October 23, 2021
Pickerington Online’s Meet the Candidates
City Council Candidate Kevin Kemper believes that Pickerington needs to install sidewalks and bicycle paths before anyone else gets hurt.
“Every year someone in our community is run off the road, hit and sometimes even killed, all because they are trying to walk or bike to school, work or another neighborhood along roads without sidewalks,” Kemper said. “For me, the situation is infuriating because it’s entirely preventable. Current city leadership has had years to make progress on this issue, yet there only seems to be movement when someone is hurt, and even then, progress moves at a glacial pace. Clearly, it’s not a priority for current city leadership and this is unacceptable.”
It is time for safe transportation to become a priority, Kemper said.
“The city has an annual street maintenance program that is focused on repair and repaving. We need to add sidewalk, bike path or multi-use path construction as a part of this program, focusing on our main thoroughfares first. Through a combination of grant funding and budget prioritization, the city can make progress in this area. We can also work together with Violet Township to coordinate sidewalk construction along roads that switch between jurisdictions, and work with the Pickerington Local School District Board of Education to prioritize routes used by our students,” Kemper said.
Furthermore, he explained that focusing on sidewalk and multi-use path construction is not just a safety issue.
“It’s a public health issue because it gives residents more options for physical activity,” Kemper said. “It would help to improve our environment by giving residents an option to not drive. It’s also an economic development issue, as it would make our community more attractive and help us to market ourselves to potential employers.”
Economic development, “or the lack thereof”, is also a significant issue, he said.
“Pickerington’s current ‘bedroom community’ model is not sustainable. Many central Ohio communities are landing professional, light industrial, technology and logistics businesses, yet development in Pickerington is overwhelmingly centered on housing. This has led to schools that are bursting at the seams. At the same time, because there has been so little focus on potential economic development and employer attraction, homeowners are bearing the brunt of the tax burden. As a result, one of the reasons we can’t get school levies passed to expand facilities is because homeowners feel they are overtaxed,” Kemper said.
As a city council member, his goal would be to broaden economic development efforts to attract a greater number of businesses to the city.
“Closing the door on residential development is not necessary, but we do need a development rebalance,” Kemper said. “Recent medical sector development is positive, but there’s more to do.”
Among the ways to accomplish this would be to enhance the city’s business development services, invest in a business park, invest in a comprehensive marketing plan and appropriately employ financing tools that provide long-term benefits. In turn, these efforts would lessen the tax burden that currently falls on homeowners, thereby improving homeowner support for school operating and building levies, he said.
“As a community, we have to work together to support our schools, which is arguably our greatest resource and the reason so many in our community choose to live in Pickerington,” Kemper said.
Another area that needs improvement is downtown Olde Pickerington.
“It’s a great area of our community but it’s not meeting its potential,” Kemper said. “Look at Uptown Westerville or historic downtown Canal Winchester and you can see the potential of Olde Pickerington. Unfortunately, it just isn’t a priority for city leadership.”
In 2017, the city of Pickerington paid consultants $35,000 to create a downtown vision and development plan that offered solutions for parking, mixed-use development, and increased vibrancy, yet the city has not adopted it or moved forward with its recommendations (the plan is available on Kemper’s website: www.votekemper.com).
“This is not only a waste of taxpayer dollars, it’s a wasted opportunity,” he said.
“The city needs to move forward with the recommendations in the downtown plan. The plan includes potential zoning changes, updated parking and suggests opportunities for the city to purchase and redevelop downtown properties where and when appropriate, such as the Fairfield County Sheriff substation that will soon be vacant,” Kemper said. “Attracting and encouraging owner-operated restaurant and retail shopping in downtown should be an additional priority, as well as extending city sidewalks and bike paths to Olde Pickerington to encourage area access that does not require driving. Additional event programming and public art installations that encourage more downtown activity are other considerations.”
Kemper decided to run for city council because he sees the potential in the community and wants to help the city realize that potential.
“I’m a firm believer in the concept that what you put into your community, you get out ten-fold,” he said. “I also believe that if you have the capacity to step up and make a difference, you should do so.”
Kemper said that people should vote for him because he has a comprehensive vision for what the city of Pickerington can be.
“While today our city has many great neighborhoods, good schools and a diverse and welcoming community, my vision is a Pickerington where residents can safely walk or bike from neighborhood to neighborhood, entrepreneurs are encouraged to build, residents have a wide range of choices for leisure and entertainment, and our local governments and schools work together,” he said.
Kemper feels that a lack of long-term vision has left Pickerington in a precarious position.
“Despite the best efforts of local businesses, our downtown lacks vibrancy, residents can’t safely walk or ride their bikes around town, and the city takes a go-it-alone approach while our neighboring communities work together to attract more business and opportunities. We can do better for our residents. With new leadership and a new vision, we can create progress for Pickerington,” Kemper said.
