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Returning candidates and one newcomer celebrate local election success

Voters walk to their polling station.
Voters walk to their polling station.

On Tuesday, Oxford residents and Miami University students headed to the polls to cast their ballots on statewide issues and local races, contributing to Butler County’s nearly 46% reported voter turnout.

In Oxford, three seats for Oxford City Council, one seat on the Oxford Township Board of Trustees and three seats on the Talawanda School Board were on the ballot.

Oxford City Council

With only three available spots for city council up for grabs this election, incumbents William Snavely and Jason Bracken remain on council, with the new addition of former mayor Mike Smith.

Jon Ralinovsky, a political newcomer in the city of Oxford, failed to move in on one of these spots.

“From this election I learned two things: I need to do a lot more work, and running against incumbents is hard,” Ralinovsky said.

Despite his loss, Ralinovsky said he will continue to work on the environmental commission as well as the parking and transportation advisory board. He has not ruled out running again in the future.

Snavely came in first place and retained his seat with more than 2,100 votes. Smith followed with almost 1,800 votes, and Bracken also kept his place on Council with just more than 1,700 votes. Ralinovsky, the only first-time candidate, failed to win a seat on Council and came in with just short of 1,300 votes.

Snavely walked away with the most votes of the night, but he had positive things to say about each of the other candidates. Snavely previously served as vice-mayor for Smith during his two years as mayor in 2019-2021, and he has worked with Bracken on council for the past four years. Ralinovsky, meanwhile, has been active in multiple local commissions.

“Ralinovsky was a good candidate, and I hope that he runs again in two years,” Snavely said. “We had four good candidates running for three spots. It’s a difficult decision in many ways.”

Snavely said he’ll continue to focus on the city’s three top priorities over the next four years: climate action, affordable housing and economic development. On climate action, he hopes to see movement on plans for a solar farm on Oxford’s closed landfill.

Bracken also hopes to continue his work on climate initiatives. Council recently passed a climate action plan, and Bracken led a push to install a solar-powered flare on the city’s landfill to curb methane emissions.

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Outside the city’s stated initiatives, Bracken said securing better funding for the city’s fire department and EMS services is a major priority.

“Our fire and EMS situation is pretty rough, and we’re going to work hard to get Miami to contribute its fair share so that doesn’t hurt our budget and hurt our ability to serve the community in terms of fire and EMS services,” Bracken said.

Both Snavely and Smith agreed that funding the fire department is a major challenge for Oxford. Three full-time first responders have resigned so far this year, and the department has already exceeded its overtime pay budget for the year.

As he makes his return to public office, Smith said he hopes to use his people skills to engage with residents on the issues that matter to them. He said people who want to make a change can apply to one of the city’s boards and commissions. Smith himself got his start on Oxford’s Historic Preservation Committee.

Smith said a lot of the local government’s work involves Miami. The precincts with majority student population tend to have the lowest turnout in each election, but Smith said he’s happy to talk to students about city issues and how it impacts them.

“We did have a lot of great engagement, like the College Democrats invited us to come and speak to them,” Smith said. “I would have gone and spoken with the College Republicans if they had asked … Trying to get in front of groups really helps.”

Oxford Township Trustee

Kate Rousmaniere, an incumbent candidate for the township trustee seat, defeated Glenn Ellerbe, a current city councilor, with nearly 75% of the vote. While she’s happy to retain her seat, Rousmaniere said success of local and statewide ballot initiatives is the biggest win for democracy.

With her next term as a trustee, Rousmaniere said she hopes to focus on health and wellness issues facing rural communities, particularly drug and alcohol addiction.

“I want to keep working on that,” Rousmaniere said. “As township trustee, I’ve been able to sit on the board of the Coalition for a Healthy Community and be able to advocate for particular issues facing rural communities.”

Despite Ellerbe’s loss for township trustee, he will continue to hold several positions in Oxford, including on the Community Improvement Commission, Student Community Relations Commission and the Butler Rural Electric Cooperatives Board of Trustees. Ellerbe has also applied to be on the board of trustees of Oxford Chamber of Commerce. 

He said the result of the election was not surprising to him.

“I fully expected the outcome,” Ellerbe said. “It is because of the progressive pact we have here in town.”

Whether or not he will run again in the future depends on the “current political climate of Oxford in two years.”

Talawanda School Board

Three incumbents were on the ballot of the six candidates, with two of them winning reelection. Incumbent Rebecca Howard, who earned the most votes of all the candidates, said she is excited to start her second term on the board, despite the difficult decisions that they face.

“Our biggest challenge is still our biggest challenge, and that is getting a grip on our finances, addressing the discrepancy between revenue and expenses that we’re faced with,” Howard said.

Howard will be joined by incumbent Chris Otto and new member Dawn King. Both Otto and King did not respond to requests for comment, but Howard said she is looking forward to working with both of them closely to navigate the challenges the district faces.

“I’m pleased that my colleague Chris Otto got reelected … I also am looking forward to working with Dawn King,” Howard said. “I think she’s going to bring a really important perspective to the board, and I think we’re going to have a good working group on this board.”

Kathleen Knight-Abowitz, the third incumbent on the ballot, will end her term on the school board in December. Knight-Abowitz, who was behind King by about 400 votes, said her time on the school board was a busy and chaotic experience, but she decided to run again because there were still other issues she wanted to address.

Namely, the financial stability of the school district and bringing back services such as school busing were big concerns for her, and she looks forward to seeing how the new board handles these issues.

“The thing you regret is that there are other things that you wanted to work on, but because you were working on things that were sort of thrown at you, you didn’t get to work on some of the other issues that really need addressing too,” Knight-Abowitz said. “I hope that the new board can take on some of those challenges too.”

Despite her loss, Knight-Abowitz said she wouldn’t have run her campaign any differently.

“I don’t have really regrets about the campaign or anything like that,” Knight-Abowitz said. “I feel like the voters made a choice, and I look forward to seeing what the new board can do together for the district.”

Ivan Carver and Andrew Langsner were the other two names on the ballot, but both candidates were not available to comment.