Dayton mayoral candidates try to separate from the pack ahead of May 4 special election

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DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The three candidates vying to be the next Dayton mayor are in the final week of campaigning before the May 4th special election. This runoff will whittle the field down to two candidates, who will face off this November to decide the new mayor.

Former fire chief Rennes Bowers, former mayor Gary Leitzell, and current city commissioner Jeffrey Mims agree on many of the issues facing the city but have unique ideas to tackle them.

Bowers is running for office for the first time. The retired Dayton firefighter says his inexperience is an asset. “I am not a politician and I’m not subject to any political pressure from any political party.”

Leitzell was Dayton mayor from 2010-2014 and says he knows how to understand voters and get the job done. “It’s the citizens that are supposed to direct the policy, and if we aren’t in the neighborhoods talking to them, we don’t know what it is they want.”

And current city commissioner Jeffrey Mims says he’s helping make good things happen in Dayton right now. “What we’re going through right now really puts us in a position to expand and accelerate that work.”

Mims points to his decades of experience in education and says working with community groups and schools on job programs will help the city grow. “Continue to try and foster those relationships and the relationships we picked up additionally as we’ve moved through making good things happen.”

Leitzell says success will come from listening to what people need in their neighborhoods and allowing city employees to share their ideas. “I can at least hit the ground running because I’ve been through it and I went through that first 18 months 12 years ago, of learning the ropes.”

And Bowers says he met a lot of people throughout his career and understands what the city needs. “I’ve been in more homes over a 30-year career as a Dayton firefighter, Dayton lieutenant, captain, and district chief, than all the other candidates combined.”

Two of the candidates -Mims and Leitzell- pointed to the economy as the city’s biggest challenge. Mims says, “The best way to manage the job losses and the individuals who are working from home now. And the challenging amount of dollars that we will potentially lose because of the income tax shortfall.”

WATCH the candidates discuss top issues:

And Leitzell says the top issue is “the budget, because of the work-from-home people and if the laws change regarding how you pay your income taxes, that could have a devastating effect on the city.”

Bowers says he’s knocked on thousands of doors and people are telling him the biggest issue is abandoned homes. “It pulls down everybody’s property value, it attracts drug addicts. It depresses the entire neighborhood and it’s very hard to have pride in your neighborhood when you have abandoned homes.”

Leitzell says the city could look better to feel better, as people are complaining to him about roads, trash, and illegal dumping. “But it wouldn’t be that complicated to get it fixed. It’s a matter of injecting pride in the community again and the city supporting community members to get out.”

Bowers wants to attract new businesses to Dayton and cut regulation he says is keeping them from thriving. He says there is a lot of brainpower in Dayton. “Let’s bring them together, let’s pick their brain, let’s turn them loose in their areas of expertise and have them tell us how we can grow the business community.”

And Mims says the key to his success will be communication, making sure business owners and leaders know how they can help make the city stronger. “Help them know we’re doing the best we can in each and every one of these circumstances, and be open to ideas we may get from them to help us move in the right direction.”

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