Four Democrats in Kent seek three spots on November ballot for City Council

By Kyle McDonald | Staff Writer Published:

In Kent's City Council at-large primary election on Tuesday, Democrats will choose among four candidates seeking three nominations.

The candidates are Kent Planning Commission member Melissa Long, former Councilman Robin Turner and incumbents Mike DeLeone and Roger Sidoti.

The top three candidates will continue on to the November general election, which will also include independent candidates.

No Republicans filed for the at-large council race in Kent.

Long currently sits on Kent's Planning Commission and, prior to moving to Kent eight years ago, served on Cortland City Council for 12 years before becoming the city's mayor.

Long said she is "not an idle person," and approaches issues with an open mind.

"I found out you learn a lot more just by listening," she said. "If you go in with an attitude or into a situation with preconceived ways of handling it, you don't get very far."

Long said when problems arise, she often looks at how other communities solve similar issues.

Turner was appointed to an at-large council seat in January 2008, was re-elected in 2011, but resigned on Nov. 1, 2012 in order to qualify for public employee retirement. Before joining Kent council, Turner worked for 20 years as a deputy auditor for Portage County.

Turner said he's always worked to respond to citizens' concerns as they arise, and encourages community meetings and forums to spread info and ideas.

"I've always thought that having more, rather than less, community meetings was a good idea," Turner said. "I think anything that we're able to do, we're going to need the public."

DeLeone has served on Kent City Council for 15 years in addition to being a Franklin Township service worker.

If a constituent calls DeLeone with issues, he said he calls the proper city department head to see if it can be fixed without using time during council meetings.

"Usually if there's a problem, they can take care of it," DeLeone said. "It's not always a big thing that you have to bring up in a council meeting and spend a half hour on. I work as a middleman."

Sidoti, appointed to council in February 2012, spent 40 years at Kent's Theodore Roosevelt High School, 30 of those as principal. He also served on Kent's 1980 Charter Review Commission, the Board of Zoning Appeals and Planning Commission.

Sidoti said he brings stability and careful consideration to the table.

"I don't have any agendas other than wanting to do what is best for our city and community," he said. "All I want to do is help and be a good steward of the resources we have, and use them in a way that is going to benefit the city as a whole and provide some stability."

As downtown development enters its last leg, each of the four candidates said the city's attention should now be refocused to address neglected and aging infrastructure, especially streets and sidewalks.

Turner said its important for Kent to continue the positive momentum from redevelopment.

"This tide that we've been rising on will start to ebb and our ideas of what will keep us afloat will create the next tide," Turner said.

He said the former RB&W site on Mogadore Road and the former Lake Street Ametek site should be priorities to continue growing Kent's local economy and tax base.

"If we can grow our economic base, it will help alleviate some of the burden of fees and taxes on the residents of the community," Turner said.

Sidoti also said he feels the former industrial sites should be priorities, and will encourage semi-skilled job creation in addition to high paying jobs.

"I really would like to see us be able to get a broad spectrum of jobs to serve all of the people in our community," Sidoti said. "We have a diverse community, and so that's something we need to do."

Sidoti said he wants to see neighborhood redevelopment, especially empty storefronts in Kent's west and south entrances to the city.

"We need to address that somehow," he said. "If we can get the two corridors addressed, then it becomes a lot easier to address the neighborhoods."

In addition to business, DeLeone said the city needs to continue to find ways to find low-income senior housing.

"They're building some off of Sunnybrook Road, but we still don't haven enough senior housing," he said. "We need to look out for the elderly people in our community."

DeLeone said it will also be important for the city to include the public in town meetings for future discussions on replacing Kent's Safety Administration Building.

Long said with the many new student apartment complexes in the city, Kent will have to work harder to prevent blight from spreading in its neighborhoods and suggests giving the health department more power to do so.

"We have got to keep our neighborhoods up, maintain them and make sure that blighted areas don't happen," she said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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