BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — Six candidates are on the November ballot to fill three spots on Waterville City Council.
Todd Borowski and Rod Frey are seeking second terms, while current council member Barb Bruno is term-limited and cannot run again.
Four others are seeking seats: Rob Allen, Anthony Garver, Matt Harrell and Wayne Wagner.
The Mirror asked candidates to share their reasons for running, relevant experience, philosophy as a council member, goals and how each plans to represent all members of the community. The candidates are profiled below in alphabetical order.
Profiles of the two mayoral candidates – Tim Pedro and Tim Plowman – will appear in a future issue.
Rob Allen has been involved with city and county government for decades, but it was returning to his hometown – and witnessing the anti-amphitheater movement – that spurred him to run for Waterville City Council.
“Information being shared needs to be based on facts, not feelings. Inexper-ienced candidates can do harm to a city when they lead from emotion, and that damage can last for decades,” Allen said.
Before moving back to Waterville in 2017, Allen was elected to the Geauga County Republican Central Committee and served on public works and parks committees within his township. He ran for the Ohio State Senate in 2016 and has worked on presidential and U.S. Senate campaigns.
“I have a lot of experience with the political world in and around Ohio and know who to connect with to get things done for our city. Those connections will be invaluable to helping us move ahead and attracting the right kind of new business to keep us financially solvent,” he said.
As a council member, Allen said he pledges to be a servant of the people, with a focus on keeping residents informed on how government works.
“A lot of what we are experiencing now could have been avoided if there were more proactive communications between the city and citizens,” he said.
While he knows that he can’t make everyone happy, Allen said one issue – the amphitheater – doesn’t represent all of Waterville.
“We need experienced leadership that can look to the future, not just at the present. I hope to bridge the gap to the next generation and at the same time improve communications with all of our residents.”
Allen said he will use social networking and media to make sure all generations are staying informed. He also plans to stay abreast of the budget and look ahead to meet the financial needs of the city.
A father of three, Allen has a daughter with autism, so he supports autism research. He lives with his fiancée Kelly. In his spare time, Allen enjoys fishing, hunting, science fiction and reading about American history and government.
Todd Borowski is seeking a second term in office to ensure that council makes the best choices for residents now and in the future.
During his first term, Borowski initiated projects including repaving alleys, launching social media for the police department, supporting employees with better pay and improving public spaces. His goals for the next four years include controlled growth and maintaining and modernizing the city’s infrastructure.
“If done correctly, this will reap benefits for not just our kids but our grandkids,” he said.
While he currently operates rental properties, Borowski has decades of experience in a local health care system. He interacted often with the public sector – presenting at the Pentagon, discussing opportunities with leaders of government branches and speaking with everyone from the deputy director of the FBI to the janitor at the county jail. This experience translates well into a role on city council for a number of reasons, he said.
While the public sector doesn’t work as quickly as the private sector, it also has just as many excellent employees. The men and women of Waterville’s police, fire and public works departments have great ideas and motivation to make a difference – and should be provided with the proper equipment and training to do their jobs productively, he said.
“We need to listen to our city employees – they are in the trenches and know firsthand what’s going on. I listen to their needs and ideas and represent them on presenting to the administrator and council,” he said.
“In my work with the Tree Commission and with the Public Works Department, as well as our fire co-op with Whitehouse, I have also seen how we can work together to make government work for the people,” he added.
Being a good council member requires excellent listening skills.
“When we are presented with opportunities, I discuss it with subject matter experts, consider the pros and cons and make the best decision for our community,” he said. “Have I made 100 percent of the people happy? Absolutely not, but I feel I have made the best choices for Waterville.”
Borowski has three sons, including Cooper, who is a senior at Anthony Wayne High School. He and his fiancée, Sara, enjoy taking their two dogs to the river daily.
In some ways, Waterville isn’t much different than when Rod Frey moved to the area with his family in 1987.
“Waterville is still a nice, quiet community that attracts people who want to feel at home and raise their families,” he said. “Now, there is a greater concern over the growth. My goal is to keep Waterville a great place to live while increasing the city revenue streams that pay for services to our residents.”
With 42 years in the banking and finance industry, Frey first got involved in local government by attending Waterville Planning Commission and city council meetings. In 2017, he was appointed to the Charter Review Committee, which reviews the charter and recommends changes to be placed on the ballot.
In February 2018, Frey was appointed to fill a vacancy on council and served on the Fallen Timbers Union Cemetery District committee during the formation of a district with Waterville, White-house and Waterville Township. Elected to a four-year term on council in 2019, Frey continues to serve on the cemetery district’s board of trustees.
“Being a member of council allows me to help guide our city for controlled and balanced growth in both commercial and residential while at the same time providing guidance to the administration in keeping a balanced budget. The city has maintained a superior credit rating and a financially strong position,” he said.
“Moving forward, the city will be facing some substantial budget increases while providing the great services that the citizens have grown to enjoy. These increases will need to be offset by increases in revenues to maintain this strong financial position. The city is not unlike any other business that has seen substantial increases in personnel, health benefits and operations in general,” he added.
As he seeks re-election, Frey said his goal is to manage the city’s growth while communicating and educating the public about the process – which includes following the laws, the charter and the municipal codes, he said.
In addition to serving on council, Frey is a member of the Waterville Finance Committee and is a board member of the Waterville Community Improvement Corporation (CIC). He is married to Barb and they have one grown son, Jeff.