Of Pickerington’s many attributes, it is the people that Kemper likes the most.
“We have a wonderful, welcoming, diverse community,” he said. “While we are growing and one of the largest suburbs in central Ohio, the welcoming, friendly nature of our residents helps to create a small town feel and a great family atmosphere. Our schools offer incredible opportunities for our students, and our city employees are always helpful.”
Kemper’s professional background is in marketing and communications, where he spent the first 12 years of his career covering economic development, government and the legal industry as a business newspaper reporter.
“I also have leadership experience, having served as a board member, Vice President, and later President, of the Central Ohio Society of Professional Journalists,” he said. “Currently, I’m an executive committee member of the Fairfield County Democratic Party.”
For families who have spent time out at the PASA soccer fields, Kemper may look familiar.
“I coached PASA soccer teams for three years. I have also been a volunteer at the Pickerington Food Pantry, sat on the Pickerington Local Schools Key Communicators Committee and participated in the Violet Elementary Parent Advisory Council.”
Kemper believes that building a better future for the community requires cooperation across local elected offices.
“That’s why I’m running with individuals who have a shared vision for progress for our community – Charles Newman and Christian Johnson for Pickerington Local Schools Board of Education and Melissa Wilde for Violet Township Trustee,” he said.
What are people saying about Kevin Kemper?
“I’ve known Kevin for almost 30 years,” said Christopher Stewart, a Pickerington native and Violet Township resident. “He comes from a family tradition that places a high priority on public service and integrity. He will always put the good of the city ahead of what is easy or convenient. You can feel confident that your vote will help elect a highly qualified, intelligent, generous, and moral man who will serve our community well.” –
“As a nearly lifelong resident of Pickerington, raising a second generation of Tigers, I couldn’t be more excited to support Kevin Kemper for City Council,” said Kirstin Watts, a city of Pickerington resident. “His progressive vision for our community, including smart economic development and improved collaboration with surrounding community leadership, will help position Pickerington for long term, sustainable success. Kevin’s integrity, servant leadership, and his commitment to making Pickerington a welcoming, thriving community for all, make him a fantastic candidate at exactly the right time in our evolution as a city. I look forward to seeing his new, fresh perspective on council.”
“Kevin is inclusive when it comes to community development and he’s proposing interconnectivity with his plans,” said Mark Ernst, a Pickerington resident. “Kevin’s vision for Pickerington demonstrates that he respects the taxpayer as the investor, which is what we are.”
“I like that (Kevin) is a father and is looking to make our community better for not just his children, but all of our Pickerington families,” said Adriana Ernst, a Pickerington resident.
Who is Kevin Kemper?
“I grew up in the Dayton area in a suburb very similar to Pickerington called Englewood,” he said. “I’m the youngest of three (two older brothers) and my parents’ community involvement as I was growing had a profound impact on me.”
Service to community was a given in his family.
“My dad, Ed Kemper, served on Englewood City Council and as the Mayor of Englewood for more than 25 years,” Kemper said. “In that time, he, along with the partnership of my mom, Alma, and many in the community, founded a number of Englewood institutions that have made a real difference in the lives of the town’s residents – from a sister city program that fostered lifelong relationships, to the annual arts festival that brings the entire community together every summer, to an expansion of the city’s economic tax base with a long-term economic development program.”
“After my wife, Brianna, and I moved to Pickerington with our children Aidan and Zoë, I’ve looked to the example my parents set as a model for how to live your values and give back to your community.”
The family moved to Pickerington in 2015.
“I first became familiar with Pickerington in college when I met one of my best friends, who grew up here,” Kemper said. “After moving to central Ohio after college, my wife and I purchased a starter home in the city of Columbus. As our kids approached school age, we were looking to move to a community with great schools, affordable housing and a welcoming and diverse family atmosphere. We found all of that here in Pickerington and couldn’t be more pleased with our decision.”
Kemper describes his family as “fairly typical” for Pickerington.
“Our kids are 12 and 10 and my wife and I both have full time jobs,” he said. “Between our careers, our kids’ schools, their activities and our community involvement, our house stays pretty active. Our kids are busy with sports and school activities (cross country, soccer, tennis, band), which means we’re busy with their sports and school activities too. In our down time, we like to spend as much time as we can outside. We also get together with family in Dayton, Westerville and Carroll as often as possible, as well as our friends here in Pickerington.”
In his free time, Kemper plays in Pickerington Park’s adult tennis league and is slowly expanding his backyard garden with his wife.
“I get a little better every year at woodworking and furniture building and as far as pets, we like all kinds of animals. Currently we have a cat and a fish,” he said.
To learn more about Kemper, visit his website, www.VoteKemper.com.
Pickerington Online does not endorse any candidates or issues.