There are eight candidates running for seven seats on the Ft. Mitchell city council.
Incumbents Greg Pohlgeers, Vicki Boerger, Jerry Deatherage, Michael Stoeckle, Alyson Roeding, and Kim Nachazel are joined on the ballot by challengers Delana Sanders and Jeff Dietrich.
Incumbent Mary Burns is not seeking reelection.
All the candidates answered questions from LINK nky. Their responses are below and are, in some cases, edited for length and clarity.
Why are you running for this office and what would be your top priority if elected?
Jerry Deatherage: In running for re-election, my goal is to continue to serve the City of Fort Mitchell as a part of my civic responsibility. Our council has worked very well together over the past few years and I hope to continue in the role. There are a few primary goals I keep top of mind when serving. It is critical that we maintain fiscal responsibility for our citizens. The focused services of our city are police, fire, public works, road repair, parks and recreation. One primary goal, in today’s economy, is to make sure these departments are staffed adequately and competitively. In an inflationary economy, we were able to increase wages accordingly.
Alyson Roeding: First and foremost, I love Ft. Mitchell. It has been a great honor serving the community for the last two years. I have had the pleasure of working with an amazing team, from police and fire, to administration, my fellow council members, and of course, Mayor Hehman. We work well together and we have made great progress, but there is still more to accomplish. My priorities are to continue to drive economic development, fiscal responsibility, infrastructure management, and maintaining the unique qualities that make Ft. Mitchell special. I have a strong business background that I apply to be a servant leader in the community, shaping the city for future generations.
Greg Pohlgeers: I am running for this office simply to give back to our extraordinary city. As a long-term resident of Fort Mitchell and an alumnus of Blessed Sacrament and Beechwood, I have a deep appreciation for the attributes of our community. We consider ourselves fortunate to be able to raise our three children here, where they attend Beechwood and my wife, Amy, is a preschool special education teacher. It is important to us that we are active, invested members in our community, which has led to an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling opportunity to serve the residents of Fort Mitchell.
The core function of local government is public safety and services. My number one priority is providing the highest level of safety and services to our residents. To provide top-tier services, we must have top-tier staff in place. Across the board, all cities face unprecedented staffing challenges, especially police officers. Not only are there fewer officers graduating the Police Academy, but competition for talent amongst neighboring cities is fierce. It is my highest priority that we continue to attract and retain quality police and firefighters through competitive pay and investment in equipment and training. It is critical that we have talented individuals leading our departments. It was my pleasure to serve on hiring committees for our fire chief and our new, soon to be announced, police chief. As we stand today, I am most proud of the impressive applicants that we see for open positions. It shows our city has become a destination job. It is imperative that we continue to foster and preserve this culture.
Jeff Dietrich: We have loved raising our family in Ft Mitchell, a city with two great schools. Our three daughters have attended Beechwood, seen many 4th of July Parades, and enjoyed the close-knit community that has supported them. My top priority, if elected, is to keep Ft. Mitchell a great city to raise a family.
Vicki Boerger: I am running for the city council seat to serve and be a voice for the residents of Fort Mitchell.
Kim Nachazel: I have been fortunate to serve on Fort Mitchell City Council for ten years, and my answer to this questions remains the same. I have no “agenda” in running for elected office beyond a desire to serve my community and be a part of the decision-making process. By statute there are specific tasks assigned to council members, such as passing legislation, approving budgets, etc. I joke with neighbors that I am “Your Fort Mitchell Customer Service Rep”. Many residents reach out to me with questions, “who do I call?”, “where do I find?”, “who is in charge of…?”. I am happy to point them in the right direction and help them navigate local and regional government offices.
Michael Stoeckle: In seeking my fifth term on city council, my top priorities are development of the old Drawbridge Inn site, continuing to update our city parks and support for our police/fire/EMS in Ft. Mitchell.
Delana Sanders: I am running for city council to bring a fresh new perspective to Ft. Mitchell government. I believe my experience as a Ft. Mitchell business owner, homeowner, wife, mother, and attorney practicing law here in the city will be an asset to city council.
My #1 priority is ensuring residents receive the best basic services of any city in Kentucky. We are on the cusp of hiring a new police chief and it’s imperative our new chief be given every opportunity to succeed. We generally enjoy great service from police, fire, and public works. I want to ensure our departments have everything needed to continue this success but also improve. It is my hope our appreciation for first responders will also assist with recruiting the best available employees at a time when all departments are struggling to recruit quality candidates. In addition, I also want to lower taxes on homeowners whenever possible and protect our schools from overcrowding.
