By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
It was déjà vu at Bowling Green City Council meeting Tuesday evening. Six council members were sworn into office by Wood County Common Pleas Judge Matthew Reger. But even for the two new council members, the ceremony was a rerun.
Returning to their council seats were Democrats Mike Aspacher, Daniel Gordon, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino. Democrat Bruce Jeffers was the only council member whose term did not require him to run for re-election in November.
Neither of the two new guys on City Council – Republicans Bill Herald and Greg Robinette – are actually new guys. Both have served in the past, with Herald sitting on council from 1984 to 1991, and Robinette serving on 2012 until he was deployed in 2013.
The new council re-elected Aspacher and Jeffers as president and vice president respectively. Aspacher set the stage for the new year.
“Welcome to our newly elected and returning members,” he said. “I’m very much looking forward to the coming year.”
Last year was not exactly a placid year for City Council, with contentious topics like the Nexus pipeline, the budget crunch, and the new garbage fee getting a lot of discussion.
Since both Herald and Robinette have experience on council, they are expected to round the learning curve quickly.
Herald, who represents the Fourth Ward, works as a lead data scientist with IBM Watson Health, and previously taught at BGSU, University of Toledo and Owens. He has attended council and other city governmental meetings for the past 11 years.
One priority for Herald is to focus on enhancing neighborhoods – “working on the appearance so people are attracted to the city,” he said Tuesday evening. He is looking forward to the results of the Community Action Plan, and where that will take the city.
Other priorities for Herald include improving economic development and constituent services. “That can range from all issues,” he said.
Herald praised last year’s City Council for dealing with some dicey issues.
“The previous council took care of a number of issues,” he said. Of course, there will be plenty more issues in the new year, he added. “There are always more challenges ahead.”
Robinette also complimented last year’s council for leaving the city on “good footing” for 2018. He would like that trend to continue.
“I just want to make sure we stay focused,” he said after being sworn in on Tuesday. “That we set a budget that is workable. That we are fiscally responsible and take care of taxpayer money.”
In order to do that, Robinette wants to work on helping to create more jobs in Bowling Green. “If we stay stagnant” that hurts the community, he said.
Robinette, who was elected as an at-large council member, is an engineer, attorney and an Army combat veteran who retired as a colonel after 32 years. He previously served as vice chair of the zoning board of appeals, and currently serves on the Business Council of the BG Chamber of Commerce.
As a council member, he wants to focus on economic development when making decisions. “We need to make sure every decision was make looks at economic development.”
Robinette made it clear during his campaign that he was no fan of the new garbage fee enacted by City Council to help balance the city’s general fund.
“I want to look at the budget myself,” he said. “I want to make sure every option was discussed.” And if it’s determined that the garbage fee is not necessary in the future, Robinette would like to see it revoked.
The longest serving City Council member – Zanfardino with 12 years representing the Second Ward – said the condition of housing in the city is his top priority.
“Housing is always my first thought,” he said. Zanfardino said he is looking forward to the recommendations of the Community Action Plan. “I’m real interested in that.”
Highlights of the past year for Zanfardino included start up of the city’s solar field operation, and the surrounding acreage that will be turned into a wildlife sanctuary.
“I think that’s great,” he said.