By Kevin Kelley
Open city council and school board seats tend to attract candidates. Such is the case with the Ward 2 seat in Westlake, for which incumbent Jim Connole has decided not to seek re-election. Five residents are running in the May 7 nonpartisan primary, with the top two moving on to the November general election. Connole is not making an endorsement in the primary race.
The candidate with the best name recognition is Nate Cross, who was elected to the Westlake City Schools Board of Education in November 2009. He is the only Ward 2 candidate who has run for elected office. Cross has the endorsement of not only the Cuyahoga County Republican Party but also Mayor Dennis Clough and state Rep. Nan Baker. But Cross said the council representative’s duty is to provide service to the community in a nonpartisan way. “Thus, if elected, I’m there to serve all residents of Ward 2 – regardless of political affiliation,” Cross told West Life.
His campaign literature states he’s for “fiscal responsibility” but does not go into specifics about his tenure on the school board, where he opposed the scope of the new building project and was critical of the district’s labor costs. The May 7 ballot includes a school district operating levy. Cross voted to place the levy on the ballot but told West Life he won’t say how he will vote on it. Will supporters of the teachers union and school building project hold his earlier positions against him, or will they be happy to see him move to City Council?
Another with good name recognition is Steve Presley, a member of the city’s civil service commission since 2007. Now the city administrator and finance director for Pepper Pike, Presley was the finance director of Bay Village from 1993 to 2012. Although this is Presley’s first run for elected office, he said he’s the most experienced in municipal operations. It’s his job, he said, to explain how his experience will be beneficial to Ward 2 residents. Presley also stressed his ability to work well with different types of personalities.
A nurse who previously worked as an attorney, Marie Novak is the only female candidate among the five Ward 2 candidates. (City Council currently consists of all men. Another woman, Lynda Appel, will challenge Shamus Cusick for the Ward 1 seat in November.)
“I am invested in this community, the schools and the people who live here,” said Novak, the mother of two boys. “I look forward to the opportunity to become a new voice for continued success as a member of the City Council from Ward 2.” Novak said she wants to maintain a balanced approach among residential, commercial and industrial interests in the city.
Nick Nunnari, the assistant service manager at John Lance Ford, said he hopes he’ll get votes from the many people he knows from living and working in Westlake for more than 40 years. Describing himself as a “worker bee,” Nunnari said he has been active at St. Bernadette Catholic Church and in the PTA. Nunnari, who has the endorsement of Westlake school board Vice President Carol Winter, said he has no hidden agenda for future elected office and simply wants to serve the residents of Ward 2.
Brian Thompson, who has been attending council meetings regularly over the past two years, said he is emphasizing his professional experience as an attorney, certified public accountant and lay minister with voters. “I’m getting a good response as I go door to door,” he said of his campaign. Among the thoughts expressed by residents, he said, are concerns about flooding and substandard property maintenance.