On Nov. 5, all registered students and community members are invited to vote in the village of Gambier’s Village Council election. The polls, which will be located at the Gambier Community Center, will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
While the ballot includes a number of municipal elections — including those for Township Trustee and the Mount Vernon Board of Education — the ones most likely to impact Kenyon students are those for Gambier Mayor and for the two open Village Council seats. Past Village Council decisions have included enforcing parking regulation and the adoption of Ohio tobacco laws.
The following Village Council candidates will appear on the ballot next week:
Leeman Kessler is a current Village Councilman and is running unopposed in his race for Mayor. While he had previously considered launching a mayoral campaign, he only decided to run when he learned that the current mayor, Kachen Kimmel, was unsure whether she wanted to continue with her position. When Kessler becomes mayor, he will vacate his current Council seat; though it isn’t certain, he thinks it’s likely that the Village Council candidate who loses the election will be appointed in his place.
As mayor, Kessler expects that one of his main focus areas will be the Village’s evolving relationship with Kenyon. Previously there has been confusion over a number of issues regarding the relationship between Kenyon and Gambier, such as who has a say in large-scale construction projects and what role Campus Security plays in Village law enforcement. As the spouse of a Kenyon employee, Chaplain Rachel Kessler, Leeman will have a unique perspective in navigating this ever-changing relationship.
“That’s one of the big defining questions of how the Village operates: Are we going to be in a partnership [with Kenyon]? Are we going to be subservient to [Kenyon]? Are we going to be in opposition to [Kenyon]?” Kessler said. “I think a good relationship is a partnership — something where both sides respect each other, where both sides have a sense of boundaries and don’t just assume things about how they’re going to operate.”
Incumbent Harold Ballard is running for Village Council. Previously an unpaid volunteer on the Gambier Planning and Zoning commission, Ballard also worked as an engineer at the Siemens/Rolls-Royce plant in Mount Vernon until its closure. He believes that “ethical behavior … is the most important part of service in any public capacity,” and that community service is an important part of being a resident of Gambier.
Morgan Giles became interested in local politics after participating in the Gambier Planning and Zoning Commission for two years, and is now running for Village Council. A lawyer by trade, Giles is on the Village Strategic Plan committee, a group tasked with developing the trajectory of the Village in the next few years. If elected, he plans to focus on the goals of the Strategic Plan. Giles also believes that fostering a cooperative relationship between the Village and Kenyon is a vital part of building a strong community.
“I don’t believe that change needs to be made for the sake of change. It needs to be built off of sound guidance, and that’s where the Strategic Plan comes in.”
Barbara Kakiris is the associate director of campus events and summer conferences at Kenyon, where she has worked for seven years. Previously, Kakiris spent 20 years working in public relations at NASA. She is a member of several Knox County humanitarian organizations, including New Directions, the local domestic violence crisis shelter.
One of Kakiris’ main goals if elected to Village Council would be to make Gambier more interactive with the greater Knox County community and establish more community partnerships. She believes her ties with organizations across the county and her experience with project management and planning provide a solid foundation for accomplishing this goal.
“I feel that I come with a viewpoint that’s not insular, and I look more broadly at things from a wider context,” she said. “We live on this isolated hill, and I think I have a wider worldview to lend when it comes to any topic that comes before Village Council.”