April 23, 2014

Elyria
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Former union chief throws hat in Sheffield mayoral race

SHEFFIELD — Mayor Darlene Ondercin has her first official competition for the November election.
John Hunter, a former union president at Ford’s Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake and the Lorain Assembly Plant, announced Tuesday he’ll be in the mayoral race.
Citing the need for change and fiscal accountability in office, Hunter chastised Ondercin for accepting a $15,000 pay increase in 2005 even though Fire Station 2 on the village’s south side was closed.
“We all deserve accountability and to know where our tax dollars are going,” he said. “Taxes continue to go up, while local basic services are being cut or ignored. We can do better.”
Hunter also was concerned with an ordinance passed last year that elevated the mayor’s job to a full-time position.
The village already has a full-time village administrator, fire chief and police chief, and Hunter said spending more money on another full-time position is irresponsible.
“There are 24 villages and townships in Lorain County, and none of them have full-time mayors,” he said. “There are also 10 cities in Lorain County, and four of those don’t have full-time mayors.”
Hunter has joined a committee that includes two members of the village Council — Leo Sheets and Kevin Watkinson — in an attempt to get the full-time mayor issue on the November ballot, he said.
Ondercin, who has been mayor since 1994, said growth in the village warrants the need for a full-time mayor, and the mayor will not be able to hold a full-time job and the position because there are too many responsibilities. The position’s pay would rise only $5,000, making the mayor’s salary $40,000, she said Tuesday.
Council gave her a $15,000 raise in 2005 because they combined the safety director position with her office. It actually saved the village money by not hiring someone else, she said.
She plans on seeking re-election, she said.
“We’re preparing for the future,” she said. “I don’t work except for this, but for anyone who is mayor after me, you can’t have someone running the village after 5 o’clock.”
She also disputed any connection between her raise and the closing of the fire station. That station, she said, had been struck by lightning three times and no longer was safe, she said. There already are plans to build another station, she said.
So far, no one else has taken out petitions to run for mayor. Sheffield is nonpartisan, which means its candidates do not run under a party label.
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7151 and awright@chroniclet.com.