Third Ward Rep. Candidates Debate Leadership Styles, Local Economy
Candidates Michele Papai, who is registered Democrat, and R.J. Sumney, who is registered independent, discussed issues affecting the city including infrastructure, budget, “town-gown” relations and low-income housing.
Sumney is a Third Ward resident of 17 years and current business manager for The Post. He stressed the importance of city council anticipating issues and emphasized economic growth.
“I think it’s time for the city council to be more proactive in terms of how we present business and how we can diversify the economy here in Athens,” he said.
Papai has been a professional therapist for over 25 years and stresses her approachability. Papai is a founding member of the Athens Neighborhood Association and has been a member of the CLEAN Committee since 2005.
“[These experiences] have helped hone my team building, advocacy and problem solving skills at the community level by working with city and Ohio University employees, neighbors, business owners and community organizers,” she said
One topic raised during the debate was the City Council Finance Committee. All members of it are leaving council and the Third Ward candidates were asked what financial expertise they would bring if elected. Sumney said he would be “very comfortable” because of his background managing The Post. Papai stressed the importance of working with local businesses and importance of council’s grant writing ability.
Both candidates stressed their problem solving abilities and listening skills throughout the night. Papai said she has been a “paid listener” for over 25 years and is able to find out what people want through dialogue.
When asked how their voices would help diversify council, Papai answered that she doesn’t view people within political party lines and will listen to all constituents. Sumney alluded to Mayor Paul Wiehl’s recommendation of him to the Athens City Planning Commission because of his “different way of thinking.”
Sumney said he considered the creation of low-income housing a personal priority when he was on the Planning Commission, and still does. Papai said she would encourage “sweat-equity,” and work to build diversity in the city.
Both candidates said they would work with OU to improve town-student relations. Sumney is a member of the Division of Student Affairs and will be helping with security on Halloween night. Papai has met with OU President Roderick McDavis in the past voicing community concerns with litter on North Congress Street.
In closing, Papai said, “Communication is important. That’s what a council representative should be there to do: to listen, to advocate.”
“We are a community that solves problems,” she continued.
Sumney closed by stressing his performance at The Post and highlighted his problem solving abilities.
“We have a great community and terrific people. I want to be able to tap into that vitality and help reenergize the community and continue the improvements that we have made,” he said.