ELYRIA — City Council appointed Phil Tollett to represent the 4th Ward through the end of 2019.
Tollett, 55, beat 14 other Elyrians competing for the interim seat, left vacant when former Councilman Mark Craig moved to Vermilion. Craig, an independent, had served Ward 4 for nearly 11 years.
Council had 30 days from July 31 to fill the position, voting for Tollett during a special meeting Monday night.
“I’m blessed, I’m excited and I will dedicate myself to the 4th Ward,” Tollett said.
Voting was held in multiple rounds because of a tie between candidates. First, Council members narrowed the field from 15 candidates to three. The top three were Tollett, Kenny Oswald and Chad Schneider. Tollett and Oswald both received three votes, causing Council to vote to break the tie between the two. The final round of voting, between Tollett and Schneider, left Tollett with six votes, earning him the seat.
Council Chambers holds a lot of history for Tollett, he said, after being sworn in by Law Director Scott Serazin.
“In ’72, my dad was sworn-in in this building, as a city councilman, and the young guy up on the wall, that’s my nephew who was killed in Iraq, who lived with my wife and I — so there’s a lot of history in the building, and I’m pretty moved right now.”
Former chairman of the city’s Civil Service Commission, Tollett is the director of purchasing for Canteen Cuyahoga Group and considers himself a conservative Democrat.
“I owned a company, Legacy Food System, we started it in ’99,” Tollett said. “I merged my company in to the Canteen Cuyahoga Group, which is part of Compass Group, who today is the sixth-largest employer in the world. I manage purchasing for Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. My budget is considerably larger today than the City of Elyria’s (is).”
Before Council voted, candidates were given five minutes to speak on why they would be the best person to fill the vacancy. In his speech, Tollett highlighted his previous leadership positions and service to the city as a long-time resident.
“I’m running for the 4th Ward for several reasons,” Tollett said. “I believe I can make a difference in moving the 4th Ward ahead in numerous areas. Couple of things that bother me about the 4th Ward — one of the things I think Mark Craig did great that I will follow up with, is an interactive website. I think that was a great idea and its something that (would) work in the 4th Ward. The ward Councilman is the purest political position … you’re the last stop for the residents. I think I would be great at that.”
Besides serving on the Civil Service Commission for more than a decade, Tollett has been on Murray Ridge Center’s board for the past 30 years and is former president of the Ohio Retail Merchants Council, a lobbyist group in Columbus. He is a graduate of Elyria Catholic High School and Baldwin Wallace University, and has lived in the 4th Ward on Overbrook Road for the past 28 years with his wife, Kathy, and two children.
Council President Mike Lotko urged the other candidates to stay involved in the city, as Tollett would have to run for re-election next November.
“Please keep involved, reach out, call us, talk to us,” he said. “Talk to the administration, we have some very qualified people here, we can use all the help we can get.”
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