BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — The three men vying for the role of Waterville mayor and six others who filed petitions to run for three spots on Waterville City Council were certified during the February 7 Lucas County Board of Elections meeting.
While on the agenda, a decision on a referendum petition – filed to allow citizens to vote on whether to allow an amphitheater to operate on South Pray Boulevard – was postponed until the board’s April meeting, after newly appointed board members have settled in.
With three candidates running for mayor, a May primary is needed to decide which two will move on to the November general election, said LaVera Scott, director of the board.
Mayoral candidates Isaiah Bayly, Tim Plowman and Pedro will be on the May 2 primary ballot. A primary is not needed for the council race, in which incumbents Todd Borowski and Rod Frey are joined by candidates Rob Allen, Matt Harrell, Anthony Garver and Wayne Wagner. Current council member Barb Bruno is term-limited and cannot run again.
The Mirror asked the candidates about their qualifications, community engagement, reason for seeking office and plans for bringing the community together.
Isaiah Bayly has a vision for Waterville – one in which the city can navigate growth while retaining the small-town traits that residents love.
“I believe we are at a crossroads in Waterville. Due to rapid residential growth, commercial development is inevitable. We must have a plan to control the growth and bring in unique businesses that will add value for residents. My vision for the city is for the future generations. I want the city to be a great community for kids to grow up in – just as it was for me,” he said. “I want development to produce the kind of city that our kids won’t want to leave when they become adults.”
As mayor, Bayly said he will utilize his experience in the private sector. Working in the elevator industry, Bayly spent three years as an account manager, responsible for managing the profit and loss budget of a 600-building portfolio, followed by a role as national accounts manager. He currently is employed in a hybrid corporate operations and data analyst role. In that role, he is responsible for finding inefficiencies in the corporation, then developing solutions by building new systems and processes and overseeing the implementation of new procedures across the country.
“As mayor, I would use my experience to streamline the efficiency of city operations and responsibly manage the city’s budget while strategically planning for capital improvements,” he said. “I will collaborate with residents and business owners to bring profitable and desirable economic development to Waterville and effectively and forthrightly communicate those dealings with the community. I understand business and leadership, and I hope I honor God by being honest in every area of my life.”
Restoring trust between Waterville’s leadership and the residents is vital, he said. This can be done through honest communication and collaboration with residents to find a mutual vision for Waterville.
“We can work together to execute a plan that brings excitement, rather than trepidation,” he said.
Over the past year, Bayly has regularly attended city council meetings, but the 2017 Anthony Wayne graduate has long been involved with the community – coaching local sports teams, working with Anthony Wayne DECA students to prepare for business competitions and working with his church’s youth group – which hosts a Wednesday night gathering for many AW students.
Tim Pedro is seeking re-election to the office of mayor. He is currently in his first term, but he served two terms on Waterville City Council prior to becoming mayor in January 2020.
“My goal is to continue to provide the residents with balanced leadership, to follow our municipal code and perform our due diligence when issues are presented to us,” he said.
Despite challenges incl-uding the pandemic and supply chain issues, the city has managed to operate in a solid fiscal manner and mark several successes over the past four years, including a fire co-op and cemetery district with Waterville Township and Whitehouse.
“We continue to provide police, fire and public works service to our residents and are planning to make improvements to our parks, recreation, streets and to our historical downtown. In 2023, we plan to conduct our land use study as well as perform our charter review exercise,” Pedro said.
A University of Toledo graduate, Pedro is vice president responsible for business development with CT Consultants, a consulting engineering firm, and has 40 years of experience in bringing business solutions to clients, he said.
“This experience has enabled me to work with Waterville citizens on a daily basis. Just like my clients, I am always accessible to residents as needed,” he said.
Pedro has urged the community to focus on healing as council has worked through a set process to hear all sides regarding the amphitheater project.
“We need to heal. One solution is to have small groups of citizens meeting to better understand how we can best move forward,” he said. “Waterville is and will continue to be a safe and great community to live in. We just need to look at the history and plan as best as we can for the future.”
During his tenure on council, Pedro has been involved with the Waterville Community Improvement Corporation, Toledo Metro-politan Area Council of Governments, the 911 Regional Technical Admin-istrators Committee and the Downtown Christmas Dec-orations Committee. Since moving to Waterville 32 years ago, Pedro has been involved with Anthony Wayne Local Schools, Boy Scout Troop 101 and the Waterville Area Chamber of Commerce. He also supports the Waterville Historical Society and Anthony Wayne Area Arts Commission.
Tim Plowman, a former Marine and combat veteran with a degree in management information systems, is running for mayor to bring communication, fairness and transparency to council, he said.
“I decided to run after witnessing the current Waterville council repeatedly fail to follow our city code and charter on important issues, all exacerbated by a lack of communication and transparency,” he said. “All of us are due the same protections and bound by the same laws, and our elected officials must possess the courage and leadership to ensure this is realized for all citizens.”
Plowman said he doesn’t see a divide in the community, but rather a divide between the current council and the residents who want to enjoy a peaceful town after a hard week’s work. These people have already united, but council doesn’t see it, Plowman said.
