By DENISE GRANT
It’s decision time for Republican voters, who have a choice of three candidates for Findlay mayor in the May 7 primary election.
Seeking the GOP nomination are Holly Frische, who has represented the city’s 1st Ward on City Council since 2014; Hancock County Commissioner Brian Robertson, who is serving his second term; and Christina Muryn, who is making her third attempt to win an elected public office.
Muryn, 27, of 2033 Old Mill Road, was appointed interim mayor in February by the Hancock County Republican Central Committee to serve out the term of former Mayor Lydia Mihalik. Mihalik resigned after she was named to a position in state government in January.
Twenty-five members of the 27-member central committee voted on the nomination. Muryn took the appointment with 17 votes, defeating Frische. Robertson said he did not seek the appointment out of concern for the abrupt transition it would have created in the commissioners’ office.
Whether the appointment gave Muryn enough momentum to win a citywide primary race remains to be seen. All three candidates have been actively campaigning.
In November, the GOP winner will face Democrat Chad Benschoter, 501 Edinborough Drive. Benschoter, a small business owner, is unopposed in the primary.
Findlay’s mayors are elected to four-year terms. The mayor’s salary in 2020, which is set by city ordinance, will be $75,229.
Muryn served as director of business and physical development for the Pain Management Group, Findlay, prior to taking office. She said it’s her “deep love” for Findlay, and her desire for it to be a place where “everyone feels welcome and heard” that prompted her to run.
“I also believe that my abilities and experience in strategic planning, business development and marketing allow me to be perfectly equipped to be mayor,” Muryn said.
For Frische, 41, of 1325 Shady Lane, community service runs in the family. Her father, John Kovach, was named as Findlay’s economic development director in 1984.
“From a young age, I watched the teamwork and excitement the community leaders started that drove the boom of success for our small town,” said Frische. “This has motivated me to always be involved in my community, not only supporting local nonprofits and the Republican Party, but also as a leader who engages the community as 1st Ward councilwoman since 2014.”
Frische worked in the banking industry for about five years before spending 17 years as personal manager for Frank and Nan Guglielmi of Findlay.
Robertson said he was asked to enter the mayor’s race as “the only candidate who could bring a record of both business and public sector executive experience to our community,” he said.
He called Findlay the “heartbeat” of Hancock County, and said it is essential for the city to have strong leadership.
“I care about our community and am always willing to discuss the challenges impacting us and ensuring that we accomplish the opportunities before us, while making tough decisions,” Robertson said.
Robertson, 51, of 218 Penbrooke Drive, first took office as commissioner in January 2013 and was re-elected in 2016 with 63 percent of the vote. He is currently serving the third year of his second, four-year term.
He also is the president of MBDS, a manufacturing company headquartered in Findlay.
This is Robertson’s second attempt to secure the GOP nomination for Findlay mayor. He lost a race with Mihalik in 2011.
“Everyday citizens crave leadership for our community, looking for someone who puts their interests before their own. My mindset continues to be focused on making operational decisions, not political decisions…,” he said.
Robertson pointed to his record as commissioner:
• Saved taxpayers several million dollars by revising initial plans for the new county garage and maintenance facility, 1900 Lima Ave.
• Ended the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ involvement in flood mitigation here, and reinstated local control. In October, widening of the Blanchard River’s banks at Findlay got underway. The $6 million project will be completed this year.
• Began dedicating sales tax money to the county’s safety and security needs, instead of the flood fund.
“I have been the most vocal official on safety and security issues impacting our quality of life daily, while taking clear action to expand our jail so law enforcement, courts and corrections can better deal with drug dealers entering our community,” said Robertson. “The level of details are significant on many of these critical issues, but my record of serving Findlay has been both transparent and clear.”
Robertson said he would like the city to consider creating a “community service representative” to better address and solve citizens’ concerns or suggestions.
“This role would provide support to develop the relationship between our residents and their government, and further ensure we are bringing issues from reporting to resolution in a collaborative way, rather than confrontational,” said Robertson.
“Currently, residents across our community are unsure where to call to get assistance or advice on various proposals, concerns or ideas. Developing a ‘customer support’ role would allow for a unified starting point for anyone within our community seeking assistance.”
A perceived disconnect between the city government and the city residents is a common theme heard by Frische on the campaign trail, too.
“Citizens feel they do not have a voice in city government and politics is getting in the way of transparency,” she said. “I value citizen input and communication, and as councilwoman, I have always strived to be available to talk and answer questions.”
Frische said residents don’t like the new mid-block crossings in Findlay’s downtown, and remain unhappy with the lack of parking. As mayor, Frische said she wants to tackle that problem.
“The fence at 830 E. Sandusky St. and street vacations have many residents expressing their concerns with city elected officials overstepping and involving themselves in neighborhood disputes,” said Frische. “As mayor, I will not use my position to take sides in neighborhood disagreements.”
The unrelenting issue of the opioid epidemic has both candidates and citizens worried about the future.
Frische said it’s a major concern.
“This problem cannot be fixed overnight. City, county, schools and supporting agencies need to work together not only to address recovery, but to put more emphasis on prevention,” Frische said.
Muryn said the opioid crisis and housing are the two most common concerns she has heard while campaigning.
“The three primary actions, though certainly not the only actions, that we can take as a city government are continuing to ensure infrastructure development that attracts private development, both redevelopment and new,” said Muryn.
“Second is to work with our various service entities to ensure coordination between resources, specifically harnessing the $4 million “System of Care Grant” to combat the opioid crisis and provide additional support to needed areas within our community social services.
“Finally, complete a community-wide strategic plan. Though this may not sound like it can help with some of the specific issues, it will ensure that our community has a vision and methodology for continuing to improve and a way to measure our progress to hold ourselves accountable,” said Muryn.
“It also ensures we look at all of the various elements including workforce, housing, health assessments, and others to ensure we are serving our entire community.”