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Athens County Democratic Party kicks off campaign for incumbent mayor, candidates

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Athens Mayor Steve Patterson. Photo by Cole Behrens

The Athens County Democratic Party held a campaign kick off celebration at Armory Park on Monday afternoon in support of Democratic Mayor Steve Patterson and a number of other candidates.

The event, which was open to the public, gave candidates the ability to share their platforms with voters.

Patterson was joined by incumbent Athens City Council President Chris Knisely, incumbent Councilmembers Peter Kotses and Sarah Grace, along with at-large member candidate Beth Clodfelter.

The mayor, who is running for reelection without any Republican opposition, is confident that the merit of his platform will carry him to victory over independent candidate Damon Krane.

Patterson’s priorities as mayor include city infrastructure and affordable housing.

“When I took office, we were milling and repaving about 6 miles of streets every year,” Patterson said. “Since I’ve taken office, we’ve been averaging about 17 to 18 miles of streets each year. My goal is to continue to do that.”

Regarding the affordable housing portion of his platform, Patterson said the city needs to be mindful of declining enrollment rates at Ohio University.

“As we see a real change in things like the student enrollment at Ohio U, we’re gonna see more vacant rental units that used to be single family homes, we’re gonna start working on ways in which we can get those homes and bring them back to useful light, because we’re really struggling in that sector,” Patterson said.

Patterson also asserted there needs to be diversification in the local economy to reflect shifts in enrollment.

Clodfelter, the only non-incumbent running for office, aligns herself as more progressive than other Democratic candidates.

“My platform has three main planks,” Clodfelter said. “I’m focusing on sustainability, safety and stewardship of public resources.”

The candidate believes Athens is an eco-friendly city, but she said there’s more room for improvement. Clodfelter, for example, wants to add solar panels to Athens’ public buildings to save money on electric bills.

She also feels strongly about improving sidewalks in Athens for individuals with a disability.

“I really think that’s an issue that can prevent people from feeling empowered, if they are in a wheelchair, using a walker, or pushing a baby stroller,” Clodfelter said. “I really hate the idea that people may be limited to staying home because of the condition of the sidewalk.”

Chris Knisely, who’s been a councilmember since 2008, hopes to win reelection by relying on past successes appealing to voters.

“My past years in council, having worked on the transportation committee and the finance committee, and serving now as president, I’m hopeful that people feel that I’ve done a good job and can continue on,” Knisely said.

Councilmember Kotses, owner of a local bike shop, believes the connections he’s fostered through his business will help him win reelection.

“The idea of a business owner being on council — my business is community minded — I feel like that position at City Council is merely an extension of what I’ve been doing in the community,” Kotses said. “People understand that in my business, there’s a lot of taking care of people.”

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