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How 2 first-time candidates won election from Miami Twp. trustees

The Miami Twp. trustee candidate who got the most votes in his first time on the ballot in a race that unseated two incumbents said a shift in priorities is needed.

»2017 Election: 7 squeakers in Tuesday’s election that prove your vote counts in close races

John Morris said his campaign theme of emphasizing spending on basic services broke through as more than 4,000 township voters backed him, enabling the 48-year-old Tuesday night to gain the most votes in a contested Miami Twp. trustee race since 2011.

“I think the messaging of resources – being police, fire, roads and parks – just hit home with everyone,” he said.

» RELATED: First-time candidate gains most votes in township trustee race

“If you looked at the performance of the township over the last four years there’s been a tremendous increase with the amount of money spent on what is classified as other and no one in the neighborhoods knows what other is,” Morris added.

The township, which is home to Austin Landing and the Dayton Mall, focuses “too much on the business community and its time to start focusing on the neighborhoods, “ Morris said.

Spending was also highlighted by second-place finisher Don Culp, who won 3,214 votes in his first time on ballot, according to final but unofficial results from the Montgomery County Board of Elections.

Incumbents Andrew Papanek (2,888) and Eric Flasher (2,273) finished third and fourth, respectively, in the five-way race. Papanek, 78, was seeking re-election to a second term after being the top vote-getter in 2013’s six-way race.

Flasher, 54, was appointed this spring after Robert Matthews Jr. resigned. Both Morris and Culp had applied to fill that vacancy for a job that pays about $20,000 a year.

» RELATED: Incumbent trustees facing challenge in Miami Twp.

Culp, 53, said he will be “seeking to streamline operations” in the township’s administration and will review “all forms of taxation to ensure tax fairness.”

The board of trustees “doesn’t understand that effective, efficient leadership is what township residents expect.” Culp said he and Morris “communicated clearly during the campaign about issues that are of interest to the voters.”

Morris is a non-profit education executive with a master’s degree in economics and bachelor’s degree in business marketing. He has served in executive positions with the University of Cincinnati and the Ohio Valley Associated Builders and Contractors.

RELATED: Trustees race gaining early interest

Culp has a bachelor’s degrees in aerospace engineering, has worked at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base most of his career and currently supports major aircraft programs.

Their backgrounds – and that of Trustee Vice President Doug Barry, who owns a staffing company – will give the township “strong business minds,” Morris said.

The township has sought to address the four areas Morris emphasized in the campaign, with mixed degrees of success.

Two property tax issues to pay for road and bridge repairs were narrowly rejected by voters in 2015 and 2016. This has limited funding on maintenance on the jurisdiction’s roads, which a study indicated more than one-third were rated as in poor or critical condition.

RELATED: Seven apply for vacant trustees post

And voters in 2014 approved a police levy that helped stabilize funding for law enforcement after a previous defeat followed turmoil within the department. A township fire levy, which funds a joint district the township shares with Miamisburg, was easily approved last year.

Park improvements are a key element of the strategic plan trustees approved in the past four years, but funding has been an issue.

Morris said residents “believe that the township exists to provide police, fire, roads and parks.”

He noted later, “my intent is to go in and start asking questions of the administration and find out what it is that’s more important than police, fire, roads and parks.”

RELATED: Flasher sworn in as new trustee

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