Anthony Garver, a retired 35-year combat Air Force veteran, wants to take his experience of serving at the national level and use his leadership abilities to serve at the local level – by listening to and representing all residents.
“It’s our community, our vote, our future. With the U.S. 24 interchange, growth is inevitable. My goal is to help manage that growth so it reflects our community’s needs, values, culture and history,” he said.
“The current council has shown a lack of transparency,” Garver said, explaining that he wants to ensure that all information regarding legislation is available for the citizens. He plans to improve two-way communication on the city’s website and create an online or mail survey to gauge the citizens’ opinions.
“I plan to serve with communication and transparency. I will have a monthly newsletter available for every citizen to help keep folks informed of the issues that come before council,” he said.
Garver said he will also present legislation to create a common facade ordinance for the U.S. 24 business district.
“Gaylord, Michigan has had great success with this and created an upscale feel in their business district while instilling a sense of pride with the residents,” he said.
A Bowsher High School graduate, Garver joined the Air Force, and for eight years was stationed overseas and in Alaska. Upon his return, he joined the 180th Fighter Wing as a federal military technician, serving two tours in the Iraq War working in munitions and then quality assurance, making sure the F-16s were ready to fly and in working order.
“It’s a job that required a lot of detail and a lot of reading – digging into government regulations, policies and maintenance manuals,” he said, noting that as a resident he has dug into reading the city’s charter, land use plan and budget.
The core values he gained in service to the country also apply to service on city council, he said, listing the Air Force values of “Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do.”
Garver is involved with the Feet on the Street program through the Toledo Police Department – providing a holiday shopping experience for children in need – and said he’d like to see a Waterville-based event or fundraiser that pulls families together to rally around a cause.
Matt Harrell decided to run for council after seeing what he describes as a lack of transparency and disregard for citizens’ concerns by the current council.
“As a city council member, I must be completely transparent, accessible and responsive to residents, and a good steward of the authority loaned to me by the residents,” he said.
After the turmoil of the past year, Harrell said he hopes that people will put aside their differences.
“I call Waterville my home. I want Waterville to thrive and maintain its small-town charm. With that in mind, I want businesses and residents to know that I support them,” he said.
Since announcing his candidacy, Harrell has attended council and committee meetings, including Public Safety, Finance, Planning Commission and Tree Commission.
“I did this to get a better understanding of our city’s operations, planning and financial position. I have also studied our charter, municipal code and comprehensive plan,” he said.
As council member, he plans to work with the administration to see the smooth transition of the Advanced Life Support operation from county-run to one that is operated with Whitehouse, Waterville Township and Providence Township.
He also plans to work on updating the city’s website, Facebook page, email notifications and text alerts to improve communications with residents.
After learning about the weak cellular service that plagues the downtown area, Harrell said he will be looking for a permanent solution to benefit residents, businesses and visitors.
“This would benefit the revitalization of the downtown area,” he said.
A 10-year resident of the city, Harrell is an Air Force veteran, serving for 25 years in the Ohio Air National Guard.
“This gave me invaluable experience in leadership, organizational planning, resource management, logistics and critical thinking,” he said. “It has also been the foundation of my personal beliefs based on the core values of the Air Force: ‘Integrity first. Service before self. Excellence in all we do.’”
Harrell also has 20 years of experience as an electrical engineer, which gave him experience in project management, problem solving, budget management and critical thinking. His latest career is as a critical care respiratory therapist, which requires active listening and communication skills, as well as empathy and a sense of service, he said.
Waterville needs someone who will stand up for the rights of all citizens, said Wayne Wagner, who promises to vote based on the city charter and municipal code, and to follow the comprehensive plan.
“My entire campaign has been to fight for the will of the people, and that means everyone in Waterville,” he said. “Waterville doesn’t need any more politicians. We need public servants, and I have that experience.”
For the past 14 months, Wagner has led a grassroots effort to keep the proposed amphitheater from destroying the town, as many believe it would. During that time, he’s attended most city council and Waterville Planning Commission meetings, along with other committee meetings.
As the owner of a construction company, Wagner also has experience dealing with a variety of people on a daily basis, coordinating jobs, hiring subcontractors, working with vendors and obtaining permits so each project runs smoothly.
“Having a good reputation is key both in business and in public office,” he said. “The willingness to talk to, engage and listen to your constituents and represent them accordingly is what should be expected of every public servant.”
If elected, Wagner plans to immediately implement a website and social media page dedicated to all matters that come before council.
“People don’t come to council meetings because they’re boring and uninformative. Council does a bad job at engaging the community. I will work to fix that by explaining what is happening on the agenda in advance of all meetings,” he said.
Wagner said he also plans to form a group of volunteers to work with the Public Works Department, to help clean up the parks and recreational areas, and to freshen up the Conrad Park community building so it’s more usable and inviting for family and business events.
“Instead of focusing all our attention on growth, I’d like to focus on revitalizing our historic district so it’s more welcoming to residents and guests alike,” Wagner said. “The heart of Waterville will always be our downtown, not the interchange.”
Wagner recently celebrated his 20th wedding anniversary with his wife, Lori, and they have three daughters who are active in Anthony Wayne Local Schools. When not busy driving kids around, he enjoys spending time with family at the lake or Cedar Point.