STEUBENVILLE - Two political newcomers will face off in the May 7 Democrat primary election for the 2nd Ward council seat.
Mike Johnson of 2080 Eve Drive and Lori Mason of 126 Langley Ave. are seeking a nod from voters to replace incumbent 2nd Ward Councilman Rick Perkins, who announced earlier this year he would not seek re-election.
Both candidates were born and raised in Steubenville and have financial backgrounds.
Johnson, 52, started thinking about running for office following a 2011 shooting incident on Pleasant Heights that left bullet holes in his neighbors' houses.
"I was among the neighborhood residents who attended a City Council meeting to express our concerns. That's when several people told me I should think about running for a council seat," related Johnson.
"I am not happy with the direction of the city. And I believe it is time for new faces on City Council with new ideas. We need to get our city moving in a new direction," said Johnson.
"First of all our city is in a financial crisis situation. We need to develop a long-range strategy to deal with the loss of state funding and at the same time start attracting new business to our city. Some of our goals will take a cooperative effort. But we need to encourage our citizens to come together and help pull us out of the fiscal mess. I believe my financial background will be helpful in coming up with viable solutions," remarked Johnson.
"The city doesn't have a recycling and composting program. The city of Maumee, Ohio, has a composting service. I think we should look at a composting program. We would reduce the tonnage going to the landfill and save money and perhaps we could exchange the compost topsoil to residents who bring material for composting to a central site," Johnson said.
"Another major issue is our city health insurance. The city is paying $13,000 for every employee. I believe the city should look at the possibility of a health care buyout program. A buyout could be offered once a year to employees who may prefer to use their spouse's health insurance," he said.
"We also need to focus on our revenue stream, including selling water to the oil and gas drillers. We are also starting to see more people in the area working for the oil and gas industry. But I do not believe we are adequately receiving the income tax for those people. Everyone should pay their fair share of the city income tax. We also have to find a better way to collect delinquent water bills," stated Johnson.
"I also believe we need to work harder to attract new industries and businesses to the city. We need to promote the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel property in the South End as well as the old Weirton Steel property," he added.
"Win or lose, I have enjoyed the experience of campaigning. And no matter how this election turns out I want to continue to be involved in our city. I want to do what I can to help the community," Johnson said.
Mason, 43, said she decided to seek the ward council seat "because it is time for my generation to step up and get involved. We can no longer look to our parents or grandparents to continue making all of the decisions. It is time for my generation to take on a leadership role in our community."
"I am running for the City Council seat to make a change. I want to make a difference for the good of the city. I was born and raised here and live with my husband and two sons on the same street I grew up on. I know our city has a future. I want to be part of the future of Steubenville," Mason said.
"I feel our plans of action are never carried out. People have good ideas but what is lacking is following through on those ideas. We need to take a plan and stick with it. We need to accomplish what we talk about," cited Mason.
"I don't live in a fairytale world. I know the city's finances are getting tighter. For example, I know there may very well be a need for changing our annual spring cleanup. But we haven't completed the Buena Vista recycling pilot program. That plan was brought up but never completed. Now city officials are talking about reorganizing the cleanup campaign," she said.
"I don't want to see an increase in our taxes. I do believe we need to go after more grant money opportunities for general fund projects. It is good to go after recreation grants for the Belleview swimming pool or Beatty Park, but we also need to look for grants that benefit other projects in the city," Mason said.
"I also believe we need to start thinking outside of the box. We need to have more strategic planning for the city - be open to different ideas. The city has cut expenses as much as they can so we need to look at new ideas. We need to get back to old school ways. I believe it is time to get some pride back in our city. Get pride and respect for our city, for other people and for ourselves," said Mason.
"I look at our city and see us struggling, but I also know we have a future. The university has put us on the map. So now we need to make ourselves look more attractive to visitors and potential businesses coming to Steubenville. I believe Franciscan University should be our best friend," she said.
"Campaigning for public office has been the most daunting thing I have ever done. I didn't realize how hard it is to run for office. But I have also come to realize how many friends I have in Steubenville who support me. I truly believe and care about our city and want to be part of City Council as we move into the future," said Mason.
"I don't feel that I am running against Mike Johnson. I feel I am running for office to be part of our city government who will help plan for the future and make decisions for our city," noted Mason.
"We can't forget the long history our community has. We can't leave our history behind. But we can embrace our future. Our citizens have made Steubenville a successful community for so many years. And we will make Steubenville a successful community for our children and future generations. As I said earlier, it is time for my generation to step forward and start working for the betterment of our city," she added.