There are nine candidates running for seven seats on Edgewood City Council. The candidates answered questions from LINK nky presented below, starting with the incumbents and followed by the challengers.
QUESTION (for incumbents): What do you see are the main issues facing your city?
Darla Kettenacker: Edgewood is a wonderful city and we are fortunate to have a sufficient budget and the necessary resources to serve our residents, meet our financial obligations, and continue to invest in future developments. Still, we face challenges in the areas of public safety and complete fiscal transparency which need to be addressed. Rather than all decisions being made by elected officials, we should afford our residents opportunities, through regular public forums and more involvement in council meetings, to provide input on how we can better meet their needs, voice their opinions and concerns, and collaboratively grow our city.
Jeff Schreiver: One of the main issues facing our city is the constant threat of developers trying to change our community. Edgewood has historically been a bedroom community with great parks, schools and families. Development and zoning has to be looked at carefully so that we do not change things on the whim of a developer that wants to bring the next new thing to our community. Another issue that we face will be the balance of money in our financial reserves and when it is time to say no more taxes. I will never vote for a new tax in our city. I do not believe it is necessary and will always work for our city to be financially responsible while maintaining the high level of services including police, fire, streets and recreation that Edgewood has always provided.
Ben Barlage: We have the extreme benefit of living in a very stable and fiscally sound city. This does not occur by chance, but by strong leadership that focuses on the following main issues: Supporting all avenues of safety such as our Police, Fire and EMS. Maintaining Infrastructure to stay above the 90th percentile in comparison to all other cities in the state. Remaining financially stable and reviewing annual budgets in a thorough fashion along with independent auditing. Providing effective communication with citizens while providing avenues of community engagement throughout the year. The citizens of Edgewood make our city great.
Rob Thelen: Roads are our biggest expense and investment. We need to remain dedicated to improving, maintaining and repairing them each and every year. Our next biggest struggle is retaining our quality staff (Office, Police, Fire, General Services) by providing them with excellent working conditions, competitive pay and benefits and equipment and training. All too often, we lose them to other cities in the area that are able to pay more.
Kim Wolking: I think in the short-term, the main issue is getting back to normal after the pandemic. This budget year was complicated by the uncertainty with inflation, staffing and supply chain issues, which affected many purchases and projects.
Joe Messmer: One of the main challenges facing our city is traffic flow. As our city and surrounding area grows, so do transportation demands, traffic congestion, and accidents. We need to analyze our current traffic issues including projections concerning future needs so that any redevelopment that is considered will make our roads safer and more free flowing for our regular commuters. Dudley Road from KY 17 to Dixie Highway is being reinforced, repaved and drainage issues are being resolved. Vast improvements have been made on Lyndale and Edgewood Roads, new water lines; new drainage system; pavement and sidewalks. We need to remain focused and diligent about maintaining the roads in our city. There is a budget line specifically for roads maintenance and improvement. It is important that the Administration and City Council respect that budget line to ensure that funds are available for roads as scheduled and for emergency road repairs. A roads maintenance schedule is in place, but snow, ice and deteriorating concrete do not care about our schedule. As our constituents bring their concerns to our attention, we need to address them. It is not unheard of for the current City Council to meet at a location of concern to view the situation first-hand. That is the best way to make an educated decision.
QUESTION (for incumbents): What are your chief accomplishments while you have been on council/commission?
Darla Kettenacker: In my first two years on Edgewood’s City Council, despite the challenges of Covid, I have advocated for change with the belief that cooperative efforts are always better than unilateral decisions. Building on the experience of seasoned council members, I bring fresh ideas and approaches to issues faced by the city. I have consistently raised awareness of the primary responsibilities of council members to ensure budgetary dollars are spent wisely. By emphasizing a greater focus on increased clarification and transparency of our expenditures, I continue to advocate for a higher level of fiscal responsibility and ethical behavior.
Jeff Schreiver: I have been instrumental in bringing to our city many projects throughout my time on city council including in this past term, the new playground at Presidents Park, Wi-Fi in both parks, the new band shelter and the rebranding of all of the city’s signage with the new logo. The project that I am most proud of though in my time on city council is the purchase and development of six acres in Presidents Park. I was heavily involved in every aspect of the new White House Event Center including exterior and interior design and the furniture and display items that are seen. This has been one of the greatest assets added to the city in a few years.
