Who will be Akron's next mayor? The answer is coming sooner than you might think
Akron is getting a new mayor this year. Current Mayor Dan Horrigan is not running for reelection, so this is the first time since 2015 that voters are considering a slate without an incumbent.
You might be asking why I’m writing about the mayor’s race when the general election is in November, eight months from now. It’s a good question, one I’ve gotten from some of my Ideastream colleagues who live closer to Cleveland and have the fierce matchup of Justin Bibb and Kevin Kelley in 2021 still fresh in their minds.
It’s a whole different ballgame in Akron — and I’m not talking about Canal Park versus Progressive Field.
In Cleveland, the mayoral primary takes place in September. The two candidates with the most votes then compete in the general election a little less than two months later.
In Akron, however, the Democratic primary is May 2, just about a month from now. No Republicans have filed to run, so whoever wins the Democratic primary race has an almost guaranteed shot of winning the general election.
The primary winner's only challenger would be a potential independent candidate, as independents have until May 1 to file for the race. Still, the chance of an independent defeating a candidate from the party that’s dominated the mayor’s office for more than 40 years is pretty slim.
Essentially, we’re a month away from knowing Akron’s next mayor.
Throughout that month, Ideastream Public Media is committed to bringing voters trustworthy, informative and timely coverage of the race.
The first big coverage event on the horizon is the Akron Decides mayoral debate, which Ideastream is conducting with the Akron Press Club, The Akron Beacon Journal and the Ohio Debate Commission. It will be held at noon on April 5 at Quaker Station in Downtown Akron.
I’m one of the journalists asking the seven candidates questions. I will be joined by Mark Turner, former executive news editor at the Beacon Journal who is now at Ohio University, and Cheryl Powell, current managing editor of the Beacon Journal. Michael Shearer, Beacon Journal editor, will serve as the moderator.
The second Akron Decides debate takes place April 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the main branch of the Akron Summit County Public Library in Downtown Akron. That debate will be co-moderated by Andrew Meyer, deputy editor for news at Ideastream Public Media, and Rick Jackson, host of the “Sound of Ideas.” Questions will come from residents.
For the past few months, I’ve interviewed all but one of the candidates. I've met with Mark Greer, the former small business program manager under Mayor Dan Horrigan’s administration; current city councilmembers Shammas Malik and Tara Mosley; Keith Mills, intervention specialist at Collinwood High School in Cleveland; cell phone store manager Joshua Schaffer and Summit County Councilmember and former Deputy Mayor for Administration Jeff Wilhite.
I'm in the process of scheduling an interview with Marco Sommerville, Deputy Mayor of Intergovernmental Affairs under Horrigan. The current mayor endorsed Sommerville shortly after announcing he would not run for reelection.
I’ve asked the candidates a multitude of questions — What’s the biggest issue facing Akron residents right now? What are the candidates’ priorities for the city? Why should voters pick them over the others in the crowded field of candidates? — and many more. You'll hear some of their responses in some upcoming stories.
I’m looking forward to getting more answers in the April 5 debate, and I’m also excited to hear questions directly from residents in the April 12 event. If you’d like to submit a question, you can send one in writing or through video here. Those whose questions are selected may be invited to the debate to ask it in person.
It’s a pivotal time in Akron, and the new leader will have many challenges on his or her plate. They’ll play a big role as the city continues to heal from the fatal police shooting of Jayland Walker last year. Walker was unarmed when he was killed, but police say he fired a gun during the car chase. A Summit County special grand jury is expected to decide whether to indict the eight officers involved in April.
The new mayor will also oversee the spending of the city’s millions of dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funds. While most of the funding priorities have already been set by Horrigan’s administration, the next mayor will be tasked with making sure these goals are realized.
And, they’ll also lead the charge as the city prepares to celebrate its bicentennial in 2025. Akron’s seen a wealth of changes over the past 200 years. Who will lead the city into its next 100?
I’ll tell you in about a month.
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