Braintree Board member Matt Miller vies for mayor of Ashland

September 28, 2017
by Tim Busby,

Sandra Tunnell and Matt Miller laid out for voters the reasons they should be elected as Mayor of Ashland this November.The two mayoral candidates took part in a debate Thursday night at Ashland High School’s Little Theater sponsored by the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce. Close 1 of 8 Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Sandra Tunnell and Matt Miller answered questions during a mayoral debate Thursday night at the Ashland High School Little Theater.Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey prevnext Ashland Mayoral Debate1 of 8 Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Sandra Tunnell and Matt Miller answered questions during a mayoral debate Thursday night at the Ashland High School Little Theater.Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey Buy Now Tim Busbey prevnextTunnell and Miller fielded questions on a variety of topics during the 90-minute debate. Dr. Dan Lawson, assistant vice president of corporate relations at Ashland University, moderated the event. He first asked nine questions prepared by the Chamber staff and board, and then asking six questions from the audience.Both candidates focused on their experience that set them apart from the other. Tunnell has served on City Council for the 4th Ward for eight years, and has served as director of Main Street Ashland for six years.“During the time I’ve been Main Street director, we’ve increased the downtown businesses 22 percent in just six years. So that means more businesses, growth of businesses, more jobs and more tax dollars coming back into our community,” Tunnell said. “The 22 percent means about $5 million coming back into the community just from our downtown."So I understand how to bring businesses into a community. I understand how to bring jobs into a community.”

Tunnell also has private sector experience, working in the banking industry and also owning a small business.The council member said she believes Ashland needs a mayor who isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty.“The ‘Working for Ashland’ that we’ve been using. That isn’t a gimmick. I truly believe in that,” Tunnell said, before highlighting examples of how she has gotten things done. “How are we going to get things accomplished?"We’re not just going to talk about them. We’re actually going to work to make them happen.”In his opening statement, Miller, who was born in Ashland, said this is an exciting time to live in Ashland.“I don’t know if you’ve noticed or not, but there are positive things taking place all across this community,” Miller said.He pointed to the new school buildings in Ashland and the growth of Ashland University under new president Dr. Carlos Campo.
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Miller served as Ashland County Commissioner for eight years before taking part in the opening of the Salvation Army Kroc Center, where he worked for more than two years. Currently he is the Deputy Director of Business and Human Resources for District 3 of the Ohio Department of Transportation.When asked about the best way to deal with the opioid crisis, Miller outlined three steps: pursue the dealers, develop better treatment options, and focus on prevention.Tunnell believes the levy, which was passed last year, will allow the police department to hire more officers will make a difference in the local war on drugs.Miller said he believes a City Masterplan is essential, especially one focused on ensuring that city streets are properly maintained and police and fire departments are adequately staffed.“But a masterplan involves the entire community. It would involve all of our major institutions: The university, the hospital, the chamber and business community as well as the non-profits,” Miller said.Tunnell believes planning is essential to keep the city moving forward.“In the city we are constantly reactive. We constantly come in and we are moving things around because we don’t know what’s going on because we haven’t looked that far in the future,” Tunnell said.On the subject of the controversial WARCOG 911 dispatch, Miller said it could have turned out better with more cooperation.“We all have our opinions on what went down, whether it’s good or bad. We’ve all seen good come from it. We’ve seen some negative come from it," Miller said. "But the bottom line is that was a prime example where if our city and county officials could have worked together."I think it would have been a beautiful thing to keep our 911 system right here in our own community.”He said he has no intention of trying to bring the system back to Ashland because of the investment in WARCOG. Both candidates said they didn’t believe Ashland needs a city administrator, although for slightly different reasons.“I think the issue is, is the mayor of a city the size of Ashland there as a politician as a stepping stone to something else, or is that person there to genuinely make the city better and try to improve the city?” Tunnell said.Miller said choosing the right person as mayor makes a city manager unnecessary.“If you’re electing qualified, experienced individuals that know how to run businesses and agencies such as the city government, because quite honestly, that’s what you’re choosing. You’re choosing the CEO of a major corporation right here in our community," Miller said. "We’ve got over 250 employees, depending on the time of year. We’ve got a budget of $54 million and all of it is funded through your monies."Now you need to make sure, and I will make sure when I cast my vote, that I choose someone who I know has the experience to run an operation of that size. I have the experience to step into the role of mayor and not just serve as a strong CEO in one of the most important organizations in this town and in this community and in this county, but I also have the ideas and vision to take us to a better place."I’m not willing to settle for mediocrity in my own life, let alone yours. And I am on a mission to make this city a city of excellence. I want to dot the I’s and cross the T’s and take care of all the details so that you are even more proud tomorrow to tell people, ‘My home is in the city of Ashland’ and more people won’t be able to contain themselves that want to move in right next to you.”The candidates also fielded questions about a proposed roundabout on U.S. 42, a new fire station, Brookside Golf Course and the former F.E. Myers site on West Fourth Street.Tunnell said in her closing statement the city needs a leader who will make difficult decisions to move the city forward and she is that person.“We don’t need someone who is going to just talk. We need someone who is going to do. And we need someone who is committed to this job for four years or even longer if re-elected," Tunnell said. "We need this to be a position of a CEO who is going to stay for the long haul and then make sure that our community has a basis to move forward and be the fantastic city we all know it is.”In his closing statement, Miller said he was not a “stepping-stone politician” and had no intention of leaving Ashland. Two years ago, Miller was asked by the Speaker of the Ohio House to possibly run for Dave Hall’s state representative seat.“When I went out and got in the car and drove up 71, I called Melanie and I said, ‘You won’t believe what just happened.’ But I said, ‘You know something it’s not where I’m meant to be. I’m meant to be focusing my efforts on Ashland,’" Miller said. "Ashland right now is at a pivotal point. We need a strong leader in the role of mayor. Not just a city manager.“Let me assure you my focus will not just be making sure city government is running smoothly. What you need in this community to take us to the next level is a leader and there’s a difference between a manager and a leader. A leader can help shape the direction we go and take us to a better place and that is my intention."If I was interested in climbing a political ladder, that would have been the time to do it, because most likely I would be in the Statehouse right now representing you. But it isn’t where I’m supposed to be. As I live life longer and longer and see how fast it’s going by, It’s becoming more and more clear to me that perhaps the greatest difference you can make in a community is by focusing on your backyard.”Prior to the debate, Mayor Duane Fishpaw updated the crowd on the state of the city. Fishpaw was appointed by council after former Mayor Glen Stewart decided to retire effective Dec. 31, 2016. Fishpaw will serve as mayor through Dec. 31, when either Miller or Tunnell will take over.Fishpaw pointed out the new businesses that have opened this year in Ashland, including Chipotle, Hampton Inn and Suites, Ashland Bike Co. and Kay Jewelers. Several businesses have expanded, too.He also highlighted the new firefighters and police officers that have been hired as a result of the levy passed last year, and the street repair project under way using money from the street levy that also passed last November.

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