Candidates for Park Hills City Council answer questions

Patricia A. Scheyer
Patricia A. Scheyer
Patricia is a contributor to LINK nky.

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Seven candidates are running for six seats on the Park Hills city council. We asked a series of questions of them, with answers from incumbents presented first followed by answers from challengers.

QUESTION (for incumbents): What do you see as the main issues facing your city?

Sarah Froelich is an incumbent running for Park Hills council.

Sarah Froelich: At this moment, Park Hills residents are calling for more traffic calming across the city, and we need to continue to address this in common sense and creative ways. With the opening of a new housing development in the Dixie corridor and upcoming Brent Spence Bridge construction, we’re also anticipating more traffic to be coming through the Park Hills stretch of Dixie Highway. This is both a challenge and an opportunity—it’s important for us to prepare for these changes through zoning and planning.

Pam Spoor is an incumbent running for Park Hills Council.

Pam Spoor: Financial – keeping our budget and expenses under tight control so that our city remains financially strong and able to accomplish good things for our residents. We have been and need to continue living within our means.

Traffic/Pedestrian Safety – we need to work hard to encourage thru traffic to stay on Dixie Highway where there are 4 lanes, traffic lights, state road maintenance, and few residences and not use our residential streets like Old State, Amsterdam, Cleveland and others as cut throughs to Cincinnati. The bridge painting, road construction projects and turnabout construction have caused a substantial increase in this traffic. Our old and narrow streets cannot safely support that volume. Safety first.

Joe Shields is an incumbent running for Park Hills council.

Joe Shields: Finances are always at the top of the list. We’re in great shape in Park Hills, but we have to be diligent – living within our means, keeping taxes low, funding our future capital improvement needs, building our surplus. Beyond finances, we will need to manage our way through the Brent Spence Bridge construction, which has the potential to be very disruptive to our city. Improving pedestrian safety is always one of my major goals, as is economic development – including supporting our existing businesses.

Anthony Darin is an incumbent running for Park Hills Council.

Tony Darin: The main issues facing our historic small city of 3,000 residents are public safety and traffic flow. There is high traffic flow on our two main roads of Dixie Highway and Amsterdam Road. Residents and non-residents utilize both roads at high rates of speed. Amsterdam Road flows through the heart of our residential community and is not efficiently handling the current flow. The problem will be exacerbated when the companion bridge to Brent Spence and Park Hills breaks ground on the reconstruction of Amsterdam Road at the same time, most likely beginning the start of 2024. We need to calm the current flow and explore all options to route significant traffic onto Dixie Highway instead of Amsterdam Road.

Steve Elkins is an incumbent running for Park Hills Council.

Steve Elkins: Our infrastructure, especially the streets and traffic in our neighborhood. Speed calming is essential. Maintaining our now stable financial base.

QUESTION (for incumbents): What are your chief accomplishments while you have been on council?

Sarah Froelich: During my time on council, I focused on our community landscape, fiscal discipline, and clear communications. We’ve seen some sizable accomplishments, and lots of construction. Here’s a quick recap of some of our largest accomplishments. We completed the Audubon Forest development, adding 24 new households to our community. We completed the lower Jackson Road rebuild that included some major infrastructure improvements. We enacted a development agreement that initiated the much-anticipated reshaping of Amsterdam valley. We’re ready to build the new sidewalk on St. Joseph Lane using the Transportation Alternatives Program grant we were awarded in 2019. I’ve been part of the conversation toward modernizing and improving our zoning codes in collaboration with Kenton County Planning and Development Services for the Z21 project. I’ve been an advocate for speed calming throughout Park Hills, providing research and proposed legislative language for a speed hump ordinance that may be helpful as we move forward toward future initiatives. I wrote a successful Resolution—Resolution No. 2, 2020 for the 100th anniversary of KY’s ratification of the 19th amendment—and a successful ordinance—Ordinance No. 8, 2022 for the Position of Mayor Pro Tem. I’m excited to keep this momentum going.

Pam Spoor: My chief accomplishments include the restoration of our city to financial health through careful budget management. Working with Mayor Zembrodt and council, Park Hills now finds itself in a strong and sustainable financial position. This has been accomplished without raising taxes! We have continued our road restorations and improvement, equipped and funded police, fire and public works, and improved our public spaces. I greatly value our public spaces and continue to work hard to see these areas improved and expanded. We now have a community garden in Trolley Park which has organic produce available to our residents and a nature preserve – Audubon Preserve – 6 acres which we are working in to provide safe pedestrian access and repopulate with native species.

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Joe Shields: It may sound trite, but it isn’t about what I’VE done. I’m part of a great team, and together we’ve put our finances on solid footing, delivered great services and addressed our infrastructure needs. I’m particularly proud of how council, the mayor and the staff have developed a respectful, productive approach to delivering for our residents.

