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Here are the candidates for Athens City Council

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Three Democratic candidates and two Independents are vying for your vote this week. 

Five candidates are in the running for three at-large seats on Athens City Council this year. At-large city council members represent the entire city rather than a specific electoral district.

The candidates — three Democrats and two Independents — have spoken out at two forums, one held by the governmental affairs committee of Student Senate and the other hosted by the League of Women Voters. They are incumbents Peter Kotses (Democrat), Pat McGee (Independent), and Arian Smedley (Democrat), along with  Noah Trembly (Independent) and Sarah Grace (Democrat).

Read below to get a sense of the candidates’ stances on the hottest issues in Athens.

Sarah Grace (D)

Fast Facts: Grace has lived in Athens for more than 20 years. She’s a local landlord and is currently pursuing a Masters’ in public health at Ohio U. Last year, she ran as the state representative for Ohio’s 94th district, a race she lost to Jay Edwards.

Biggest issues facing Athens: Infrastructure. She’s worried about aging sewer lines and water lines, and wants to plan for future operational needs, including upgrading access to wifi throughout the city.

Thoughts on TACO: Grace said she’s concerned that TACO will cause confusion. She noted that most marijuana charges are under the Ohio Revised Code, not the city ordinance, and thus TACO would not have much of an impact on the city anyway.

Agreements/Disagreements with Mayor Steve Patterson:

Grace said she agrees with what Patterson has done as mayor so far, specifically mentioning the work he did with property owners on West Union street after the 2014 fire on the street.

Peter Kotses (D)

Fast Facts: Kotses is finishing his first term on city council. He owns Athens Bicycle on Stimson Avenue and is a lifelong Athens resident

Biggest issues facing Athens: Aging infrastructure and a shrinking budget. Kotses said the city needs to be proactive and think about what will last and what needs to be replaced. He also said Athens needs to focus on grants and other forms of funding.

Thoughts on TACO: Kotses said doesn’t care whether or not TACO passes, but that he is concerned about it potentially “muddying the waters.” He also said he thinks reform needs to ultimately happen at the state level rather than the city level.

Agreements/Disagreements with Mayor Steve Patterson: He said he agrees with most of what Patterson does. But he mentioned a small disagreement over Patterson hiring a new Arts, Parks and Recreation director at a salary $6000 higher than usual.

Pat McGee (I)

Fast Facts: McGee has been an at-large city council member since 2015, so he’s finishing up his first term. He’s an independent and said he offers an alternative voice in the Democrat-controlled council. McGee is also the managing attorney for Ohio U’s Student Legal Services, so he often represents students who have to go to court.

Biggest issues facing Athens: Affordable real estate and irresponsible use of money. He said there is a lack of good housing for permanent families. With regard to the use of money, McGee noted his disagreement about the recent decision to build a tunnel under Richland Avenue by Porter Hall.  He called it a waste of money and said there were alternatives to the $5 million project.

Thoughts on TACO: McGee supports TACO. He said that even though the ordinance has issues, he sees it as a good symbolic step forward for the decriminalization of marijuana. He noted the high number of students who come to Student Legal Services with marijuana citations.

Agreements/Disagreements with Mayor Steve Patterson: Though he said Patterson is a good mayor, McGee said he disagrees with him often. He cited the aforementioned tunnel project and the use of city money for 5000 recyclable carts.

Arian Smedley (D)

Fast Facts: Smedley was recently appointed to an at-large seat, but this is her first time running for city council. She grew up in Athens and previously worked as the community relations coordinator at Athens County Job & Family Services. She currently works with the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Biggest issues facing Athens: Budget cuts and constraints. She specifically mentioned the problems caused by losing $3.9 million in state funding since 2009.

Thoughts on TACO: Smedley said she supports TACO, but doesn’t want it to have a negative effect on students, though she also said the decriminalization of marijuana is not exclusively a student problem. She supports the legalization of marijuana, noting the potential economic growth.

Agreements/Disagreements with Mayor Steve Patterson: She usually agrees with Patterson on issues, but noted that she’s only been on city council a short amount of time.

Noah Trembly (I)

Fast Facts: Trembly is from Marietta and has lived in Athens for 10 years. He lives with cerebral palsy and uses a speech-generating device (SGD) to speak. He’s a member of the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities and worked at Ohio U as an outreach coordinator for disability issues for five years. He has also advocated for SGDs at the state level and for accessibility in Athens.

Biggest issues facing Athens: Affordable housing and jobs. Trembly said there’s a lack of affordable housing in Athens, since landlords charge inflated “student prices” across the city. He’d also like to see more higher-paid jobs in Athens.

Thoughts on TACO: Trembly supports the legalization of marijuana and the city’s efforts to lower the charges for first-time offenders. But he also said that since marijuana is still illegal in Ohio, those who are caught with it should be charged.

Agreements/Disagreements with Mayor Steve Patterson: He said Patterson does “a pretty good job” and that he agrees with most of his actions.

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