Aurora will have a new mayor come Jan. 1, 2014, and a record number of candidates -- six -- are seeking the position. They are Mark Demyan, Delbert Dunbar, John Kudley, John Monroe, Tom Plunkett and Ann Womer Benjamin.
This is a strong field of candidates, which makes the choice difficult. Based on the range of experience and ability, we give the nod to Ann Womer Benjamin, a city Council member and a former state legislator who went on to run the Ohio Department of Insurance under Gov. Bob Taft.
A lawyer who obtained her Juris Doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law after graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, she actively practiced law for more than 20 years.
Womer Benjamin is currently the executive director of the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education, whose mission is to bring business and education together.
In the Ohio House of Representatives, she chaired the Criminal Justice Committee and served on the House Appropriations Committee. As director of the Ohio Department of Insurance, she took the lead in stabilizing Ohio's medical malpractice for which she received Ohio University's Phillips Medal of Public Service in 2004.
While she is new to city government, having served two years on Aurora Council, she brings a vast reservoir of knowledge she can draw on that would benefit Aurora. Womer Benjamin stresses the need to scrutinize the budget to enact efficiencies to help fund renewal of the city's infrastructure.
She does face a talented field running for the mayor's slot.
Tom Plunkett, the fire chief of Reminderville and a senior fire captain in Maple Heights, has the experience of having transformed the Reminderville fire department into a full-time operation. He also took the lead in developing the village's municipal center.
He is knowledgeable of municipal budgeting and is an experienced grant writer. We like his emphasis on hiring a full-time economic development director.
John Kudley brings 14 years of service on City Council to the table. He has a master's degree in secondary administration with training in finance, public law, labor relations, public relations and public sector negotiating.
John Monroe, a self-employed sales management consultant and loaded with ideas and energy, is an asset to Aurora. He correctly identifies infrastructure maintenance and repair as a major issue.
Likewise, Mark Demyan, a project engineer with the Portage County Engineeer's Department, would bring his background to the task of updating and maintaining infrastructure.
Delbert Dunbar would bring his many years of experience to the issues facing city government.
All the candidates identified creating a Joint Economic Development District with the cooperation of Bainbridge Township as the way to proceed in developing the former Geauga Lake property. All express concern for tackling important infrastructure issues.
In summary, this is an impressive and talented field of candidates aspiring to become mayor. Each would bring his or her own special gifts to the job. Based on her long years of experience in government and working with the law, Womer Benjamin appears to us to have the edge.