Hara Arena in Trotwood was heavily damaged by the Memorial Day tornado.
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

Election 2019: Trotwood candidates differ on tornado response ideas

Voters face elections for mayor, city council just months after tornado ripped through community

Less than six months after an EF-4 tornado tore through Trotwood, damaging more than 1,000 residential properties and businesses, voters there will decide who will lead the city through the recovery.

Mayor Mary McDonald is facing a challenge from Councilwoman Yvette Page. There are also three city council candidates running for two city council seats: incumbents Rhonda Finley and Robert Kelley as well as David Young.

VOTERS GUIDE: Learn more about these candidates and others on the November ballot

Trotwood had 1,070 residential properties damaged in the tornado, as well as 29 commercial properties and seven tax-exempt properties, according to county data. This includes 203 properties that sustained major damage such as visible structural damage or complete destruction.

We asked the five candidates on the ballot what they would do to help the city’s recovery:

Q: The Memorial Day tornadoes have changed Trotwood forever. How do you think city leaders did responding to the tragedy?

Mayor candidates

Mary McDonald: Our staff was responsive and met every challenge in a skillful and timely manner. Just two months prior to the Memorial Day tornadoes our city underwent our 2019 Disaster Plan Update.

As a result we were prepared and performed seamlessly with our disaster plan thus providing the best service to our citizens and our businesses possible.

We managed the volunteer effort by employing a volunteer coordinator to facilitate focused, planned clean up efforts. The faith community, citizens and various colleges joined in to provide food and necessities daily that were sorely needed as we lost electricity for many days and gas service to many homes.

Trotwood Mayor Mary McDonald
Photo: Staff Writer

Yvette Page: The city leaders did what they could, but what made a difference in my neighborhood was neighbor helping neighbor. My neighbors and volunteers were responsible for responding to our immediate needs when there was no help.

Trotwood Council member Yvette Page
Photo: Staff Writer

Council candidates

Rhonda Finley: Having the necessity and wisdom of emergency preparedness in place, as well as strong relationships from all levels of government, leadership and first responders executed a textbook performance.

As Trotwood’s only elected official earning emergency certification from the National Incident Management System, I was humbled and honored to assist with the immediate needs of our citizens and businesses after the tornado. The NIMS training provides a nationwide template for future use in preparing and responding to major tragedy.

Robert Kelley Jr: The response of the entire Trotwood leadership team to the Memorial Day tornadoes was exemplary and further demonstrated the commitment to emergency preparedness of the community’s safety services personnel.

We relied heavily on the respective service departments and the excellence with which they address and prepare for emergencies within our community every day.

Part of being a great leader is knowing when to yield or delegate to multidiscipline experts and understanding how best to partner with and support them through tumultuous situations, while keeping transparent communication with our residents open. I think we did a great job as a team there.

David Young: On any given day Mayor Mary McDonald could be seen out in the community supporting the neighbors and checking on those in need. I ran into her a few times myself as I helped with cleanups and food delivery.

Not all but the majority of City Council was seen out in the community and I was proud of the ones who did help. The response is still ongoing. and the 

Q: What needs to be done in the coming months, years to help tornado victims?

Mayor candidates

McDonald: In the months to come the attention is on helping our citizens connect to the many services that are available for them. Many that did not get approved for FEMA still have the opportunity to apply for additional relief made available by other local and state resources.

We are actively working daily to connect our people to those services. This process will take time but is necessary to the rebuilding of lives and our community. Alongside these efforts are the support to our business community as they work to rebound from the challenges.

Page: In the coming months and years we need to keep the momentum going in getting volunteers to come back to the City of Trowood. These volunteers will be utilized in helping those still displaced.

We also need to implement a Trotwood Tornado Hotline for tornado victims. This will help us in tracking citizen progress and needs.

Council candidates

Finley: It is imperative that government continue to deploy humanitarian aid to assist with temporary/permanent housing, crisis counseling, legal services, unemployment assistance, tax abatements and other services. Securing essential resources to finance rebuilding efforts is crucial to helping individuals recover from their incredible personal loss and community devastation.

I strongly advocate for the National Incident Management System emergency certification for all elected officials as a proactive measure to preserve the safety, security and prosperity of our community.

Other initiatives should include: establishing a long-term recovery committee to identify community needs one business/family at a time; invest in mitigation efforts that serve recovery (roads, etc.), partnering with Montgomery County on a housing initiative, and establishing a massive reconstruction campaign with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Robert Kelley, candidate Trotwood Council 2019
Photo: Staff Writer

Kelley: The city will need to continue to advocate on behalf of its citizens and community for additional federal, state, and local resources to help with long-term recovery. Furthermore, the city will need to partner with organizations like our faith-based community, non profits, and social organizations to help meet needs not met through other existing local resources for impacted community members.

As disasters of this magnitude are uncommon in our immediate area, proactively building upon local emergency disaster plans and cascading those plans out to the community will be essential.

Rhonda Finley, candidate Trotwood Council, 2019
Photo: Staff Writer

Young: Our citizens are going to need true wrap around support as they rebuild from this tragedy. The FEMA and SBA money that was made available was a great start.

But the long-term recovery will take social services, mental health resources, trusted construction companies, and fair leaders to guide these resources along. There is no handbook for how we address the recovery process. It will be different for each community. We need to acquire funding to hire a short-term recovery liaison.

David Young, candidate Trotwood Council 2019
Photo: Staff Writer

Q: Trotwood residents came together to help each other after the tornadoes. What will you do to keep that community spirit going as the recovery continues?

Mayor candidates

McDonald: I frequently make visits to the areas hardest hit and all over the city to talk with the citizens to let them know about resources available and to convey my concern and my support if them and their needs.

Many of them have tough decisions to make. Stay or go. Rebuild or not to rebuild. And as a leader I feel it is of the utmost importance that as mayor I’m seen walking step by step with my citizens and there to give them all the moral support I can.

By doing this, as leader, my hope is the spirit that has evolved over these past few weeks challenges will continue to grow and bring us closer together.

Page: I would like to propose “Help a neighbor Saturday.” We could reach out in our neighborhood watch meetings to see who needs help and collaborate with Public Works and Code Enforcement for additional leads.

We could also expand decoration contest on special occasions throughout the year. This would encourage city pride.

I would also like to have the month of May designated as Trotwood Survival Month with a city wide picnic.

Council candidates

Finley: As a leader, I will work diligently to maintain our community spirit by fostering new outreach projects such as a Trotwood Welcome Wagon. I will continue to support efforts to celebrate our community including the Trotwood Family Festival and many others. Together, we endured the tornadoes…together, we will keep the spirit and pride of Trotwood alive.

Kelley: My effort and focus will be to continue the work we began in 2016 towards moving our city in a new direction and building upon that pride. I am invested in the continuation of rebuilding Trotwood as a beacon of light in the northwest corridor.

Young: I am honored to have been given the opportunity to serve the citizens as clerk of council for a number of years. I was a part of rebuilding the pride and community spirit as an employee, I have been doing it as a citizen and I plan to continue doing it as the newest member of City Council.

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