GAMBIER — The Gambier Village Council appointed a new councilor Monday to fill a vacancy left in December, and elected a new council president by secret ballot the old-school way — passing around a hat with six votes split evenly for two candidates. That forced Mayor Kachen Kimmell, who said both candidates were of high quality, to make a choice.

First, however, Gambier councilors needed to fill the vacancy of long-time council member Kirk Emmert, who stepped down in December. There was only one potential candidate who had expressed interest in a council seat, Harold Ballard. He has served on the Village of Gambier Planning and Zoning board more than 12 years.

“I have more time now that my job has gone to Orlando,” said Ballard, a recent retiree who had worked on gas compressors and other projects at Siemens since his college days, before his specific job was relocated. Kimmell said Ballard will need to run again in November to complete Emmert’s unexpired term.

Kimmell was soon placed in a difficult situation in order to break a 3-3 tie for council president, a process where each of the six council members wrote down their choice of Betsy Heer or Leeman Kessler, the only two candidates nominated. A new president is elected each year. The mayor said she was hard-pressed to choose between two really good candidates but finally made her choice.

“I support Betsy (Heer) at this point,” Kimmell said, offering that if she “got hit by a truck, I would count on her” (Heer) the most. Heer, who owns the Gambier Village Inn, serves on committees including the Finance Committee and has been president before. Kessler said he is a stay-at-home dad and actor who performs during the Chautauqua Series in order to bring colorful characters from history to life in Mount Vernon.

Council members also received an update on their search for a new village administrator to relieve Dave Martin, who currently serves as interim administrator. Four of the five finalists selected from among 32 initial applicants for the position have visited Gambier and been interviewed by a small team that includes Kimmell and Martin.

The next step is to interview the fifth candidate as soon as possible, Kimmell said, and then narrow the five finalists down to two, tentatively planned for the week of Jan. 14-18. Those two finalists would be interviewed by the full council, one after the other, in executive session, and the council will receive a recommendation from Kimmell on a preferred choice.

However, Mark Kohlman, chief business officer at Kenyon College, said “there should be some kind of public process involved,” in which members of the public would be able to hear from the two finalists before the council makes its choice. Council members said they will take Kohlman’s recommendation under advisement.

The five finalists are: Gary Burkholder, who has served as city manager of Brookville (Ohio) in Montgomery County since 2015; Richard S. Dzik, who previously served as Knox County’s 911 director for five years and is a consultant with Crowe LLP of Columbus; Steven B. Stilwell, who is a laborer with his family Diamond Hill Farm and has also amassed 35 years of administrative municipal experience in six locations including Elk Rapids, Michigan; Garr Uram, who has served the past five years as Mount’s Vernon’s water treatment operator; and Ralph C. Wise, currently the village administrator of Hebron.


Larry Di Giovanni: 740-397-5333 or and on Twitter, @mountvernonnews




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