During his five terms on Elyria City Council, Mark Craig has carved out a reputation befitting his status as a political independent.
He's shown himself to be willing to challenge both the administration of Mayor Holly Brinda and, before her, former Mayor Bill Grace, as well as his fellow Council members when he feels the need to do so.
It's a role he seems to relish and one that's important for the residents he represents not only in the 4th Ward, but the rest of the city, which is why voters should return Craig to Council for another two years.
"I like to point out where things could be better," Craig told us. "I don't try to cause trouble just to cause trouble."
Craig, for instance, was one of the loudest voices in opposing the contract with the city's firefighters that put in place minimum staffing levels of 14 firefighters per shift, something that will increase the overtime the city pays out to firefighters and may necessitate the hiring of additional staff at the Fire Department.
That's important because the city is likely going to face a budget deficit next year, which Craig told us he expects to be around $2 million. That will mean hard choices need to be made by the administration and Council. Craig, an attorney, has the necessary patience and skills to go through the budget and find places to cut or where money could be moved around to better serve the community.
Craig's suspicious nature is often a boon, but it can veer dangerously close to conspiracy theory at times, such as when he raised the question with us of whether Brinda and Safety Service Director Mary Siwierka, whose brother serves on the Fire Department, may have somehow torpedoed the city's efforts to prevent minimum manning.
There's no evidence of that, which Craig readily acknowledged, but he said he was still trying to figure out how the city could have lost such an important issue so decisively.
Craig is not alone among Council members in his criticism that Brinda has a tendency to be secretive and only reveal critical information at the time and place of her choosing.
"There's a big level of mistrust," he said.
Craig's opponent this year is Ray Noble. He is running as a Democrat, but once served as chairman of the city's Republican Party and has previously run unsuccessfully for mayor under the GOP banner.
Noble, who is well known for his community involvement, including in a cancer support group, was quick to criticize Craig for what he described as a tendency to ignore the needs of residents. He pointed to roads that are in need of work as a prime example of that, although Craig said he drives the entire ward and reports potholes to the city for repair.
Craig acknowledged that there are issues with some roads in the ward, although he said the problem isn't as bad as it used to be. He also said he has been pushing the city to deal with the flooding that routinely hits the Spring Valley area.
Craig said he tries to be responsive to his constituents' concerns and rightly pointed to the website he maintains for the 4th
Ward and town hall meetings he has with residents as proof of his efforts to communicate with those who live in the ward.
Noble is a good man, but his case that Craig is failing to serve his constituents falls far short of the standard of proof necessary to oust the incumbent.
Craig has provided a valuable independent voice on Council and should continue to do so.
Voters in the 4th Ward should re-elect Mark Craig.