Seven candidates seek election in Xenia mayoral, council races

Two candidates for mayor and five candidates for city council seats are on Xenia's ballot this November. LONDON BISHOP/STAFF
Two candidates for mayor and five candidates for city council seats are on Xenia's ballot this November. LONDON BISHOP/STAFF

XENIA — Two candidates for mayor and five candidates for city council are seeking voters’ approval in this election.

The mayor and three seats on the six-person council are up for election this year. Council incumbents Levi Dean and Will Urschel are seeking re-election against newcomer Ethan Reynolds for two four-year terms. Council President Wesley Smith and newcomer Jeremy Cox are vying to fill one unexpired term ending Dec. 31, 2023.

Former Xenia council member Dale Louderback seeks to unseat incumbent Sarah Mays in the mayoral race.

In Xenia, the mayor’s vote is equal to that of the other six council members. Members of city council serve four-year terms. The council is responsible for passing legislation, setting the city’s budget and municipal taxes, and hiring city staff.

Sarah J. Mays
Sarah J. Mays

Sarah Mays

Mays is concluding her first term as mayor. She previously served as a member of city council, and currently serves on the Board of the Miami Valley Mayors and Managers Association.

“Xenia is my family, and I advocate for my family,” she said.

If re-elected, Mays’ focus will be on growing Xenia’s economic base and repairing Xenia’s street infrastructure. Using Xenia’s portion of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to repair streets is a short-term solution, Mays said, and long-term solutions include finding other income sources.

“Each year, the city budgets $500,000 toward roads, adds in grant funds, and directs any other available funds toward streets and infrastructure. On average, Xenia spends over $1.5 million annually. However, it’s not enough. An actionable plan is imperative to keep Xenia moving safely,” she said.

Expanding the city’s economic base includes investing in good-paying jobs, fiber internet access, and making Xenia an attractive place to live for families.

“The role of the mayor in the community is to be an ambassador,” Mays said. “I’ve spent the last four years building Xenia’s reputation and connections throughout the county. To build your economic base, you need strong rapport and strong relationships.”

Investing in Xenia Towne Square is also among Mays’ top priorities. In January, the city purchased the buildings in Towne Square for $3.3 million, gaining total control of the site for the first time in over 40 years. The city is in the process of developing plans to revitalize that space for new and existing local businesses.

“We want to do something that incorporates existing midtown businesses, downtown businesses, and the bike hub,” Mays said. “We’re doing this to lift everyone up.”

Dale Louderback
Dale Louderback

Dale Louderback

Louderback served as a Xenia city council member for 12 years. A realtor, Louderback said he is running to make Xenia a growth community again.

“The reason I’d like to come back is not politics, it’s public service,” he said. “We’re No. 3 in population loss in the latest census. Downtown is becoming a ghost town. Everyone is moving out, and it saddens me to see that happening.”

If elected, Louderback’s priorities are paving the streets without raising taxes, bringing good paying jobs to Xenia, and providing affordable recreation and entertainment for Xenia families and children.

Xenia has been awarded roughly $2.8 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, all of which should go towards repairing roads and streets, Louderback said, as well as using some water and sewer funds to address infrastructure underneath the streets.

Louderback would also work to lower Xenia’s income tax rate from 2.25% to 2%.

“We have one of the highest income taxes in Ohio,” Louderback said. “I would fight to lower those. For small businesses relocating to Xenia, it’s an issue. As Mayor, I would be much more proactive in bringing business to Xenia.”

Making Xenia more business-friendly also means looking at bringing building inspection back in-house, Louderback said. Currently, inspection services in Xenia are provided by Greene County, which Louderback says has had a negative impact on business growth.

“I envision a city hall that illustrates Xenia as a City of Hospitality, working to make businesses and citizens feel welcome,” he said.

William Urschel
William Urschel

Will Urschel

Urschel was appointed to city council after the death of vice president Dr. Edgar Wallace in Dec. 2020. A pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Xenia and an Air Force veteran, Urschel works for Dayton Aerospace, Inc.

“I didn’t need to get elected to serve my community. I’ve been serving community for 30 years,” Urschel said. “With hard work you can accomplish great things.”