Tony Darin: Approved a fiscally responsible budget that has enabled the city to complete critical road and sidewalk projects in an expedited manner, while growing the general reserve to $3M. Park Hills is in better financial condition then it has been in decades. Supported the decision for Park Hills to subsidize the cost of a cruiser, uniform and training for the School Resource Officer at Covington Catholic High School. This is not an issue of separation of church and state. This is about keeping kids and teachers (taxpayers) safe within our City limits. Represented our City on the Northern Kentucky Public Entity Joint Health Insurance Board. This joint entity includes other cities in the region and allows our small city the leverage to provide high quality health insurance options to our valued City employees with market competitive premiums and costs to the City. Worked collaboratively with City Council and a developer on construction of a new business on the Dixie Highway corridor, which should lead the way for future development in the corridor. As Chair of Parks, Recreation and Beautification Committee, we created a hiking trail in the Audubon Preserve.

Steve Elkins: Forming a solid Infrastructure team that is tackling some tough issues to restore our safety. Working closely with the Mayor and Council to continue our very substantial improvement of our financial status as we now have a stable base. I have worked hard to unite our city by maintaining a respectful approach, no matter the issue.

QUESTION (for incumbents): What projects would you like to see accomplished while you are on council?

Sarah Froelich: For this next term, I’m focused on finishing some of the projects we’ve started—especially the sidewalk on St. Joseph Lane—and doing more—like creating a more robust economic development plan.

Pam Spoor: Improvement/ reconstruction of Amsterdam Rd. from Terrace to Sleepy Hollow – we are working to obtain through savings and grant process the funds necessary to accomplish this in 2023. Construction of St. Joseph Lane sidewalk – this will finally begin this year and will be a safe and attractive addition to the street. Expansion of our gas light street light system for safety. A meeting place for our city government that is ADA compliant. Continued improvement of our public spaces, Community Garden and Nature Preserve. Improved traffic safety especially for our children and pedestrians. Continued reduction of taxes for our residents so that they have more to invest in their own homes. This year I will try to eliminate the vehicle fee tax.

Joe Shields: Having a fully funded capital improvement plan, successfully managing our way through the Brent Spence Bridge construction project, shoring up our business district and improving pedestrian safety.

Tony Darin: My focus the next two years will be to expand green space in Trolley Park, complete Audubon Preserve with re-forestation and a bridge for the residents to enjoy the beauty of this hidden green space. Will work with all involved to see our road projects are met on time, are efficient and adorned with the proper lighting that will motivate residents to improve their property, which will ultimately keep our residents safe and improve property values.

Steve Elkins: Preparing Park Hills for the Brent Spence project. We saw when the bridge was under repair that we had a lot of traffic (people looking for a short cut) and that is a safety hazard. How we do that is to be determined but it will be a primary focus of mine as the Chair of the Infrastructure Committee.

QUESTION (for incumbents): What do you see as your greatest strength, the quality you can bring to the table to get things done in your city?

Sarah Froelich: My greatest strength is that I remain focused on being a voice for Park Hills residents whose concerns aren’t represented by other members of council. My attention to detail, writing and editorial expertise, and approach to research are skills that are helpful for advocating for everyone and collaborating with city employees, advisors, and other elected officials.

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Pam Spoor: My strength is my love for Park Hills and commitment to keeping it a wonderful place to live. I like to work hard for our city. Even though Park Hills is a small city, it is filled with history, beauty and great amenities.

Joe Shields: Bringing a data-centric mindset to the issues facing our city, being a good partner with the mayor, council and staff and the ability to see around corners for future needs and opportunities.

Tony Darin: I retired a little over two years ago with 35 years in sales, customer service and business development. I have extensive experience in logistics and international supply chain management. My skills in developing, implementing and maintaining customized solutions in a team environment enable me to work collaboratively with the Mayor and City Council to provide quality services to our residents.

Steve Elkins: I treat everyone with respect and dignity and I enjoy coming up with creative solutions.

QUESTION (for incumbents): Where do you see your city in ten years?

Sarah Froelich: I like to imagine a lively and connected community enjoying the walk from their homes along safe and well-maintained sidewalks to playgrounds and businesses they love in the Dixie corridor. As part of this, I also imagine walking routes that provide better connections with our neighboring cities and communities.

Pam Spoor: In the next ten years, I see Park Hills in a strong financial posture that will enable it to continue to make improvements for our residents. Our business district will continue to develop and thrive. We will improve our section of Dixie Hwy. to make it more welcoming, beautiful and safe. We will expand our park and public spaces to include more of our residents. We will preserve our history, charm and natural beauty. We will have made great strides in restoration of our tree canopy and in making our streets safer for all.

Joe Shields: A city with stable finances that is safe and walkable, enjoys a vibrant business district and is welcoming to both current and new residents.

Tony Darin: Residents will continue to enjoy the tranquility of a park like setting centrally located to downtown Cincinnati and CVG airport. Primary infrasture projects will be complete that will provide efficiency and safety complimenting the historic charm and beauty of a city celebrating its centennial in 2026.

Steve Elkins: It would be great to expand our business footprint for economic development. Also ensuring our city remains a safe neighborhood where families can feel comfortable moving around the city.

QUESTION (for challengers): What specifically made you put your name on the ballot?

Monty O’Hara is a new candidate running for Park Hills council.

