Xenia City Council will have a new member in January, and he wants to address the funding shortfall for streets and to prepare for an influx of young families tied to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
William Urschel, a U.S. Air Force retiree and pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church, received the most votes among three who were write-in candidates on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Urschel received 948 votes, while Billy Carrico had 420 and Phillip Shaw received 9, according to final results from the Greene County Board of Elections.
Urschel will join council in January, filling the seat currently occupied by Thomas Scrivens, whose petition to be on the ballot was not accepted by the elections board because of a clerical error. Urschel will serve one year, the remaining term left on the council seat.
Urschel said he will “try it out” for one year in hopes he’ll be able to bring about positive change.
“From my perspective, the principal duties of the city council for our population are safety and infrastructure. I believe we’re in good shape for fire, EMS and police. Our biggest challenges are roads,” Urschel said.
Voters soundly defeated a new tax that would have added annual revenue to help improve streets. Potholes, crumbling curbs and other signs of deterioration are evident on many of the city’s thoroughfares — an estimated $30 million problem for which about $800,000 is set aside annually, according to City Manager Brent Merriman.
Urschel said he plans to “dive in” and work with council and city administrators to find a solution.
“We’re woefully behind on our road repair infrastructure,” he said. “It’s not something we can just let go. No one’s going to pave our roads for us.”
Urschel’s other two top priorities are interrelated — dealing with poverty and making the city more attractive to young people who will be moving to the area over the coming years to work at WPAFB.
Before retiring Urschel worked at the base as a technical director on computer systems for aircraft. He continues to work part-time as a consultant on cyber security for weapons systems.
Urschel said there will be a “massive retirement wave from Wright-Patterson,” and “thousands of new families” will be relocating to the area to take those jobs in the near future.
“They’re going to be looking for a community to live in,” he said. “We’ve got a great opportunity to make our city appeal to them so they will take up residence and be part of the community here in Xenia.”
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Urschel said the city has a sizable number of people who live in poverty largely because so many jobs that supported residents for decades have gone away. He said he wants to be “a catalyst” to bring city and county leaders together with other community groups to help poor people “work their way out of it.”