Meet the 7 running for run-off in Dayton commission race on May 4

The May 4 run-off election will shrink the largest field of Dayton City Commission candidates in decades to a four-way race that has the potential to shift political power at City Hall.

The seven candidates include an incumbent commissioner, a faith leader, a union leader and four ex-city employees who formerly worked in law enforcement, community-police relations, community development and zoning.

Dayton will get at least one new face on the city commission ― possibly two ― as well as a new mayor, which depending on who wins could flip control of the elected body away from the commissioners endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

Candidates Darryl Fairchild, Jared Grandy, Stacey Benson-Taylor, Shenise Turner-Sloss, Scott Sliver, Jordan Wortham and Valerie Duncan hope to be among the top four vote-getters in the May 4 election, so they compete for two open seats in November.

The candidates have varying backgrounds, experience and qualifications, but they generally agree that this is a pivotal time for Dayton and the city needs the right leadership in place.

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Stacey Benson-Taylor. CONTRIBUTED

Stacey Benson-Taylor. CONTRIBUTED

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Stacey Benson-Taylor. CONTRIBUTED

Stacey Benson-Taylor

Age: 49

Neighborhood of residence: Westwood

Current/former occupation: Former regional director and staff representative of AFSCME Ohio Council 8

Benson-Taylor, 49, until recently was the regional director and staff representative for AFSCME Ohio Council 8. She resigned from that role to run for office.

Benson-Taylor represented about 2,500 employees in Montgomery County, including more than 700 city of Dayton employees for the last 15 years.

While serving as a union leader, Benson-Taylor said she handled behind-the-scenes budget work and negotiations, including during two difficult recessions, the loss of a major airline at the Dayton International Airport and other financially challenging times.

She said she helped come with creative solutions to cut costs and increase revenue while also minimizing job losses and disruptions to vital city services.

Benson-Taylor said her experience means she has unique insight that can help balance the needs of the community and the city’s budget.

“I have over 30 years of experience in serving employees in this community and have been a bridge to a brighter future for working families,” she said.

Benson-Taylor said she proposes creating programs and leveraging funds to assist entrepreneurs with acquiring properties and starting and expanding their businesses.

She said she will work with community partners to create more co-ops, like the Gem City Market.

She also proposes more engagement and education linking organized labor and the community, in the hopes of improving access for minorities, women and economically disadvantaged residents.

Benson-Taylor said the direction of the city and the future of its citizens are at stake in this election because the mayor’s seat and two commission seats are up for grabs.

Benson-Taylor has been endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic Party, which also endorsed Scott Sliver.

The current mayor and three of four city commissioners were endorsed by the party; only Commissioner Darryl Fairchild was not.

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Valerie Duncan

Valerie Duncan

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Valerie Duncan

Valerie Duncan

Age: 67

Neighborhood of residence: Eastern Hills

Current/former occupation: Retired city of Dayton employee

Duncan, 66, worked for the city of Dayton for more than 30 years, including as a zoning plans examiner, which she says gives her the “know-how” to fix the city’s biggest problems.

Duncan said she prepared grant proposals for development projects and helped address the needs of neighborhoods and business districts, including by improving their viability and attractiveness. She previously ran for a commission seat in 2019, but came up short.

Citing her work experience, Duncan said she knows how to improve Dayton’s livability and she wants to create new housing programs that support low- and moderate-income families, providing new opportunities and incentives for homeownership.

“The city’s housing issues need to be our number 1 priority,” she said.

She said the city should use millions of dollars of its federal coronavirus relief money to demolish blight and create programs that encourage homeownership and property repairs.

Duncan said the city also needs to hire more housing inspectors to deal with the large number of dilapidated homes that need to be torn down.

She said she wants to strengthen neighborhoods by investing in them as much as the city invests in downtown.

Duncan said the city needs more technical training and education programs to improve citizens’ skills, possibly through new or expanded police, fire and trade union apprenticeships.