Ben Barlage: Working together with the City Staff, the Mayor and Council members we have been able to accomplish a great deal. Efforts are often by committee, but some are individual in nature. A few that I have taken the leadership role in, where my skills as an Architect have been helpful, are as follows: Master planning the 6-acre addition to President’s Park. Creating and presenting the schematic designs for the new White House Event Center. Designing the new Gazebo structure in President’s Park. Working with the Fire Department to right size their sleeping quarters. Saving the Ginko Tree at R.C. Hinsdale School. Each council person brings a special skill to the table. Together, we have worked with city staff and council to lower taxes while raising the standard of living.
Our entire communities’ efforts were recognized in 2019 when Edgewood was voted the #1 city in Kentucky!
Rob Thelen: I worked with our City Administrator to on-board the Reach Alert communication tool and a few years ago we worked together to find money in the budget to fund a full-time School Resource Officer for R.C. Hinsdale (now we have SROs at each of the public schools in Edgewood). I advocated and pushed for re-development of the Village Square site which is now a brand-new surgery center.
Kim Wolking: I have been on the city council for four years. I believe accomplishments are a collaboration between city council, administration, and staff working together to provide the highest quality of service at a financially responsible level. The city has made numerous improvements to our roads, sidewalks, and parks during my time. We recently passed the lowest tax rate since 1995.
Joe Messmer: Edgewood offers beautiful, well-maintained parks and extensive walking trails for the use of our citizens and the surrounding community. It has been my privilege to be a member of City Council while the trails project was being implemented and to see it through to completion. Our playground equipment and areas have recently undergone extensive upgrades which adds to the usability of the parks for our families with children.
QUESTION (for incumbents): What projects would you like to see accomplished while you are on council/Commission?
Darla Kettenacker: One of the first projects I proposed to city council and continue to champion, is the need for better lighting along Edgewood’s primary streets. Specifically, Dudley Road has inadequate lighting especially for children who walk or bike to school and for walkers, runners, and pet-owners who regularly use the sidewalks before and after daylight hours. Navigation of the city’s online budgetary portal is cumbersome and not at all user-friendly; this is another project I would like to see made a priority. I believe that an extensive overhaul of Edgewood’s online fiscal reporting is vital. We must ensure our residents have complete transparency and the ability to easily maneuver and understand the source of all revenues and how all tax monies are expended.
Jeff Schreiver: This next term, I will be working to add further educational and recreational items to our parks including a children’s educational center. One of my goals this term is to have a development plan in place for Charter Oak Rd. Although our construction focus for the next two years will be Dudley Rd, I would like to have a plan in place for Charter Oak after this is completed. This would be done not only with the city input but in conjunction with the residents that live there. The goal is to build a safe road that will meet the needs of Edgewood for years to come.
Ben Barlage: We have a series of road projects on the drafting table that I would like to see accomplished. First and foremost, the Dudley Road Phase III replacement that will bring to conclusion the largest city infrastructure project to date. I would like to see similar efforts put forth towards Charter Oak Road which I believe needs a total re-design from his current high speed county road feel to the now 100% residential street that it has become. Other projects in the queue that I will be fighting for are the Freedom Park walking track Replacement, Senior Center Upgrades, Soccer Field Enhancements, City Signage upgrades and some community events centered around our 2023 75th Anniversary.
Rob Thelen: The first project I’d like to see completed is the Dudley Road upgrade. It’s the main artery through Edgewood and will add so much value when completed. Next, I’d like to see Charter Oak re-designed to be safer for drivers and allow for sidewalks. Next, I’d like to work on Freedom Park which is an area that is need of a facelift and improvements. Outside of these three projects, we need to continue working with other cities to maintain and improve our Fire, EMT and Police departments (both recruitment and services), finding new ways to support our residents and each other. Along the way, I’d like to add or improve our already wonderful existing services with new technologies, etc.
Kim Wolking: I would like to see the completion of the Dudley Road Project and the Kroger property.
Joe Messmer: If I am reelected as a member of City Council, I would continue to apply my experience to decisions regarding the Fire and EMS Department. I would maintain the 2022 tax rate while continuing the current level of services to our citizens. We are working to offer additional biographical information about the first responders featured on the Service Wall that was erected next to the Firehouse. It is my goal to see this project through to the final phase.
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?
Darla Kettenacker: My career in global corporate leadership at Procter & Gamble has prepared me to serve on City Council utilizing my strengths in leadership, project management, teambuilding, budgetary constraints, and consumer understanding. My passion for understanding by listening to others, ability to focus on the issues at hand and work collaboratively with others, are qualities that allow me to effectively get things done. Ethics, professionalism and faith guide my daily decisions.
