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March 23. 2012

Former Equality Ohio staffer seeks Medina council post

Medina, Ohio--A longtime LGBT community activist and former Equality Ohio staffer is seeking an appointment to Medina’s city council.

Dan Coleman, 27, has applied for an appointment to the Medina City Council representing Ward 1. The opening occurred February 29 when Andrea Burdell-Ware moved out of the city and resigned.

Burdell-Ware’s successor will be selected by the remaining six councilors from a field of three applicants. Council will interview the three candidates and make the appointment at its meeting March 26.

The other two applicants are John Wetzel, 83, who held the seat for 15 years before choosing not to seek re-election in 2009, and Brian Hilberg, 43, a local restaurateur, who unsuccessfully sought an at-large council seat in November.

Coleman is a drivers’ examiner for the Ohio State Highway Patrol, has a masters degree in music performance, and worked as a community organizer for Equality Ohio.

Coleman managed his partner Jay Smith’s 2009 unsuccessful run for an at-large Medina council seat in 2009. Smith is currently employed by the Obama re-election campaign and cannot hold public office in that capacity.

Medina is often viewed as a distant suburb of Akron, about 20 miles to the east, and of Cleveland, the same distance north.

If appointed, Coleman will become the city’s first openly gay official. He would finish the unexpired four-year term and need to stand for election in 2013. Coleman says if he’s selected, he will definitely be on the 2013 ballot. If he’s not selected, he may run against the council’s choice.

Coleman says the current council has been doing a good job, so there’s nothing for him to speak against.

“There are lots of things going well,” Coleman said. “What’s needed is someone who is a fairly good fit to work with the others, someone with an understanding of the issues and challenges.”

“I’m well-educated and professional, Coleman said. “I work at the Medina drivers’ exam station, so I see a lot of things first hand.”

Coleman said he’s also a renter, and if selected, would be the only renter on council, which he sees as an asset.

“Thirty-one percent of the residents rent, and they currently have no council representation,” said Coleman.

Coleman said Ward 1 includes most of the city’s rental properties, most of the industrial area and the city’s historic district.

“I fell in love with the city since I moved here in 2009,” Coleman said.

Smith is a lifelong resident and currently serves on the city’s Utility Rate and Review Commission and the Uptown Park Advisory Committee.

Coleman said one thing he wants to do if selected is get the city to create an application for smart phones so people can report problems like potholes or burned out lights immediately and directly to the city’s service department with help of GPS technology.

Coleman also joked that Burdell-Ware’s departure meant that council was all male.

“So, you being openly gay is a positive because you are a better woman than the other two?” he was asked.

Coleman giggled.

More seriously, Coleman says his being gay is “not a problem unless you hide behind it and not be open and honest with voters about who you are.”

Coleman added that Ward 1 is the most diverse population in the city and the 2010 Census showed Medina with 15 gay couples.

When Smith ran in 2009, Coleman noted, there was some resistance to his being gay, but not a lot, and it was not out in the open.

“With an appointment, I only need to convince six members of council, not an electorate,” Coleman said, adding that the same council unanimously appointed Smith to his current posts, and that he gets along well with all of them.

While Medina’s council is non-partisan, Coleman is a registered Democrat and both Wetzel and Hilberg are registered Republicans. The current council has a 4 to 2 Democratic majority.

Related stories

Medina GSA founder seeks seat on city council  September 11, 2009




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