With heightened concern around the region related to pedestrian and cyclist safety, what do you think should be done to improve this area in your city?
Deatherage: As an older community with narrow streets and street parking, we are also surrounded by two very active state highways and an interstate. Expanding any of the major arteries could be quite a challenge as we’ve just had state support on Dixie Highway. In the meantime, a communication campaign to our community members to be aware of pedestrians/cyclists would be my first thought. We do have a Safety Committee that meets regularly to discuss traffic, pedestrian safety (especially with Beechwood School) and other items. I would present this to them for thoughts or an update. In the meantime, pedestrians and cyclists should continue to follow basic safety tips of wearing protective gear, fluorescent/reflective clothing, stay on the right side with flow of traffic, etc.
Roeding: As an avid walker, I think this is a great topic. Ft. Mitchell has high pedestrian and cycling traffic, and we need to ensure safety in all areas of heavy use. I know this is an issue that is examined and discussed regularly in the Safety Committee. The police have also monitored traffic patterns to address any areas of concern. To continue to improve, we need to maintain a focus on our infrastructure, provide police presence, and monitor in the Safety Committee. Ft. Mitchell has excellent walkability and it is important to prioritize pedestrians and maintain safe and inviting places to walk and cycle.
Pohlgeers: Fort Mitchell prides itself as being a walkable community. However, we have two challenges to overcome if we wish to continue to enhance and improve safety. First, Dixie Highway is a major artery through our city. It being state-owned and maintained limits our ability to enact improvements. Second, our streets were constructed prior to subdivision regulations, which means roads are narrower than current standards and sidewalks were not required. In light of these challenges, as a council, we must be creative and think outside the box to improve and promote pedestrian and cyclist safety. Our safety committee is an unsung hero. They are a great source of information and have provided proven ideas and solutions. It is essential that we continue to support and listen to them. Examples of successes are that we have implemented upgraded crosswalk designs and pedestrian signage at major intersections. We now offer sidewalks to residents when their street is reconstructed. LiveWell has created pedestrian routes throughout our city, which includes signage with illustrated maps and distance. Additionally, council has funded the police department purchase of traffic/speed monitoring units (both covert and illuminated). These units track driver data and/or provide illuminated driver feedback. The statistics allow us to identify problem areas that require additional patrolling.
Ultimately, we need to continue to implement creative “Strong Towns” approaches to ensure pedestrian and cyclist safety, which would include traffic calming initiatives, safety indicators and public forums with council and police, on location, to interact with the public about concerns and solutions.
Dietrich: Safety is certainly an area of concern for walkers, cyclists and those riding scooters. This issue has many angles that can be looked at including children walking or riding to school in morning rush hour traffic, crossing Dixie Highway or Orphanage Rd. at the crosswalks, and cyclists sharing the roads with cars. These all pose unique challenges that could all have different solutions to make it even a little safer.
Boerger: A city is only as viable as its walkability. Fort Mitchell has a large amount of foot traffic along the Dixie Highway and our many side streets. Safe sidewalks, crosswalks, and walking routes are key to this viability. Maintaining sidewalks and visible crosswalks must remain in the regular maintenance plan. Regulating speed on the Dixie Highway and side streets contribute to the safety of our walkers.
Nachazel: I am chairperson of the city’s Safety Committee, which includes our police chief, public works director, and a few residents. We are lucky to have a resident who is an engineer specializing in traffic/roads as well as grant writing. As a committee, we have worked closely with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet District 6 to add crossing signals at intersections along Dixie Highway where there weren’t any (i.e. Dixie at Fortside Drive). We have also added “Yield to Pedestrian” signs at Dixie and I-75. The city has added painted crosswalks to heavily used intersections that fall under city purview and worked with the state to follow suit.
We’ve addressed visibility and site line challenges with vegetation. We’ve added permanent “know your speed signs” on Beechwood Road and are in the process of adding ones to other heavily traveled streets like Pleasant Ridge. Many of the items listed above and ticketing are “reactive” approaches to addressing speeding and safety. A more proactive approach to calm traffic happens in the design/build phase. The city is cognizant of this when a road is due for repair/repaving/replacing, and tries to incorporate measures into the new design.
Stoeckle: Working with the public works department, we have marked all of the city streets on Dixie Highway to be painted with reflective paint on each crosswalk to help with pedestrian and cyclist safety.
Sanders: Every new road project should be planned with pedestrian and cyclist safety in mind. The reconstruction of Bromley-Crescent Springs Road, which included expanded paths for walking and cycling, is a great example. Ensuring timely maintenance and replacement of existing sidewalks will help keep Ft. Mitchell very walkable.
