switch from having village staff collect refuse and recycling to a contract with ARS. He was also frustrated by council’s decision to eliminate a .75-percent income tax credit given to residents who work outside of the village and pay taxes to two municipalities.
“I was happy that Larry (Yunker) was able to get that referendum on the ballot,” Crowe said. “It was kind of like council said, ‘This is the way it’s going to be, so suck it up buttercup.’ As mayor, I would like to see more community involvement in decisions.”
While the mayor doesn’t have a regular vote, he can be a tie-breaker for council and support council, Crowe said.
“I want to be a good representative of the village,” he added.
He credits the quality of employees in the village for doing an excellent job, and he also plans to support the staff in their efforts.
His main goal as mayor is to ensure financial responsibility.
“The flowers are beautiful, but we’re hiring part-time people to water those flowers. I don’t know how much money we’re spending on them, but if we’re in financial trouble, is it wise to spend that kind of money on frivolous things?” he asked.
Crowe also wants to see the village be more selective in giving building permits, referring to some projects in town that can be a strain on safety service.
“I want to see people that come in that aren’t a draw on the fire department,” he said.
As the village grows into a city – which is likely following the 2030 U.S. Census – Crowe said he wants to ensure that it doesn’t have the problems that he sees in Toledo, such as drugs and shootings.
“I’m afraid if the village doesn’t monitor what projects are approved, we could turn into a problem,” he said. “I want to keep the status of the village up to keep the property values up.”
Crowe, who retired after 33 years working with Ohio Bell and AT&T, has experience with customer relations that he believes will help him in the role of mayor. With six years at the 180th Fighter Wing, retiring as a sergeant in the Air National Guard, Crowe is a member of the Whitehouse American Legion. He also served as a volunteer firefighter with the Whitehouse Fire Department for 15 years.
In his free time, he enjoys older cars, taking his 1928 Pontiac to shows. He volunteers with the Toledo Police Department’s RSVP program, visiting the elderly several times a month; and he loves spending time with his grandkids. His wife Margie will retire from Kroger after 20 years and the two are planning to spend time together traveling.
Tony Fronk wants Whitehouse to prosper.
“I want to make sure we are fiscally responsible with budgets and funding as we grow in a manner to what the village and community envision,” said Fronk.
Getting involved in village government wasn’t on his mind until last month, admitted Fronk, who owns and operates The White-house Inn and co-owns and operates The Crust with his wife Marcy.
When Don Atkinson resigned after learning he was under investigation, the former mayor contacted Fronk to see if he would run in his place. Fronk said he’s keeping his political affiliation at bay because he wants to come in without an agenda in order to keep the best interests of all residents at heart.
The role of mayor is ceremonial, he explained. Council is responsible for most administrative and operational procedures and wields the most influence, while the mayor oversees the council’s activities.
“As mayor, I want to learn about all the departments, boards and commissions, and get to know all of the council members,” he said. “I also want to get to know and work with the leaders of Waterville, Monclova and the other townships. We all need to work together with a common goal of doing what’s best for our communities and the area.”
With a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business, Fronk said he’s a nerd when it comes to numbers.
“I learned a lot from my dad when it comes to running a business,” he said of the late John Fronk. “He was a cigar box money kind of guy, and it took a long time for me to convince him to integrate to a computer system at The Whitehouse Inn to integrate better systems and controls.”
Fronk took over The Whitehouse Inn after his father’s 2007 retirement, and he has built it beyond his own expectations.
“I have been in business management and ownership for nearly all of my adult life, which gives me an advantage over the other candidates,” he said. “We hire, train, teach and manage over 60 employees currently. I also feel my 13 years of playing football taught me a lot about teamwork, drive and discipline.”
Running a business in downtown Whitehouse gives him the perspective of other business owners – as well as proximity to village hall when needed, he noted.
With help from Marcy – who has a real estate background – Fronk said he’s learned how to navigate through bumps in the road. The COVID-19 pandemic was a major bump, but with the help of some donations, The Whitehouse Inn was able to feed over 3,400 first responders at no charge, delivering meals to hospitals, hospice centers, assisted living facilities and dialysis centers.
“It was so much fun to give back,” he said.
He and Marcy enjoy their blended family, including Marcy’s three sons: Josh, Jake and Jordan. Fronk has a son, Parker, who lives in Cleveland; and Fronk adopted Marcy’s youngest, Makenna, two years ago.
In addition to his time in the restaurants, Fronk enjoys cookouts with family and friends, reading about American history and golfing on Sundays.