Elyria City Council will need experienced hands on deck to deal with the challenges that loom over the city, including potential budgets woes, contract negotiations with the fire union and jump starting economic development
Fortunately, Council already counts four strong at-large members among its 11 total members and all four are seeking re-election this year.
All four men have served on Council for years and collectively they have decades of experience among them. Council President Mike Lotko, for instance, holds that leadership role because he has been on Council for 22 years, making him the longest continuously serving member.
Lotko, who like fellow at-large members Vic Stewart and Tom Callahan, is a Democrat, also seems to have built a solid working relationship with Mayor Holly Brinda.
A common refrain from members of Council we talked to this year was that Brinda wasn't as transparent as she should be, but Lotko, at least, seems to have some skill in penetrating her veil of secrecy, which is an admirable talent.
Lotko, as well as Stewart, has demonstrated a solid understanding of not only how the city works, but also the politics of the community. Stewart, who chairs the Finance Committee, has long been a strong presence on Council and knows how to get things done.
"I want to see the city succeed and I want to be a part of the change for its betterment," Stewart told us.
Callahan, chairman of the Community Development Committee, has a knack for communicating with residents and has a reputation for bringing their concerns to City Hall. He's also a realist who understands that hard choices will need to be made.
"There's going to be cuts," he said. "The question is, how much is it going to be?"
Jack Baird, the sole Republican on Council, offers a wealth of experience in dealing with city finances. He also has proven willing to work across the aisle to get things done for the good of the city.
"I'm a middle-of-the-road kind of guy," he told us, and we agree.
The fifth candidate running in this year's at-large race is Alan Pugh, who is making his first run for elective office. He was involved in the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., last year and said he is heeding Sanders' call for ordinary people to run for office.
"Change happens at the local level," Pugh, a Democrat, said.
Pugh offered up some interesting ideas, but some were overly idealistic and revealed his lack of experience in city affairs. For instance, he suggested that the city should refuse to offer tax abatements to companies as part of its efforts to lure them to Elyria.
Pugh raises a good point that individual communities are in a race to the bottom to offer the best incentives to businesses, but if Elyria were to refuse to offer those incentives it would effectively remove itself from consideration. The city needs the businesses and jobs and must play the game in order to reignite its economic fortunes.
It is also telling that most, but not all, of the Democrats on Council running for re-election this year told us they favored Baird over Pugh.
In doing so, they showed a willingness to put the needs of the city before the needs of their political party and that should count for something.
The city is already well-served by its four experienced at-large Council members and we think they will continue to be effective in the future.
Voters should re-elect Baird, Callahan, Lotko and Stewart.