“Simply following the code and charter as it is written would have prevented such a divide in the first place, and if the people of Waterville deem me worthy of representing them, under my watch the laws of our city will be followed,” he said.
Plowman describes himself as an analytical thinker and leader who is not afraid to stand up for the most vulnerable in the community.
“More importantly, I’m a father,” he said. “Waterville is a community known for excellent schools with a small-town feel, a great place to raise a family. Like so many others, it’s the reason my family is here, and I aim to keep it that way.”
In addition to his career in management information systems, Plowman is a licensed firearms dealer specializing in bringing historically significant items to a national market by auction. As high-power director for the Ohio Rifle & Pistol Association, he oversees state-sanctioned marksmanship competitions. Partnered with the Civilian Marksmanship Program out of Camp Perry, the organization provides a safe and competitive marksmanship program for Ohioans of all ages, he said.
Rob Allen has seen many changes since he first moved to Waterville in 1972 – and he wants to be a part of a positive change in the future, channeling a sense of service that he learned as a St. John’s Jesuit High School graduate and military veteran.
“I see a lot of the things that have changed, and I don’t always agree with those changes,” he said. “I hear people say that ‘Waterville is fine the way it is,’ and resist change. We need to be in control so that change is positive, bringing back some of the things that made Waterville a great place to live, so it becomes even greater.”
Allen works as the regional/operations manager for a national security company that provides armed and unarmed security services as well as EMTs and fire services to locations such as hospitals, manufacturing, automotive, retail, defense/aerospace and state and local governments.
As a longtime member of the Republican Central Committee, Allen was involved in his Northeast Ohio community, running for the Ohio Senate in 2016 – a process that he said allowed him to make connections in Ohio and Michigan with business owners, entrepreneurs and community advocates. He returned to Waterville in 2016 and has focused on reconnecting with the community, he said.
“I want to bring people together so we can create jobs and a better future for the community,” he said.
When asked about the current division in Water-ville, he noted that a friend on one of the Ohio circuit courts told him that there will always be division between members of any community.
“To get involved and to want to serve the community means to accept that no matter what you do, someone will always find fault with you. Waterville is divided over one issue, but we are united on many others. We are all still neighbors and all still care about our community and each other,” he said.
As he contacted residents to sign his petition to run, Allen said he found people both for and against the amphitheater, but they still signed his petitions.
“That speaks volumes to the fact that we all still care about each other and are willing to listen. We need to look through the rhetoric of a few, angry people, to see the larger picture that still unites us. We will not always agree, but we will always be here when we need each other,” he said.
Todd Borowski wants to be a part of making sure that Waterville City Council makes the best choices for residents, not just for the present but also the future.
During his first term in office, Borowski initiated projects that he wants to see followed through, including repaving alleys, launching social media, supporting employees with better pay and improving public spaces.
“I want to make sure I am there to make the best choices for the future of our city, not just for my kids, but for my grandkids,” he said.
Through his career in sales and now as a small-business owner, Borowski has worked with both the public and private sectors, with experience presenting to officials as high up as the Pentagon and also at the local level. These experiences have shown him how to listen without judging and how to communicate effectively, he said.
“I don’t care if you’re worth $100 million or live paycheck to paycheck, I will give each person the same respect and treat them equally. I think I have proven I am a great listener,” he said.
As an example, Borowski said he has helped Waterville residents take care of their concerns by working with city department leaders.
“When we are presented with opportunities within our city, I do my due diligence, discuss it with subject matter experts, consider the pros and cons and make the best decision for our community. Will everyone always agree? I wish, but no. I do enjoy discussing my decisions with citizens whether for or against that particular issue,” he said.
The amphitheater project, while challenging, is just one issue, and many more will come, he said. Even though the project may leave some deep scars that take a while to heal, Borowski said he is confident that the community is still very close.
“We are all entitled to an opinion and even though I may not share the same opinion with you, the best thing I can do is to talk through the issues and listen to ideas. I do believe our small community is like a family and we will work through our differences,” he said. “Despite all the negativity I’ve received regarding the amphitheater project, there still isn’t one person in our community that I wouldn’t sit down with and enjoy a drink and a nice conversation.”
During his tenure on council, Borowski has been involved with the Tree Commission and the Public Works Committee. He is also a member of the Waterville Area Chamber of Commerce and volunteers for area fundraisers.
Rod Frey is running for re-election in order to continue giving back to Waterville, he said.
“I want to improve our infrastructure with needed capital improvements; grow and improve our police, fire and public works departments; and continue to maintain our surplus annual budget and to better balance the city revenue sources with residential and commercial growth. Both are needed to continue to improve and grow the city I have called home for 35 years,” he said.
Appointed to council in February 2018 and elected in 2019, Frey has a 43-year career in the banking and finance industry, currently working as a commercial real estate lender for Waterford Bank N.A. Just as he provides guidance and finance options to his clients, Frey said he uses his expertise in business finance, commercial and residential construction and development to guide the city on decisions.