Cities have benefited from federal funds to recover from the pandemic, but that one-time cash infusion is unlikely to happen again. What steps should be taken to ensure that the city remain on strong financial footing?
Deatherage: Our city has benefitted from prior leaders who were fiscally responsible. Leaders who planned and saved for capital projects and replacement. As chair of the Finance Committee, continuing their decisions to fund depreciable items (fire, ambulance, police, public works equipment, roads, sidewalks, etc.) is a constant focus with the committee and administration. We have done this while not increasing property taxes since well before my entry to council in 2018.
Roeding: I want to maintain a focus on providing the best services possible to our residents and businesses in the most fiscally responsible way. Every year we plan for essential services, quality economic development, and infrastructure projects. My top priority is to continue to develop a financially responsible budget that allows us to strengthen our community through targeted investments.
Pohlgeers: The City of Fort Mitchell’s already strong financial standing may improve following the pandemic. ARPA funds, by definition, were used towards investments which support long-term growth and opportunity. Our funds were primarily allocated in one of two ways: unforeseen expenses directly related to the pandemic, such as EMT overtime and PPE, or allowable onetime expenses, which were already budgeted. This afforded the city greater flexibility in both everyday expenses, but also community improvements to assist residents and Fort Mitchell businesses in both the long and short term.
Fort Mitchell has an enviable history of fiscal responsibility, which is our greatest strength in sustaining our future financial health. Former Mayor Holocher had the foresight to institute the Capital Replacement Fund. This is an excellent tool that allows us to effectively forecast and budget for major investments, such as fire trucks, ten years in advance. It is our commitment to these types of financial practices which allow us to continue to reinvest in improvements to our community, and do so without raising taxes. In fact, our property tax rates have not been increased in well over a decade and are one of the lowest among all Northern Kentucky cities.
Dietrich: I believe those funds were a windfall in an unprecedented and unknown time. Ongoing, we need to avoid wasteful spending. We answer to our citizens and taxpayers, and have an obligation to be diligent when spending their money.
Boerger: Fort Mitchell has financially benefited from responsible budgets. Having previously served on council I have experienced our department heads utilize grant monies and long-range planning for capital replacements within each department. Responsible spending and budgeting are key for a city’s financial viability.
Nachazel: The City of Fort Mitchell operates with six months of operating expenses in reserves. While the ARPA funds helped considerably during the height of the pandemic to help with unexpected expenses such as PPE and overtime pay for our first responders we are not relying on that money. Our ARPA funds were used to pay for items we had already budgeted for, specifically for use in the park renovation. Many years ago previous city leaders initiated a Capital Replacement Fund that is utilized to save for and purchase “big ticket” items like equipment. The city carries no debt.
Stoeckle: With the help of the city’s finance committee, Ft. Mitchell has a strong financial footing. Through proper budgeting and a consciousness toward spending taxpayer money, the finance committee and council are committed to keeping Ft. Mitchell in a strong financial position.
Sanders: Ft. Mitchell needs to be conservative and responsible when it comes to government spending. Taxpayers, especially homeowners, deserve a break whenever possible. Pre-planning and saving for large capital expenditures will help ensure costs are spread over years, or even decades. This will help free up funds to pay for top-notch essential services such as police, fire, and public works.
Access to affordable housing in Northern Kentucky, as well as across the country, is increasingly a challenge. What role do you see the city government playing in addressing these concerns?
Deatherage: As a city, we work closely with Planning & Development Services of Kenton County (PDS). One of our current council members sits on the management board providing valuable insights to us as a city on housing issues. The recent efforts from the Z21 Task Force will allow us to follow the comprehensive plan for Kenton County.
Roeding: Ft. Mitchell continues to be a sought-after community to live and work. With our high-performing schools, great restaurants, thriving businesses and consistently low crime rate, Ft. Mitchell is an ideal place to settle down. In places like Ft. Mitchell it is not the planning system that is limiting housing but a range of other factors, from financing to land supply. I want to continue to provide a community that is safe and appealing to our current residents and attractive to future businesses and families.
