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Council contenders stress listening, communication

With the conclusion of Nancy Bain’s 26-year career as an Athens City Councilwoman looming, the race to put a new face on the 3rd ward is on.

Independent candidate R.J. Sumney and Democratic candidate Michele Papai, both vying for the 3rd ward representative spot, sounded off on infrastructure and student-resident relationships at last night’s debate, which was held at the Athens Public Library.

The Athens County League of Women Voters hosted the debate.

“I’m a listener,” Sumney said when asked what qualified him for the position of 3rd ward representative. “I like to build by consensus. I want to find what other ideas are out there. … I believe I’m someone who has heart.”

Papai, when asked the same question, focused on personal motivation, citing communication as a key to being proactive when solving the city’s problems.  

“We’ve done some good work,” Papai said. “There’s more to be done. I have a lot of motivation and I really believe that’s how you solve problems.”

“If you get a phone call, someone needs to answer the phone,” she added.

Sumney, business manager for The Post, and Papai, 3-6 Democratic Precinct Committee member, held similar stances on city infrastructure, citing room for improvement.

“We need to have a better understanding of that (infrastructure fix timeline). … Council should direct on that,” Papai said.

In terms of the student-resident relationship, Sumney said he has approached Ohio University’s Student Senate about getting involved with off-campus neighborhoods, as well as capturing the entrepreneurial spirit of Athens youth to promote local business.

Papai, citing MSN’s distinction of Athens as a top college town, said the city is an “excellent community for solving problems,” but there is room for improvement in the area of neighborhood safety.

“I have roots here in town,” Sumney said in a closing statement. “I bring a problem-solving aspect. … I come to Council with the idea of wanting to make Athens better.”

Papai, sharing similar sentiments about the general improvement of Athens, reiterated her stance of communication being key to running a successful Council.

“Communication is super important,” she said. “That’s what a council rep should be there to do: listen and advocate.”

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