After graduating from Wright State University, one of the first jobs I had was serving as the very first Township Administrator in Bethel Township. For those that may not know, Bethel Township is in the southeastern portion of our county located just north of Huber Heights. The township was growing. Annexation from Huber Heights was occurring and there were also new housing starts popping up all over the township. There was a need for professional government management that would serve the needs of this community.
When I arrived in the township, there were some real issues that needed to be addressed, most of which revolved around communicating with our residents. Sure our residents knew who the township trustees were, but they weren’t sure what township trustees did or what they should do.
When you asked the typical resident what the trustees did, you would get answers like “they clean the ditches” or “they plow the roads”. Both answers are very true, but there were other responsibilities as well. Our township had a strong volunteer fire department that the trustees had responsibility for, the trustees also made decisions on zoning and land use. Water infrastructure brought new partnerships that needed to be created and new decisions that needed to made.
But, one of the larger issues that was out there dealt with our communicating with the public and our partners. Residents would often talk to me about how they felt out of the loop on what was happening in their own community. Our partners were often concerned that the township wasn’t effectively communicating our concerns in a timely manner.
Working with the Township Trustees and Fiscal Officer, we made communications and accountability a priority. First, the Trustees developed a Strategic Plan, a guide for the partnerships they wanted to create, the tools they wanted to use to communicate, the messages we wanted to send and the issues they wanted to solve. It was a challenging process, but what was created was a plan that was easy-to-understand and had the commitment of the township's leadership. That plan was mailed to every township resident letting them know that the Township was here to serve them.
I also worked to create a new township website that was filled with anything and everything a resident would need; things like zoning permits, cemetery information, past minutes of our meetings and maps were just a few things that made our website a wonderful tool. This may sound like common sense, but twenty years ago, for a small township, this was a seismic shift in how a rural community worked and communicated with their residents.
We also began publishing our own quarterly newsletter and sent it to every household in the township. This was a wonderful mailing that continued to open and enhance lines of communications between citizens and their local government. We also started new traditions. Working with a local church, we started an Easter Egg Hunt at a local park and our Fire Department began hosting a community picnic and Open House every fall.
All these efforts were done to help our residents become more invested in their community and more aware of community affairs and it worked! When we started to have community open houses and forums on important issues, the residents showed up, participated and trusted the answers that the Trustees gave.
In the three short years I served the community, not only did we create new communication tools, we also established a new Land Use Plan, a Capital Improvement Plan and we started a new Community Improvement Corporation. We also started one of the first township sponsored Agricultural Easement programs in the state, a program that preserved productive farmland for generations to come. We brought public water to areas that desperately needed it. In other words, we communicated, identified issues and we served the public.
Perhaps the greatest indicator of our success was when a developer came to our township and laid out plans to develop one of the premier business training and consulting campuses in the United States. It was a development that enhanced the natural beauty of our township while growing our tax base. Within months, Aileron was built on Wildcat Road. For nearly twenty years, business leaders from around the world have come to Bethel Township thanks to Aileron to learn business and leadership principles and enjoy the beauty of the community.
It’s those valuable experiences of communicating and working with residents that I learned during my time in Bethel Township that I am bringing to this campaign for Mayor of our beautiful hometown.