‘The people have spoken:’ Changes coming to Dayton with new mayor, new commissioner

Dayton’s new mayor and the two elected city commissioners said they can work toward the same goals, but agreed there will be disagreements on how they accomplish them.

What all three have in common is their love for the city, said Jeffrey Mims Jr., one day after he was elected Dayton mayor Tuesday night.

Incumbent Commissioner Darryl Fairchild and Shenise Turner-Sloss won the two open commission seats.

Turner-Sloss and Fairchild defeated Stacey Benson-Taylor and Scott Sliver, while Mims, a two-term commissioner, easily cruised to victory over Rennes Bowers.

Turner-Sloss, the top vote-getter in the commission contest, has been a vocal critic of the city, accusing leadership of neglecting neighborhoods and ignoring residents.

She said on Wednesday that she expects to have an amicable relationship with other members of the commission but there will be disagreements, and she will fight for what she believes in.

She said she was elected because residents expect her to be their voice and speak up on their behalf.

“The people have spoken,” she said. “I am humbled, and I take that very seriously in the sense that the residents in our community are in fact the priority.”

“I think the commission and how the commission governs will be different,” she said.

Fairchild, who ran together with Turner-Sloss, at times has butted heads with his fellow commissioners and Mayor Nan Whaley over matters like spending priorities and policies.

Fairchild on Wednesday said he is optimistic that commission members, despite having different views and opinions, will figure out how to get things done to improve the city and the lives of residents.

“I think we have five incredible leaders on the city commission and given this moment and given our skills, we will find a way to lead well,” he said.

Mims says he talked with Turner-Sloss and Fairchild on Wednesday morning and he said they all want the same kinds of things for the city —they just have different ideas and approaches to accomplishing those goals.

Mims said he is confident they will find common ground and can have good working relationships.

“I know everyone on the commission, including the new (person) coming in have a love for the city and have a vision to make the city better,” he said. “The different approaches we all bring to the table is something that can be worked with.”

In the Dayton mayor’s race on Tuesday, Mims finished with about 67% of the vote, while Bowers earned 33%, according to the unofficial final results from the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

Mims, 74, is a former educator and previously has served as the president of the Dayton school board and teachers union.

He was first elected to the commission in 2013 and was endorsed by the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

His opponent was a 30-year veteran of the Dayton Fire Department who retired as a district chief.

Bowers, 72, was a political newcomer who described himself as a “biblical conservative,” who often criticized Dayton’s level and quality of services and raised concerns about crime and public safety.

Mims said said politics is about people, and he has been rewarded at the ballot box for treating people the right way.

Mims said he’s never lost an election.

“I’m just beyond words,” Mims said Tuesday night when it was clear he would win. “It’s very special that the people of Dayton have demonstrated faith and confidence in me.”

In the city commission race, Turner-Sloss finished with 28.9% of the vote, while Fairchild won reelection with 28.7% of the vote, which is exactly the outcome they were hoping for since they supported each other and campaigned together.

Benson-Taylor finished with about 23.4% of the vote, while Sliver received 19%, according to the unofficial results. Benson-Taylor and Sliver were the endorsed candidates by the Montgomery County Democratic Party.

Like Fairchild, Turner-Sloss unsuccessfully ran for the city commission twice before finally prevailing the third time around. She lost in 2017 and 2019.

After two failed bids for the commission, Fairchild ultimately won office in 2018 during a special election to fill a seat vacated by Joey Williams.

Benson-Taylor was the only first-time candidate in this contest. Sliver ran for the commission in 2015 but finished in last place in the four-way race.

The mayor and four commissioners lead a city of about 137,645 residents and a government organization with nearly 1,800 employees and a general fund budget of about $186 million.

Fairchild said the commission next year will be very different, given Whaley’s departure and Turner-Sloss’ arrival.

Leadership transitions are never easy, he said, but this one needs to go as smoothly as possible.

That’s because this is a critical time for the city since it faces budget challenges but also has an unprecedented opportunity to invest in the community with $138 million in federal rescue funds, Fairchild said.

“Mayor Whaley has been a very strong leader, and whenever you have to replace a strong leader there is going to be transition,” he said. “It’s going to be critical that Mayor-elect Mims and the four commissioners are able to work together to move us through that transition.”

Fairchild said Turner-Sloss was an exceptional running mate and he’s very excited to have another member of the commission who shares his vision for the city, which voters have supported.

Turner-Sloss’ perspective, voice, set of skills and ideas will be an asset on the commission and for the city as a whole, Fairchild said.

As for his own victory, Fairchild said he thinks he won reelection because voters saw he kept his campaign promises and has the right priorities.

Turner-Sloss said it’s clear that Dayton residents are hungry for change, and she credits her victory to her campaign’s decision to focus on people, many of whom have felt overlooked.

“I believe our message resonated with people and they want to see something different,” she said.

She said once sworn into office she wants to do a financial assessment and get the community involved in a “participatory budget” process, especially with the large infusion of federal rescue funds.

Mim said next year is going to be tough, and his leadership responsibilities will change when he becomes mayor because the expectation of that office are different.

But he said he’s ready for the challenge, and he thinks his skills are a good fit for his new role, though he acknowledges his leadership style is different than the mayor he’s replacing.

Mims said throughout his professional and political career he’s proven he can work together with lots of people, with many different views and ideas.

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