Pohlgeers: Northern Kentucky is a vibrant, thriving area, with ongoing, exciting, economic development. Census employment data shows our region has a 67% workforce participation rate and median household income of $70,171. However, Census housing data shows a median owner-occupied home value of $215,000 (Kenton County), about 25% higher than Kentucky as a whole, while 76% of our housing structures are single family. Conversely, our region has only 6% of housing units vacant and of the housing units occupied, 27% are by owners. Fort Mitchell specifically is over 51% rental property with diverse price points for single-family homes. While our region’s economic success may be contributing to the issue, it also lends a great deal of opportunity to combat the problem. Northern Kentucky is unique in the number of cities, most small, that make up our region. The solution begins with all NKY cities taking a collaborative approach, to what I believe, is a regional concern. We tackle this issue much the same way as we address 911, public transportation and economic development. For example, a unified voice to leverage state and federal grant opportunities that assist homeowners with monies for down payments, emergency repairs, etc., improving permit processes, and cutting red tape to ultimately lower home investment costs.
Dietrich: Ft. Mitchell has a variety of different housing options within the community. We owe it to everyone to help maintain their home values.
Boerger: Affordable housing is a necessity and the city of Fort Mitchell has a very reasonable city tax rate.
Nachazel: As a Realtor, I am all too familiar with the challenges of finding affordable housing, especially over the past few years. As a first ring suburb, Fort Mitchell is proximal to jobs and amenities. Couple location with high-performing public schools, both Beechwood and Kenton County, along with parochial schools, it will continue to be a destination. Given that Fort Mitchell was constructed over time, a roughly 100-year period, we have diversity in our housing and price points. While in general, I think affordable housing is a larger issue than a small city can address, having zoning that allows for diverse types of housing helps. We have a fair share of duplexes, quadplexes and larger apartment developments. In the late 80s, cities moved more toward single family zones. Affordable housing is a balance of diverse housing types and price points along with a healthy mix of owner-occupied and rental properties. Fort Mitchell is very close to 50/50 when it comes to owner-occupied versus rental properties.
Stoeckle: Bring public land to the table. Land availability and cost are a common issue.
Sanders: Ft. Mitchell should explore programs to provide financial assistance for owner-occupied homes. Much of our city has been converted to rental property and out-of-town investors and real estate corporations typically do not care as much about our city as homeowners, who intend to remain for generations, do. We can help bridge the gap for families who want to plant roots and raise their children here in Ft. Mitchell.
What are the most significant infrastructure concerns in your city and what should be done to address them?
Deatherage: The city has a budget goal “to provide the best service possible to our residents and businesses in the most financially responsible way.” The recent rebuild of Dixie Highway through the heart of our city was crucial thanks to the state approval and funding. Improving Royal Drive is also an infrastructure concern in supporting the new development moving forward.
Roeding: Like most cities, our most significant infrastructure concerns are roads and sidewalks. The city has a five-year street plan which is used to comprehensively analyze infrastructure replacement needs. Every two years street conditions are reassessed and the list is re-evaluated. We have a phenomenal public works department that is proactive in addressing issues and effectively communicates plans through the City of Ft. Mitchell website.
Pohlgeers: Historically, former Mayor Bill Goetz had the vision to adopt a road tax to proactively fund our aging infrastructure. More recently, the city has adopted an annually reviewed and updated rolling five-year infrastructure action plan. With this plan, we “grade” streets and sidewalks to assess repair/replacement need. This tool allows us to effectively forecast and budget infrastructure improvements before serious issues arise. Additionally, this forecast creates accountability and sets expectations for quality streets and infrastructure within our community. However, unique challenges arise outside of our five-year plan. The most obvious and recent exception was the deterioration of Dixie Highway. As Dixie is a state-owned and maintained road, members of our city and council, myself included, lobbied Frankfort for state-budgeted repairs. This month, those efforts came to fruition as the Fort Mitchell Dixie Highway corridor has been repaved by KYTC District 6. We have also been granted partial budgeted funding for a future reconstruction project.
The next infrastructure concern will be the Buttermilk Pike-Fort Mitchell Corridor, including Royal Drive, in conjunction with the Drawbridge development. It is critical that city officials work cohesively with KYTC District 6 (Buttermilk is also a State Road) and the developers to create, fund and execute plans that create an improved infrastructure that best satisfies traffic flow for both the development and the residents of Fort Mitchell. This plan will rely heavily on traffic studies and data to determine to what extent we revamp Buttermilk Pike intersections and construction of a “new” realigned Royal Drive.
Dietrich: The challenge that Ft. Mitchell has versus newer communities is that the roads are not very wide and we are fairly landlocked, which makes it a challenge to have wider biking and walking paths for everyone to enjoy.