Jeff Schreiver: My greatest strength that I bring to Edgewood is my experience on city council. I am a local business owner, enjoy researching Edgewood history and am a member of the Edgewood Garden club. This experience helps not only in council meetings when issues or ideas are brought forward to the city but also in helping residents with issues whether it be parking, a barking dog or a zoning issue. I have the experience to provide correct information to our residents or will be able to point them in the right direction to get their answers. I also am a very good listener and will take in all the information from the residents, city and outside sources so that I can make the best decision for Edgewood.
Ben Barlage: I do enjoy the research and preparation required for council meetings. As the fourth of five siblings I have had a lifetime of listening to all the sides of a story before rendering a decision. My professional role as an Architect and Project Manager makes me well suited to navigating master planning, design and infrastructure projects all while keeping the quality, budget and schedule in line.
Rob Thelen: My greatest strength is that I listen first and speak second. I also realize that I am only one person, one vote on Council and that if anything gets done, its because we all work together. We need to continue to do so in order to be productive for the residents of Edgewood.
Kim Wolking: Prior to being on city council I worked for the city for twenty-one years; five as the assistant city clerk and sixteen as the Recreation Director. Understanding the day-to-day operations of the city and working with all the departments in the city gives me a wealth of knowledge to make decisions and to get things done quickly and efficiently.
Joe Messmer: Our fire department which used to be fully volunteer is now staffed with full and part-time employees, as well as volunteers. We have implemented a paramedic program, which I was instrumental in putting in place. Paramedics have more extensive training than the EMT’s. They can offer a higher level of care to their patients, the citizens of Edgewood. In our fast-paced world it is more important than ever that our first responders receive the training that will educate them and enable them to maintain the skills they need to respond to the many situations they are likely to experience in the field. As a former fire chief for 26 years and current fire department volunteer, I bring insight and experience to City Council that few other members have.
QUESTION (for incumbents): Where do you see your city in ten years?
Darla Kettenacker: Looking forward ten years, my hope is to see much more involvement of our residents in city government. As a result, I believe we will not only maintain, but build upon, our Number 1 ranking for the best place to live in Kentucky. Pride in our community, optimization of our resources, and commitment to excellence will allow our city to stand above the rest.
Jeff Schreiver: In ten years I see Edgewood similar to what it is today and what it was when I grew up here, a great place to raise a family. With great parks and constantly new educational and recreational programs for families, Edgewood will always be a safe place where you can socialize with your family and neighbors, enjoy the Fourth of July fireworks, the Christmas tree lightings or a walk to the park.
Ben Barlage: Vibrant and Healthy! The most desirable address in Kentucky boasting the highest level of services per capita with lowest tax burden.
Rob Thelen: Thriving and enjoying the hard work that our leaders and staff put in each and every day.
Kim Wolking: I see a city with low taxes, that invests in streets, sidewalks, safety and parks and provides a high level of services to enhance the quality of life for all its residents. A city that will always be at the top as the #1 place to live.
Joe Messmer: It is my hope that in the future, through the inevitable changes we will experience, the City of Edgewood maintains the friendly, small-town atmosphere that we currently enjoy. I feel under the right administration and supporting members, Edgewood can change with the times and grow into the 21st century, while maintaining our “walk in the park” feeling.
QUESTION (for challengers): What specifically made you put your name on the ballot?
John Huffman: Years ago, I was asked to run for congress twice. First when I was 29. I was just too busy then, running my business, being involved with the Covington-Kenton County Jaycees, and I just thought I was too young. When I was asked to run again when I was 31, I had just gotten married, had a baby on the way, and was still busy running my business. Several months ago, I was asked to run for Edgewood city council. My kids aren’t little anymore (I’m 60 now), and I’m not traveling like I was. I have been self-employed for more than 45 years and know I can contribute.
Scott Spille: My primary goal of running for City Council is to serve my fellow residents and I’m excited for that opportunity. As a husband and father of 3, it is important for my bride and I to set an example of service to others, this is a great way to continue to serve our community. I believe the voice of the community is important and believe there are ways to better engage and listen to the citizens to ensure the city is delivering great services and resident experience. Two and one-half years of Dudley construction (with more ahead) taught us the importance of communication – both receiving and proactively sharing. I have been amazed at the input, feedback, and ideas fellow residents have shared prior to running, especially by the number of folks expressing interest in participating in projects within the community – we really need to channel that positive energy and tap into the talents of our citizens!
Matt Tarka: I am a life-long resident of Edgewood and have been involved with the Recreation Committee since 2002 – since I was just 6 years old! My mother and I were the 4th of July Parade Coordinators for many years until my parents retired. Since then, I have taken up the family tradition with my 20th consecutive year coordinating the parade and counting. I have always had a keen interest in the livelihood of our neighbors. In late spring, I received a phone call from a friend who was looking for information on how to reserve a baseball field at one of our neighborhood parks. I didn’t know the process but referred her to the Recreation Director at the time explaining she would be able to help. My friend was appreciative but hesitant of the advice I had given and explained that she had reached out to a current City Council member for assistance and was told bluntly that they didn’t know how and that it wasn’t their function. In that moment, I knew that I had to step in and promote change. I want to step in for the betterment of Edgewood and to put my neighbors first.
