A former Ohio University professor is running for the 1st Ward seat on City Council, which will be vacant at the end of this year.
Solveig Spjeldnes, a former associate professor of social work, was asked if she was interested in running for this position by Mayor Steve Patterson in January. The position is currently held by Arian Smedley, however, Smedley will not be running for reelection.
“I got a call from Mayor Patterson, telling me that Arian Smedley had decided not to run again for the 1st Ward, and he had heard that I might be someone who would be interested and would be qualified,” Spjeldnes said.
Spjeldnes said she was hesitant to run for this position because she did not want to run against candidates she knew personally.
“I thought about it for about a week, 10 days, something like that,” Spjeldnes said. “I also checked with other people that I knew would have been considered. So, Sam Miller, for example, had run the last time and we'd got to know each other then. And she decided not to, anyway, so I knew that other possible Democratic candidates weren't going to because I didn't want to run against them.”
Spjeldnes believes her experience as a social work professor will help her in the position.
“I taught social welfare history and policy at OU for 12 years, so I know about policy, I taught policy,” she said. “There's really two major parts (of the job) I would say. One of them is that you make policy, and that's partially based on what the needs are and what the budget will allow … but the other big part of the job is advocating for constituents.”
Spjeldnes said in this position, she wants to help students with rental housing and look into how to make low-income housing more accessible.
“How can we help students to know how to identify a good place to live, how to navigate that process especially if they're new to that, and how to be a good renter to maximize the opportunities to get your money back at the end,” Spjeldnes said.
Anna Fletcher, a junior studying social work and a former student of Spjeldnes’, spoke highly about experiences at OU with Spjeldnes.
“You could tell she really cared about her students, like she truly wanted what was best for us,” Fletcher said. “It wasn't just like she was pretending, you could tell that she really wanted what was best and so she pushed us to turn into our best work.”
Fletcher said Spjeldnes is qualified for the 1st Ward seat because of how much she cares for others.
“I think that people will be able to see that she does truly care about individuals and also about the community as a whole,” Fletcher said. “And she's very educated and qualified to do this kind of work.”
Fletcher said Spjeldnes’ desire to do research and help others will positively impact the Athens community.
“I think that she could really make a difference in the lives of people that may be forgotten, and other situations that may be overlooked, I think she could be a voice for those people,” Fletcher said. “She never fails to research things before she would say them or do them.”
Smedley, D-1st Ward, said due to her recent pregnancy, she will not be running for reelection in the next term in 2022.
“I had a baby in between the time when I officially won the election, which was in the primary and now, so I pretty much knew when I got pregnant that this would be one term for me,” Smedley said. “The decision to serve was made, so I wanted to fulfill that commitment.”
Smedley said she would like to see Spjeldnes be responsive to the needs of the West Side of Athens if she is elected into this position.
“If anyone who serves in this seat I would just like to see them continue to be responsive to the needs of West Side, continue to strengthen the resources that we have on our side of town and give it the attention that it needs,” Smedley said.
Spjeldnes said she hopes to be viewed as responsive to the community of Athens and aid those who are in need of it.
“I want to promote common sense (and) inclusive governance that's responsive to all my constituents,” Spjeldnes said. “I want to assist people in whatever day-to-day problems that they encounter.”
Correction appended: A previous version of this article contained an incorrect spelling of Sam Miller’s name. The articel has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.