The Bellbrook city council is comprised of six council members and the mayor. Mayor Mike Schweller is up for reelection this year, but is running unopposed. Council members Ernie Havens, TJ Hoke, and Elaine Middlestetter are halfway through their terms and will be up for reelection in 2023. Each council member serves a term of four years.
On the issues
All four council candidates said addressing flooding, stormwater management, and infrastructure issues were among their top priorities if elected to office. Bellbrook residents have experienced flooding of their homes, yards and neighborhoods. Last March, flood waters destroyed a bridge north of state Route 725 after severe storms. Heavy rains and subsequent erosion have also damaged the structural integrity of Little Sugarcreek Road.
All four candidates also said that they would continue to champion downtown revitalization efforts, including improved sidewalks and crosswalks, walking paths, and more accessible parking. Bellbrook has been looking to improve amenities through its Downtown Streetscape plan, with the goal of attracting more businesses and capitalizing on Bellbrook’s small-town charm.
Incumbent Forrest Greenwood has has lived in Bellbrook 38 years and served on city council for eight. An Air Force veteran, Greenwood retired from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and currently works as a real estate investor. He has also served as chairman of the safety committee for police, fire and EMS, and on and the Service Committee.
“We really do live in a unique place,” he said. “I have lived in the Old Village for 38 years. I know the Old Village, want to preserve the small town feel and make the Old Village more business friendly.”
Greenwood’s focus is to continue working on the streetscape project without compromising quality of life for Bellbrook citizens. This includes police, fire department and EMS, in addition to storm water infrastructure.
“The streetscape is a priority, but you have to go with your basics,” he said. “I worked hard to ensure these departments are performing at the level our citizens expect. This can only happen with proactive Council Members striving to maintain our services.”
Greenwood would reassess stormwater drainage coming into the city from outside Bellbrook’s city limits to ensure retention systems are being maintained upstream, as well as assess and repair existing stormwater systems. Funding for repairs would be sought from federal and state grants.
Greenwood said he would not consider an income tax.
“If you want to do something in your town, you have to have public input. People see things that I wouldn’t see. It’s just the way it is,” he said. “Different sets of eyes bring different ideas.”
“If you don’t lead with heart, if you can’t bring people in and connect with them, you’re not going to get much done,” Greenwood added. “You’ve got people who make $30,000 a year and people who make millions. If you’re on city council, you’d best represent them all.”
Meredith Brinegar has lived in Bellbrook for 11 years, and has served as chair of the Board of Zoning Appeals for five years. She earned a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Miami University, and owns a psychology practice in Centerville.
“My job as a psychologist isn’t to help people become numb and adapt to dysfunctions in the world. Part of my job is to help change our environments. I am running for city council to help shape my community in a more formal way,” Brinegar said. “There’s lots of things that Bellbrook does well. I want to give back because they’ve served me well in the years I’ve been here.”
Among her priorities is protecting roads and rivers using practices that are more environmentally sound. This includes seeking funding from Power a Clean Future Ohio or American Rescue Plan funds to address stormwater issues, and partnering with other organizations to prioritize green space require developers to replace trees and implement filter strips along waterways.
Brinegar would also seek to create a Community Culture and Relations Board, composed of citizen-volunteers who would work to increase civic engagement and inclusion, as well as promote events like block parties.
“Our community has endured significant strife related to school funding in the last two years,” she said. Neighbors are either afraid to talk to each other, or exchange heated words online. We all struggle with talking to each other when we disagree. How do we do better?”
Brinegar would address downtown walkability by adding safe crosswalks and sidewalks, funded by seeking grants from the Ohio Department of Transportation.
“Residents have repeatedly expressed a desire for a walkable community. This need has become more pressing with a significant reduction in school bussing,” she said.
Bellbrook is currently heavily reliant on property taxes, Brinegar said, and she would only consider adding an income tax to shift the burden away from senior residents and those with a fixed income.
Katherine Cyphers is a Marine Corps veteran and Certified Defense Financial Manager. A resident of Bellbrook for 16 years, Cyphers works for Sehlke Consulting and has a focus on improving safety.
“My core values and traits include fiscal responsibility, integrity, dependability, and loyalty,” Cyphers said.
Cyphers’ focus is on improving accommodations adhering to the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide better access for those with disabilities. This including adding wheelchair-accessible routes and improving sidewalks and crosswalks.
To address erosion, Cyphers places an emphasis on preserving natural resources, using soil and water conservation practices that will maintain the banks of the Little Sugar Creek.
Stormwater issues also present a safety concern, Cyphers said, as she encountered a boy who crashed his bicycle near a storm drain last year.
“A bike path should not send a child to the hospital because he encountered a storm ditch on the hill of a paved bike path. This must be corrected,” she said. “Right now, there’s not enough emphasis placed on maintaining and upgrading. We need to pick up the ball on preventive maintenance, and simultaneously do the upgrades that need to be done.”
Through her profession, Cyphers has experience in government budgets and accounting, and said she would like to reduce the amount of money spent on evaluations.
“We’ve done an excessive amount of studies for the downtown area, when stormwater issues go outside of the downtown area,” Cyphers said. “If we can spend money on a study, I’d prefer it spent on stormwater infrastructure.”
Harding is the Director of Architecture at CESO in Miamisburg and serves on the Bellbrook Planning Board. A 25-year Bellbrook resident, Harding has been an architectural advisor for the city of Bellbrook and served on the Old Village Review Board.
“My role is to be a problem solver,” he said. “Clients come to me with a need but often do not fully understand what the problems are that they are trying to solve. My job is to listen, dissect the issues at hand and help people understand what the best path is to solve their problems in the most cost efficient manner.”
Harding said he would combine the information from the Comprehensive Development Plan, the Revitalization Study and the Streetscape Design into one cohesive concept with specific items to address on a timeline.
“We’ve been talking about it for years, incremental small things have happened,” he said. “There’s been lots of studies, but not a lot of things getting done. We have a great community of people wanting to be involved with this.”
Harding is passionate about accessibility, and would also focus on making downtown spaces more ADA compliant. Additionally, Harding says, the downtown area has lots of opportunities to show off local artists, and would work to identify existing volunteer programs and find ways to help advertise and recognize those efforts.
There’s big canvases on the side of buildings aching for art to happen,” he said.
“I want to be known for being accessible to everyone. Problems only get resolved when they are brought to everyone’s attention,” he added.
Harding would address funding by improving the city’s ability to apply for and achieve state and federal grants, particularly in regards to infrastructure. An income tax is not an option.
“We can’t raise income taxes, we can’t raise property taxes, but we need to find ways to get more money through federal and state grants. Our infrastructure issues aren’t going to go away,” he said.