QUESTION (for challengers): What do you want to change if you are elected?
John Huffman: a) stop the mandatory re-routing of all traffic on Dudley Pike onto Sperti Drive near Route 17. The bottom of Dudley would be removed so Dudley and Rt. 17 would no longer connect. There are SIGNIFICANT issues with that and a conflict of interest with one of the existing council members. I have attended several meetings about this and the state engineers I have spoken to said they had never thought of my ideas of how to solve the traffic problems. I can give more details later, if you’d like.
b) look at improving pedestrian safety in the city. Of the 5 cities I’ve lived in, I’ve never seen a city with so many “yield” signs, instead of stop signs. People need to slow down more. I have heard from a number of people that they have even posted signs in their front yards asking people to slow down. If some of the yield signs are replaced with actual stop signs, that is more likely to slow traffic. Other measures may be needed, like increased enforcement, rumble strips, more crosswalks, etc.
c) do my best to eliminate the “use it or lose it” mentality when it comes to spending money. Too many government entities simply manage to a budget and they feel that if they have money, they MUST spend it. That inevitably leads to waste. It is always easier to spend someone else’s money, than one’s own money. If you have a chance, please read the farewell speech given by Representative Davy Crocket of Tennessee.
Scott Spille: Edgewood is a great city and place to live, work, and play. I would like to contribute ideas and initiatives to make it even better, especially in the areas of safety, stewardship, communication, and infrastructure. Recent pedestrian and bicyclist accidents in and around the city require us to step back and take an eyes wide open view of every intersection and evaluate it for lighting, crossings, alerts, and potentially reworking for resident safety. Elected leaders need to stay in touch with voters to make sure their voices and ideas are heard – some ways to accomplish this are through volunteer committees (finance, public safety, and parks) and/or through resident surveys. I believe the most recent comprehensive resident survey was over 15 years ago (2005/06).
Matt Tarka: Edgewood is at a critical juncture in its 75-year history. We must increase transparency and ensure fiscal responsibility while promoting a safe, high-quality city to live, work, and play in. We have younger families moving into our city to place their roots, many of whom are or have digital natives in their household. In this era, the traditional channels of mail and television are not sufficient to inform residents of what is going on in Edgewood. The Reach Alert system that was implemented was a step in the right direction, but we must expand our presence on Facebook and rebuild our website for user-friendliness. I want to work with the city staff to make every line item available on OpenGov, post projects that are expected to happen with details, and push to start every year with a zero-base budget. We must incorporate unbiased data in our decision making, hold vendors accountable, and seek outcomes that produce the best results for our city in a time-effective and cost-effective manner. Just as modern businesses must be lean and nimble, we as a city government must be as well and rapidly adapt to the times. We have been investing vast amount of capital to rehab and replace but aren’t properly balancing investing capital in regular maintenance and operations – from the basics, such as lightbulbs being replaced in shelters, to the complex, such as crosswalks. I want Edgewood to be an appealing place to work, live, and play in. We must communicate to be understood, be fully transparent in our operations, regularly benchmark ourselves, maintain what we have, and invest in our future. We must put Edgewood First.
QUESTION (for challengers): What qualifications do you want to highlight that will make people vote for you?
John Huffman: The qualifications I bring are the experiences of being self-employed for over 45 years: construction, problem solving, negotiating, and a strong work ethic. I have also been active at St. Pius X church. I have given several donations to upgrade the facilities and have served on the Summer Festival Committee for about 8 years.
Scott Spille: I was born and raised in Northern Kentucky and a resident of Edgewood for over 10 years. After graduating from Covington Latin School (CLS), I earned a Doctor Of Pharmacy degree from Butler University. I served as a Captain in the United States Army Reserve (medical corps) for 8 years, while volunteering on the CLS alumni association and now on the CLS School Board. I help coach youth sports in Edgewood – softball, baseball, and soccer. Professionally, I am National Pharmacy Operating Officer (COO) for a non-profit, catholic healthcare system of 145 hospitals across 26 states. I help lead a team of over 6,000 associates with an operating budget of $2B – managing payroll, drug safety, quality, regulatory requirements, community impact, capital projects, environmental sustainability, and medication use. I have a demonstrated personal and professional record of service, experience, and leadership that I would bring to city council to help make Edgewood an even better City.
