Home Politics Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl announces that he will not run again

Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl announces that he will not run again

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Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl put an end to ongoing speculation about his intentions for a third term at the City Council Monday night, announcing that he does not plan on running in the November 2015 General Election. As a result, At-Large Rep. Steve Patterson has expressed interest in the job.

After two terms at the helm of the city’s executive branch, Wiehl believes he has left his mark in a satisfactory way.

“The idea is, you put your imprint on the city and let some other people have their run at it,” said Wiehl. “Two terms is quite a bit.”

Some of his proudest accomplishments include significant infrastructure improvements.

“We’ve done two bridges in this time,” said Wiehl.  “The other thing in terms of road projects or major projects is adding bike lanes wherever possible to make it a more pedestrian friendly city.”

By leaving office after two terms, Wiehl is adhering to a relatively consistent pattern among previous officeholders. Although there is no established term limit for the mayor of Athens, most of the city’s mayors in recent history have remained in power no longer than two terms, with each term being four years.

Ric Abel is the lone exception to that. Serving as mayor from 1996 until the start of Wiehl’s term in 2007, Abel was the longest serving mayor in the town’s history.

In talking about potential candidates for the next leader of the city, Wiehl was not shy to throw his support behind City Council member Steve Patterson. Patterson, who – much to Wiehl’s appreciation – has long been an advocate for those with disabilities, is the only one who has expressed interest so far, saying on his campaign Facebook page that he plans to collect signatures for a mayoral run.

“He’s got his heart in the right place,” said Wiehl of Patterson. He described him as “knowledgeable” and “one of the most engaged” members of the city council.

Patterson insisted that Wiehl’s admiration was mutual. “I have the upmost respect for Paul Wiehl as well. I’ve learned a lot from him but I continue to learn a lot from him. He’s a great person.”

Being a two-term At-Large Representative, Patterson has experience campaigning to a citywide constituency.

“I’ve been door-to-door many times,” said Patterson. “I’ve had lots of citizens across the city reach out to me for issues.”

Patterson had a number of ambitions in mind that he would enact if he were to become mayor. These included improving economic development, enhancing broadband capabilities, addressing adversities that the disabled population face and partnering more with Ohio University.

“First and foremost is planning smart, clean economic development within the city,” said Patterson. He expressed a strong desire to make Athens more attractive to companies in order to bring more jobs to the city, even if doing so meant traveling to said company’s headquarters and meeting with the appropriate executives.

Patterson also saw a lot of potential in building a fiber optic network like the one developed by the city of Dublin, Ohio.

“I know we can do that here in Athens,” said Patterson. “Partnering the city and the university together, I think we can do some very cool things to where we become essentially what is referred to as an ‘intelligent city.’”

Having taught at Ohio University for nearly 17 years and having served as a faculty senate member, Patterson also spoke to the importance of the relationship between Athens and the university.

“I’ve seen so many strengthened partnerships between Ohio University and the city and I want to continue to embrace that and nurture that and make it to where we have more elements of shared resources between the university and the city, because it just makes us stronger,” said Patterson.

One area specifically that Patterson suggested be addressed was the fire response resources available to Ohio University. Given that Ohio University does not have its own fire department, Patterson highlighted that improper allocation of resources could lead to a dangerous situation.

Speaking to his overall ability to manage the job, Patterson said his combined experiences with the military, city government and university alike have all contributed to what he has to offer.

“My life skill sets in their totality have pretty much groomed me the way that I am. I believe in the city wholeheartedly and I believe in myself. And I think together things are going to look pretty bright for the city of Athens as we go forward.”

In the event that Patterson runs, he would potentially face another Democratic candidate in the May 2015 primary, the winner of which would move on to the General Election in November 2015. No Republicans have expressed interest in the mayoral position yet.

As for what’s next for Wiehl, he is anticipating some much needed, relaxing time away from public service.

“Doing this type of work, it will take everything you can give. And therefore, the idea is to create a balance with my projects. One way to do that is to step back for a little bit.”

Residents will have an opportunity to meet Patterson at an upcoming event on Tuesday, Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. in Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery.

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