Boerger: The infrastructure of our roads, utilities, and city services must remain at high importance. With Dixie Highway being a main thoroughfare, its condition must be maintained through cooperation with the city and state. Our side street projects have continued to be coordinated with water and utility upgrades whenever possible to allow for repairs and upgrades to be done at the same time. This saves money and services while lessening the impact on the residents. I consider our police, fire/emt, and public works departments to be a key part of the infrastructure. These services have continued to be superior and it is council’s responsibility to help these departments maintain their superior rating.
Nachazel: Streets and sidewalks are the largest pieces of infrastructure the we are in charge of building and maintaining. We have a five-year road plan that is evaluated annually and projects are prioritized case by case. The city works closely with other entities such as Sanitation District 1 utilizing a 50/50 cost share program. A recent example of this was the Grace Avenue Project. When sewer lines are replaced the city will replace the road as well with a 50% cost savings. The city also worked closely with telecom carriers and Alta Fiber to grant right of way access to them so our city is set up for modern life.
Stoeckle: With the upcoming Brent Spence Bridge construction, we are anticipating increased traffic on Dixie Hwy. which will put stress on the road and the state will need to do repair on the road.
Sanders: The most significant threat to Ft. Mitchell’s infrastructure is age. Roads, water lines, sewers, and the power grid need to be systematically updated. While many of these issues are addressed by utility companies, the city can hold the utilities accountable to make certain the upgrades are being implemented, to make sure future needs are considered now, and to make sure the repairs don’t leave streets torn up or unsightly. Also, the impact upon traffic congestion should be considered before any new developments are approved.
With the development at the former Drawbridge Inn site underway, what do you see as the role of council in assuring its success – not necessarily as a commercial endeavor – but as a community asset and destination?
Deatherage: There are many moving parts and entities, public and private, involved with the project. I see our role as supporting the necessary infrastructure to ensure the success of the development and to fairly manage the zoning to the needs of the community, citizens and visitors.
Roeding: I believe, as a city, we prioritize economic growth to create jobs, keep up with rising costs, and maintain a competitive advantage. The Drawbridge site has been a point of discussion for some time, and I, for one, am very excited to see the project get underway. Our primary role is to provide the infrastructure to support the development of the site. A strong and healthy infrastructure is the foundation for every business, and critical for keeping residents safe.
Pohlgeers: This is the most significant and valuable commercial project in the history of Fort Mitchell. These opportunities do not often afford themselves to a city our size. It is important that this is a first-class destination development, which brings vitality and pride to our community. As a member of council who has attended several development meetings, I have first-hand knowledge of the desired vision and goals for the project. The future is exciting. It is imperative that I bring a clear vision for how the city can foster the success of this development. Our first critical role will be to consider and, ultimately vote, on potential zoning changes. As a member of both the PDS Council and the PDS Management Board, I can bring a unique perspective to council and provide input on how to best handle updated zoning. It is vital that we have a clear understanding of how proposed zone changes can impact both this property and the city as a whole.
Equally important, will be our role at the city level to ensure adequate infrastructure enhancements and improvements. This role, as previously discussed, will be two-fold. First, to collect solid data to subjectively identify the infrastructure needs of Royal Drive and Buttermilk Pike and confirm those needs align with the master plan. It is also critical to coordinate these infrastructure improvements between the city, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet and the developer to ensure proper design, funding and implementation, benefitting Fort Mitchell Residents and the overall success of the development.
Dietrich: We have to support businesses that want to come into our community, but it has to be beneficial to both the business and the City of Ft. Mitchell. As the chief financial officer of a local company, I have worked on many projects and know how important it is to have continuous communication to help ensure the development runs smoothly so that you can address issues as they arise.
Boerger: With the development of the Drawbridge property on Buttermilk Pike finally being underway, it is important to our community and its residents that council approve a development that is going to be an asset to our community. One that will provide services, employment, and a destination point that is unique to the area while being utilized by residents of our city, neighboring cities, and a unique draw to the community.
Nachazel: The former Drawbridge Inn is located in the MU (mixed use) Zone, that has both a stage one and two development plan overlay. The stage one piece of that requires approval from council before moving forward with any development. The zone was intentionally set up this way so that city leadership has a voice in the end result. This is a once in a generation development opportunity that can’t be squandered.
Stoeckle: Plans will be presented to council and council should ask for community involvement with the plans.
Sanders: Council’s primary role should be ensuring smart development focused on adding assets to our community. Proper planning and zoning are essential to ensuring Ft. Mitchell isn’t littered with vape shops and check cashing businesses like some of our neighboring cities. I’d like to see our city help recruit marquee tenants we’re proud of, just like when Mercedes Benz of Ft. Mitchell was welcomed to town.