She said the city needs new strategies and programs to help residents acquire vacant and abandoned homes that can be repaired.

“I am running a grassroots campaign with no political party endorsements,” she said. “I want to be the independent voice of all citizens of Dayton on the Dayton City Commission.”

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Darryl Fairchild. CONTRIBUTED

Darryl Fairchild. CONTRIBUTED

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Darryl Fairchild. CONTRIBUTED

Darryl Fairchild

Age: 55

Neighborhood of residence: Dayton View Triangle

Current/former occupation: Dayton City Commission, chaplain Dayton Children’s Hospital

Fairchild, 55, joined the commission after winning a special election in May 2018 to replace Joey Williams, who resigned.

Fairchild, the manager of chaplain services at Dayton Children’s Hospital, says he has demonstrated responsive and responsible leadership during his time in office ― which he described as some of the most difficult years for the city in the last century.

“If you look at the city, it’s fair to say that we had the right resources in the right places at the right time,” he said at a recent candidate forum. “And I’m proud of the work we did.”

Fairchild said he fulfilled a campaign promise to create plans for the city’s residential neighborhoods, which will provide a roadmap to their revitalization.

Fairchild said he will prioritize and work to implement those plans and also he is pushing for a comprehensive and equitable housing plan.

Fairchild said from his first day in office he has worked to strengthen police-community relations, protect the local water supply and has been a “champion” for the city’s neighborhoods.

Fairchild said this election matters because the city faces a complex and uncertain fiscal environment, because the pandemic’s long-term impact is unclear and work-from-home changes could lead to large revenue reductions.

However, he said, Dayton has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform its neighborhoods across because the city is receiving $147 million from the federal American Rescue Plan.

Fairchild said his priorities include protecting basic services and advancing neighborhood development with investments in new homes, demolition, businesses and business corridors.

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Jared Grandy

Age: 33

Neighborhood of residence: Northern Hills

Current/former occupation: Dayton’s former community-police relations coordinator

Grandy, 33, was Dayton’s community-police relations coordinator for more than three years.

He resigned last year after growing frustrated with police leadership over what he says was their reluctance to adopt community-supported police reform recommendations.

Grandy, who graduated from law school in 2015, said he is running for the city commission to improve community-police relations and neighborhood safety by re-imaging public safety.

“I am dedicated to addressing the underlying issues that cause crime and violence because we cannot simply arrest our way into safety,” he said. “I am also working to increase environmental justice.”

Grandy, who has described his campaign as “unapologetically progressive,” said he ran public safety initiatives while working for the city and developed comprehensive safety plans for neighborhoods.

He said his previous work experience as a youth counselor and job developer with the Miami Valley Urban League gave him a strong appreciation for the needs of Dayton’s young people.

He said he also learned the kind of devotion it takes to work with and help Dayton’s most vulnerable populations

The city, Grandy said, must increase investment in green infrastructure and switch to more renewable and sustainable energy sources.

He said the city needs to hold people and companies responsible who engage in mass dumping.

The city also must ensure responsible use of tax incentives to make sure large developers are not unfairly advantaged at the expense of smaller businesses, local property owners and the school district, Grandy said.

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Scott Sliver

Age: 58

Neighborhood of residence: Wolf Creek

Current/former occupation: Senior associate pastor at Dayton Vineyard Church

Sliver, 58, is senior associate pastor at Dayton Vineyard Church in Beavercreek, who has a background in advertising and marketing.

Sliver also operates a mobile food pantry that provides groceries to nearly 1,000 households each month.

Sliver, who unsuccessfully ran for a commission seat once before in 2015, said he will put his advertising and marketing skills to good use to help the city better promote all that it has to offer.

Sliver said he would be an effective leader because he is personable, friendly and has strong communication skills.

He said he is hard worker, accessible and he has a proven record of rolling up his sleeves and doing the community work that some candidates only say they will do if elected.