Monty O’Hara: Many long-term residents will remember I have been on Council in the past and feel I was very effective then and will be again if elected. A few years ago, I had a lot going on personally and felt the need to sit out of a couple election cycles. Currently I have less on my plate, my 4 daughters are grown, my health is good and have the time to devote to the city and the people I love that have given me so much.

Joe Daugherty is a new candidate running for Park Hills Council.

Joe Daugherty: The tree board needed a better voice on council. During my 25 years as a Park Hills resident, I have endeavored to make Park Hills a better place to live. After several years on the tree board, it seemed apparent that I could be more effective on City Council.

Greg Claypole is a write in candidate for Park Hills Council.

Greg Claypole (write-in candidate): I have spent a number of years throughout my time living in Park Hills serving on city council and have always genuinely enjoyed the experience. I most recently served on council from 2016 – 2018. Even though I stepped away from council as a formal city council member in 2018, I remain active in the city as I have served on the infrastructure sub-committee from 2018 to present. With the support and encouragement of neighbors, friends, and city residents, I have decided to run for council again as a write in candidate.

QUESTION (for challengers): What do you want to change if you are elected?

Monty O’Hara: Transparency is always important. It is always important to have as much input as we can get on city issues so that council can make the sound decisions that reflect the will of the majority. Through no fault of council, we may have lost some of that while we were virtual. I will encourage more people to come back to city council meetings.

Joe Daugherty: Lower the business tax rate. My time on the tree board has been spent being active with seedling acquisition and distribution, coordinating replacement trees after Jackson Road was rebuilt, rescuing several large trees making them useful to homeowners, encouraging better tree management by controlling vines and honeysuckle, assisting in the management of dead and damaged trees to find appropriate uses for the discarded wood.

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Greg Claypole: Currently, the city is very stable financially. I hope to help the city maintain financial soundness. To do this, I will keep working to bring new businesses to Dixie Highway. I would love to see a new restaurant or shop in our city. It would be great to have the convenience of a nearby restaurant or store and it would increase tax revenue. Park Hills could use the additional tax revenue for other city projects.

QUESTION (for challengers): What qualifications do you want to highlight that will make people vote for you?

Monty O’Hara: I have a lot of experience representing the people of Park Hills both in and out of the city. In my past terms I chaired or was on most all the committees at one time or another. I attended most of the Northern KY Mayors group meetings and was an Executive Board Member of the Northern KY Municipal Government League. In addition, I won’t require any time to be effective in the role.

Greg Claypole: I love this beautiful city and I am deeply rooted in this city. My parents lived in Park Hills, I have lived in Park Hills for the past 35 years, and two of my grown children are currently raising their families in Park Hills. My background as a self-employed contractor equips me with a business savvy skillset as well as experience communicating and negotiating with businesses and vendors alike. This will help in my goal of bringing new businesses to the city. More than that though, I am able to see the needs and goals of individuals at all ages living in the city through myself, my wife, our grown children, and our grandchildren. I believe in maintaining the safety of our city by keeping the police and fire department in Park Hills.

QUESTION (for challengers): Is there something specific you would like to change in the city?

Monty O’Hara: There really is not anything specific I would change. My experience tells me that change is always controlled by limitations mostly financial. While we are experiencing inflation everywhere else Park Hills taxes are a low in comparison and a great value. We have so many programs that are available because of the culture of volunteerism in Park Hills. I would like that to continue. Most councils’ job is passing legislation that keeps the city financially sound and its residents safe.

Joe Daugherty: Improve communication between council and Committees. I am also working to prevent the detention pond from being so invasive, ensuring a reduction in the business tax rate and feel that additional reduction seems appropriate, and assisting the Luminary Night Chairman with distribution of luminaries for more than a decade.

Greg Claypole: There are three main projects that I would like to focus on during my time on council in order to better our city. First, I would like to improve the lighting on some of our city streets. I hope to add decorative streetlights to enhance the character of the city while also making it safer for residents at night. Second, I would like to see the completion of the sidewalk project from Arlington to Trolley Park. I believe this would make the city safer for some of our youngest residents as they utilized the much-loved Trolley Park. Finally, I hope to explore opportunities for building a park on the south side of Dixie Highway. This would allow residents to enjoy additional green space in the city that is both functional for young families and beautiful.

QUESTION (for challengers): Where do you see your city in ten years?

Monty O’Hara: In ten years, I hope to see even more businesses on the Dixie Highway. I hope we also can head off some of the traffic flow issues we are almost certainly going to have as the I-75 bridge construction begins.

Joe Daugherty: Improved tree canopy, appropriate city zoning, good communication with committees and homeowners, appropriate and fair taxation, and improved city services.

Greg Claypole: I would like to see our city continue to be accessible to individuals of all ages and backgrounds. I hope it continues to be a place where everyone is treated with respect and equality. During my years in Park Hills, my wife and I raised our children in a place that felt safe and secure. We have made, and continue to make, life-long friends. Park Hills is such a unique and special place. I feel confident that over the next ten years the city will grow, remain beautiful, and capture the hearts of many new people, just as it has with my family.

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