Matt Tarka: As a financial services professional, I have the business and financial acumen to dig into the nitty-gritty details of projects and budget items to understand the total long-term value and costs. At work, I must be proactive and not reactive to anticipate issues before they happen and mitigate them with minimal impact when they do arise. I must understand the risk and return trade-off that exists with every item that I analyze. I have to structure a plan for a three to five-year time horizon, keep conviction, yet be able to understand when the environment changes and how to react. I am not afraid of being objective and forward-looking. I am dedicated force of change, transparency, and fiscal responsibility. Above all else, I always ask the question: “If this were my money, what would I do?” I am the right candidate for Edgewood City Council as I have the unique ability and experience to find a way while balancing the wants and needs of a group.
QUESTION (for challengers): Is there something specific you would like to change in the city?
John Huffman: In addition to my comments in #2, above, I am concerned about the traffic on Dudley, especially coming out of Charter Oak, by the gas station and Hinsdale Elementary School. As I understand it, there are efforts to decrease the home lot size of property that overlooks Doe Run Lake. That would make the traffic even worse than it is now, and worse than if the lot size remains the way it has been. Some of those streets all the way in the back – Kruer, Karlenia, etc. are officially in Erlanger, but there is no route to Erlanger and no fire/ems/or police activity as I have been told. There needs to be another route for people to get to Dudley, rather than just from Charter Oak. I don’t think it could possibly be reasonable to put a bridge to the neighborhoods of Lakemont, etc. and in fact, people feel that those “Erlanger” homes and the undeveloped land should be annexed by Edgewood. There is another conflict of interest on the council in regard to this issue.
Scott Spille: Edgewood is already a great place to live, so we need to maintain where we are and look for areas to grow and enhance the resident experience. I would like to see additional opportunities for residents to be involved in volunteer committees (safety, parks, and finance) and help create and shape ideas for the council to further explore. We are overdue for a city survey and updated vision with a comprehensive plan to guide us for the next 10-20 years. I would also like to see enhanced and transparent stewardship efforts as well collecting key learnings from prior projects (dudley construction) to make future projects more streamlined and minimize disruption. We are landlocked and largely fully developed, so we should look at our current city footprint and work with neighboring cities on a minor refining of our borders, where it makes sense to ensure continued prosperity.
Matt Tarka: The most pressing thing in the city that I want to change is to budget and determine intersections and crosswalk improvements to keep our residents safe. There are many intersections in our city that are “B” rated, on a scale of A-C. The most severe example of our potentially unsafe intersections was the recent tragedy where a young child was struck on his bike at dawn. Thankfully our police and first responders were nearly instant to attend to the child and he is okay, but it could have been much worse. I have been commuting to work and have witnessed to multiple wrecks that have occurred right in front of me as people turn from Dudley Road on to Madison Pike. I see near misses constantly coming out of my neighborhood at Dudley Road and Winding Trails Drive and as cars turn onto Charter Oak Road from Dudley Road. I worry these occurrences may intensify as people return to work and the businesses in and around our community expand. If voters are ready to identify and solve the issues that face our city, I recommend voting for fresh leadership with a forward-thinking mentality for our city.
QUESTION (for challengers): Where do you see your city in ten years?
John Huffman: In ten years, I see the city continuing to be a great place to live, but it should not just spend money because it has it.
Scott Spille: I envision a city even stronger, safer, and more prosperous than the great place it is today. We will be the best place to live, by further strengthening the resident experience through staying connected to citizen feedback and engagement. I foresee a place that has determined a long-needed transportation solution for Charter Oak and its intersection with Dudley, especially in light of the new homes coming soon. I see a safe, well-lit lane for biking potentially being included, where appropriate, and our parks being well maintained and enhanced, with the engagement of donors and guided by the voices of our citizens. Working with the State Transportation Department, I see a reworked Turkeyfoot corridor and rebuilt KY-17 (3L) interchange with I-275, without rerouting Dudley with an unsafe curve in the road (as presently proposed). I also believe in term limits, so I would hope to be looking back at the difference I helped make and supporting the next round of citizens who answer the call to volunteer to serve Edgewood! Learn more at https://votespille.com/
Matt Tarka: I see a stable city with major improvements to the quality of life. Edgewood is at the cross section of multiple major roads in our area with a major hospital system headquartered in our city. I view Edgewood as playing a crucial role in the growth and improvement of our region, but we must grow and adapt with the times. I want to keep this city a comfortable and quiet place to plant one’s roots while ensuring that our neighbors are safe and that the growth that happens around us does not impede the lifestyle that makes every day a walk in the park.