Prior to joining council, Frey was chair of the city’s Charter Review Committee, a member of the Finance Committee and a member of the Waterville Economic Development Corporation, now known as the Water-ville Community Improve-ment Corporation. In 2018, he joined a committee of Whitehouse, Waterville and Waterville Township representatives who formed the Fallen Timbers Union Cemetery District, and he continues to serve on that committee as trustee and chair.
Several new businesses opened in the city in 2022 and more have plans to launch in 2023. He pointed to the recent purchase of 48 acres by the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority as an example of a positive investment. New homes also continue to be added, giving families the opportunity to move to Waterville and enjoy the growing city and the excellent school system, Frey said.
“There does seem to be a group of citizens that would rather see growth in our city stop. As a council member, it’s my job to provide better communication as to the importance of planned and controlled commercial and residential growth,” he said. “The city needs to attract more businesses, which in turn will increase our city income tax revenue and bring families to our city to buy homes and live in our city.”
“Waterville has a strong financial position with a surplus budget for years,” he continued. “This has been achieved by the guidance of our elected officials along with the city administration, and we can’t allow this to deteriorate. I look forward to working for another four years on city council to accomplish this.”
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 – listening to and representing all residents.
Growing up in South Toledo, Garver said he saw his parents get involved: his mom with the National Organization for Women and his dad, a retired Toledo firefighter, as vice president of the union.
“It was something we always talked about around the dinner table,” he said.
After graduating from Bowsher High School, he married his wife of 34 years, Gloria. 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 regulations, policies and maintenance manuals,” he said. Those are skills he believes will translate to city council, he said, noting that he’s already read through the city’s charter, land use plan and budget.
Garver, who is involved with the Feet on the Street program through Toledo police – providing a holiday shopping experience for children in need – said he’d like to see a Waterville-based event or fundraiser that pulls families together to rally around a cause, even if they disagree on other issues. He also plans to keep residents informed by sending out an email newsletter after each council meeting.
“I’m representing the people and what they think, not what I think,” he said. “I want to meet with people and talk to them to get their input.”
Garver said he brings to the table the core values he gained in service to the country: integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do. As a member of the military, he maintained a security clearance that required financial stability and a clean background check.
Matt Harrell is running for council in order to improve communication with residents and ensure the responsible application of the municipal code and comprehensive plan to benefit and protect residents.
“My life experiences have given me the necessary abilities to be a good servant of our community,” said Harrell.
He enlisted in the Air Force and earned an officer’s commission at the 180th Fighter Wing, where he served for 22 years. Harrell also served three years as an Air Force Academy liaison officer, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.
In the private sector, Harrell worked as an electrical engineer locally for 20 years before deciding on a career change to respiratory therapy. In addition to working as a respiratory therapist, he works part time in a woodworking shop.
“With a serving heart, I have cared for people with chronic pulmonary conditions and have treated the most critically ill during the COVID pandemic,” he said.
While canvassing the neighborhoods seeking signatures for a referendum on the amphitheater, Harrell made some observations that he recently shared with council.
“I collected 90 signatures in only a few days. Of the residents I met, 8 to 1 were opposed to the amphitheater,” he said. “If elected, I will commit to vastly improved communication between the city administration and the residents. I will also focus efforts to create a more vibrant downtown and will support development that will benefit residents, not burden them.”
The Harrell family has lived in Waterville for nearly 10 years, with two children who graduated from Anthony Wayne High School.
Wayne Wagner said running for office was the last thing on his mind – until eight months ago.
“Then it became very evident that our city wants someone who will stand up for the rights of all citizens in Waterville. Someone who will vote based on what is in the city charter and municipal code, follow the comprehensive plan that the citizens decided on and someone who’s not afraid to challenge the good-old-boy system that exists in this city. I am that person.”
Along with his wife of 20 years, Lori, Wagner owns and operates Riverwalk Construction LLC, a small home-remodeling business that was founded when they moved back home from Las Vegas in 2005.
As a business owner, Wagner said he deals with many different people on a daily basis, coordinating jobs, hiring subcontractors, working with vendors and obtaining permits so that each project runs smoothly.
“That’s the key to our success. We do not advertise, so all of our business is word-of-mouth. Having a good business reputation is key both in business and in politics,” he said. “The willingness to talk to, engage and listen to your constituents and represent them accordingly is what should be expected of every politician, and that’s exactly what Waterville will get with me.”
He said the job is pretty simple: Follow the municipal code – and if there are errors in the code, fix them, he said.
“If they can’t be fixed, explain it to the people. Just by keeping people informed of why you’re making the decision will ease most people’s minds,” he said.
While Wagner said he knows it’s not possible to please 100 percent of the people, he can assure everyone that their voices will heard. He plans to encourage active participation in all city business, not just hot topics. That can be done by bringing social media accounts up to date and hosting town hall meetings with residents.
“People don’t come to council meetings because they’re boring, uninformative and council does a bad job at engaging the community. I will work to fix that by explaining what it is happening on the agenda in advance of all meetings. You will not find someone who will work harder at keeping the community engaged and informed.”