Sliver serves on the executive board of the Dayton Unit NAACP, the Community Police Council and a police reform committee focused on community Engagement.

Sliver said commissioners are responsible for setting the direction of the city, inspiring citizens and casting a vision for the city’s future.

He said commissioners also must make it easy for citizens to engage with the city.

“I will take a ‘common sense approach’ coupled with creative insight and ideas,” Sliver said. “I know all the players, and I am ready on day 1.”

Sliver said if elected he will push to ensure that every neighborhood receives a portion of the $147 million in federal money that the city is expected to receive from the American Rescue Plan.

Sliver said he is deeply involved in civil rights and police reform, and if elected he will make sure the city implements and fully funds all of the police reform group recommendations.

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Shenise Turner-Sloss. CONTRIBUTED

Shenise Turner-Sloss. CONTRIBUTED

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Shenise Turner-Sloss. CONTRIBUTED

Shenise Turner-Sloss

Age: 39

Neighborhood of residence: Southern Dayton View

Current/former occupation: Logistics management specialist at Wright-Patterson Air Force, former city employee

Turner-Sloss, 39, is a logistics management specialist at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base who is running for the city commission for a third time after two unsuccessful bids.

Turner-Sloss, who previously worked as a senior community development specialist with the city, said the city needs a forward-thinking leader like her who will make residents a priority.

Dayton is one of the most impoverished and segregated cities in the nation, she said, adding that she wants to rebuild neighborhoods one block at a time and aggressively remove blight.

She said she will launch a “cut the tape” program to eliminate barriers and restructure policies that restrict access to capital, resources and development.

“Dayton cannot continue to do what we have been doing, and we certainly cannot continue to elect individuals that do not have the residents’ best interests in mind,” she said. “We must elect people whose policy gives opportunity to all and not just a few.”

Turner-Sloss says she has a clear vision to make the city a decent place for everyone to live.

She said she is the only candidate with significant practical experience working with federal and city budgets and grants related to development.

“Dayton is in need of a bold, un-bought and unapologetic servant leader that knows the pulse of the communities,” she said.

She said she has a deep understanding of city government and has close ties to local communities. She said she will adopt and implement progressive policies and programming.

Turner-Sloss says wants the city to increase spending on recreation and youth services and expand and add programs for young people, like new summer work opportunities.

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Jordan Wortham. CONTRIBUTED

Jordan Wortham. CONTRIBUTED

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Jordan Wortham. CONTRIBUTED

Jordan Wortham

Age: 32

Neighborhood of residence: Shroyer Park

Current/former occupation: Security equity investor and former Dayton police officer

Wortham, 32, who served as a Dayton police officer for seven years before being discharged, currently works as a security equity investor.

Wortham said he would make the city more business friendly and he would eliminate bureaucratic red tape and wasteful spending.

Wortham said he favors simple solutions and would make fiscally conservative budget decisions and reallocate funding away from “ineffective” programs.

“I want to lower taxes,” he said. “I want to look at regulatory policies that are overly cumbersome.”

At a recent candidate forum, Wortham said he supports reducing the city’s income tax from the current rate of 2.5%.

Dayton voters in 2016 approved increasing the earnings tax from 2.25% to 2.5% for eight years.

“I want jobs, jobs and more jobs,” he said. “I think the current commission and mayor look at business as the enemy ― I disagree: business is our friend.”

Wortham said he has mentored young people through numerous programs.

He said he also saw firsthand during his time as a police officer that Dayton residents in all parts of the city are hungry for change.

Wortham said Dayton has the most talented workforce in the nation and all the ingredients needed to be great.

But he says the city’s elected leadership has been the issue.

Wortham said his experience on the police force means he will be able to achieve real police reforms, which he says is very different than what is being proposed under the current commission.

Wortham also said the city needs to greatly increase spending on police recruitment.

He said he’d like the city to spend federal relief funds on infrastructure projects that are required to hire and use Dayton workers.

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