Urschel’s priorities include creating infrastructure and economic investment with the resources the city currently has. This includes investing in Xenia Town Square and bringing businesses to other city buildings, as well as cutting back spending in other areas. The city currently spends around $1 million on roads annually, but Urschel says it’s not enough.

“Our roads are in poor condition,” he said. “We would be needing to invest $3.5 million a year to bring them up to fair or good condition in 10 years. That’s a $2.5 million infrastructure deficit, and we can get between $1 million and $1.5 million back by changing the way we’re doing things.”

The Xenia Municipal Court serves several other area municipalities, as does the city’s 911 call center, which combine to cost the city $800,000 a year. Urschel said the council should revisit how those services are funded to make it more equitable, and the city shouldn’t underwrite other municipalities.

Freeing up funding, in addition to seeking other sources, would allow Xenia to give back to the community in other ways.

“Most cities think of economic development in huge projects,” Urschel said. We need to be setting aside a small amount of money for each of those neighborhoods and business districts and say, ‘What is one small thing we can do to get you to invest in your neighborhood or business district?’ And then do it. If people have hope, they will invest money in their neighborhoods.”

Levi Dean

Dean is finishing his first term on city council, and works for his family’s plumbing business. Dean is running for re-election as “a way to give back to the community where I was raised,” he said.

Dean’s priorities include protecting funding for public safety, to ensure police and fire departments have the resources they need, pursuing economic development in Xenia by attracting new businesses, and providing jobs for young people to encourage them to invest in their community. Dean supports the development of Xenia Town Square, as “what is developed and ultimately put there will set the stage for Xenia for the next 50 years,” he said.

“We want to give young people a job and a place to stay after they graduate, hopefully because they see a good opportunity here,” he said.

Local businesses have said that inspection services through Greene County are not growth-friendly. Dean would look at bringing that in-house, hiring it out to a contractor, or working with the county to provide a better service. Bringing the service in-house comes with its own challenges and costs.

“I know from experience having to learn inspections and codes is kind of a pain,” Dean said. “The best-case scenario is the county could step up to the plate and provide that service in a friendly and efficient manner.”

Ethan Reynolds

Reynolds started his career working for State Rep. Ron Hood while attending Wright State University. He went on to work for the Ohio Attorney General’s office and still works in state government. Reynolds proposes to fix road repair and construction using chip and overlay, which is a method of road resurfacing. Reynolds also said the city budget should be constantly updated online, so that citizens can know how their money is spent.

“Our No. 1 priority is to look at our budget and see what debts can be paid off, by using the stimulus money to offset general fund budget items,” Reynolds told the League of Women Voters.

Wesley Smith
Wesley Smith

Wesley Smith

Smith currently serves as Xenia council president, a position he has held for two years. He previously served as council vice president for five years and operates his own photography business. Smith’s top priorities are funding for roadway infrastructure and maintaining funding for public safety and first responders.

“As council members we are always looking for ways to cut cost savings without sacrificing services for our residents,” he said.

The city completed $7 million in road work over the past three years, funded primarily through federal and state grants and other cost-saving measures. Prior to 2010, the city’s budget for streets was $50,000 annually. Xenia council is continuing to pursue revenue sources through grants, possible annexation, and partnering with Greene County and other municipalities to “reduce duplication of services,” Smith said.

“City of Xenia has maintained a balanced budget each year, by law, we are required by the state and have received financial awards for our excellent bookkeeping and transparency,” Smith said.

Despite data from the 2020 census indicating Xenia’s population decreased, Xenia is becoming a “community of choice,” as several developers are prepared to invest in building up to 400 new homes in four different areas in Xenia, Smith said. The Towne Square project is also a major project that members of the community are invested in, submitting over 1,200 responses to council over how the revitalization should be handled.

“Council is excited to take the lead on the Xenia Towne Square redevelopment and getting feedback from our citizens and business owners,” Smith said. “We are working on making Xenia an affordable place to live, work and become a destination for others. City council is nonpartisan per our city charter, and I will represent all citizens regardless of their party affiliation.”

Jeremy Cox

The Dayton Daily News sought comment from Cox repeatedly by phone but did not receive a response. Cox also did not provide Voter’s Guide answers to the League of Women Voters. Cox’s campaign Facebook page cites federalism, private property rights and road repair as priorities.

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