BY CINDY SCHROEDER
The Cincinnati Enquirer
FORT WRIGHT -- Fired as the city's police chief two months ago, Mark Brown insisted Wednesday that his mayoral campaign is about seeking vindication, not vindictiveness.
Appearing at a candidates forum sponsored by the Fort Wright Business Association, the city's former three-year police chief also called for the abolition of the city administrator's position. Mr. Brown said the resulting savings of about $280,000 during the four-year mayor's term could be better spent addressing Fort Wright's stormwater sewer problems.
The city administrator's position has been vacant since Sept. 1, when Marc Bergman resigned, citing personal reasons.
Among the reasons that Mayor Paul Hiltz cited for firing Mr. Brown were that he shouted at Mr. Bergman and laid a firearm on his desk during a confrontation last May.
"If elected, I will not have a city administrator," said Mr. Brown. "I'll be a working mayor."
His opponent, Gene Weaver, himself a former Fort Wright police chief and the top vote getter in the 1996 city council race, cited his record of civic involvement and his 4 1/2 years in city government.
"I'm running for mayor of Fort Wright because I'm the most qualified and experienced candidate," Mr. Weaver said.
On the issue of the city administrator's position, Mr. Weaver said after the forum: "I think that's an absolute must for the city. I think for us not to have that position would take us back 20 years." Mr. Weaver said that Fort Wright has had a city administrator since the early 1980s. Today, he said, the job is more critical than ever, especially in dealing with developers.
Mr. Weaver agreed that the city's storm water problems need to be addressed, but he said council is already working on those. He said engineering work has been done in several problem areas, and he added bids are about to be let.
"As far as the mayor's race, I just urge all the citizens to look past all the stories, all the names, and so forth, and take a look at the candidates and choose who you feel will do the best job for the city, everything else aside," said councilman Jeffrey Wolnitzek. "I think the race is divisive for the city right now, and it really saddens me to see that."
Mr. Brown disagreed that the mayor's race is divisive. He pledged to keep an open door policy if elected.
"The politics of exclusion that I've observed in this city should change into the politics of inclusion," Mr. Brown said. Besides choosing a mayor, Fort Wright voters also will pick sixcouncil members on Nov. 3.
Four incumbent council members face challenges from three residents, including former Mayor Donald Martin, Luis Pinto, the husband of former Fort Wright Mayor Cindy Pinto, and David Hatter.
Incumbents seeking re-election include Tom Franxman, Mr. Hiltz, Jim Robke, and Mr. Wolnitzek.
Mr. Martin called for better communications between Fort Wright's government and its residents.
"You can't let things build up and fester," he said. "That's why you're seeing the number of candidates right now."
Mr. Martin joined Mr. Hiltz and Mr. Hatter in calling for development of more parks and recreational opportunities, especially for children.
Mr. Hiltz said the city also should explore possible state accreditation of its police department.
Mr. Robke cited his expertise as a lawyer and former business owner as assets in helping the city expand its tax base and improve services through new development.
Mr. Franxman said he also is interested in the development of the 3L corridor.
"I'm running to continue to push for business development, the business owner said. "I'm very pro-business."
Mr. Pinto, a 10-year resident, pledged to keep Fort Wright "a family-friendly community, safe, clean and upscale." He said the incoming city government needs to find a city administrator and police chief "who can do the job right," and he pledged to recognize volunteerism.
Mr. Hatter said he supports "a small, open government that encourages people to come in and say what they think." He added he "solves people's problems all day long," as part of his computer programming and consulting business.
Mr. Wolnitzek, the most senior member of council and a 20-year member of the volunteer fire department, cited his fiscal conservatism and his problem-solving skills, as reasons why voters should support him.
The council members who take office in January will serve two-year terms and earn annual salaries of $2,400. The mayor will serve four years and earn $6,000 a year.