Sharon Fairchild Soucy, a current city councilmember, will not be eligible
for reelection this coming November due to complications in positioning herself
as a write-in candidate. In this interview, she shares her recount of the events
leading up to the case brought against her by an Oberlin student, her thoughts
on the situation and her plans for the near future.
Describe the events that led to this past week’s Board of Elections
This would’ve been my second attempt to run for city council.
Because I know that forms change and that people run into difficulties at the
Board of Elections, I filed early and two members of Board of Elections went
over my petitions in great detail...they pronounced my petitions in perfect
form. I went back a few days before the deadline and asked if there were any
problems with my petitions; a woman took great time with me and assured me that
everything was in order. The next thing I heard was an article in The
[Morning] Journal that told me my candidacy was unqualified because I had
failed to sign in one of the places where I needed to sign.
The Board of Elections director suggested I file as a write-in...I checked
with our law director to assure that it was allowed by charter. According to
him, it had gone to state law and [I was] allowed to run. That right was
challenged by Jacob Rinaldi, a student — using Gerald Philips, a very
intense anti-Walmart lawyer who had worked repeatedly with the city. There was a
hearing [on Monday].
The core of the problem is that 20 years ago, our law director ruled against
a student who had been a write-in without filing petitions. And because there
has been no change in the ruling of our charter since then, that decision had to
stand as a presiding principle. There’s a fair amount of disagreement
over this ruling on grounds of the First Amendment [freedom of speech] and the
14th [equal treatment under law], as cited by Eric Severs, our law director.
However, I don’t have the time between now and the Nov. 8th to make a
What is your reaction to this situation?
I’m deeply disappointed.
I was born in Oberlin — lived here all of my life. I really enjoyed the
chance to pay back Oberlin for the quality of life it’s provided me for so
many years on council. I had looked forward to the challenge of continuing to
serve. There are a couple of issues that I feel really strongly about that I
looked forward to completing. The biggest is probably campaign finance reform.
I’ve always subscribed to the cliché “think globally, act
locally.” I think local politics are often overlooked. I’d
encourage students to get involved.
What do you plan to do with your time now that you won’t be serving
on the council?
I have an elderly mother who lives in town. I have a
grandson who is ten months old. I love to play tennis, golf and fly fish, and I
plan to do all of those things. I may get involved in politics if Sherrod Brown
should choose to run for the national Senate. I would love to give time to his
campaign. I have lots to do with my time. I think it’s kind of important
in a situation like this to step away from city government and let the people
who are going to take over those roles take over those roles.
What advice do you have to politically active students in the context of
recent council developments?
I think Oberlin students have a wonderful, long
tradition of political involvement, especially on the national level. Since
students are here only seven months a year for four years, they have a serious
obligation to understand issues and candidates if they participate in local
politics. I would support a student running for city council or serving on our
local commissions. I think they have the potential to contribute something quite
positive. But because their time is so limited, I think there’s a grave
danger in them not understanding what they’re getting involved in. I am
not at all pleased with the impact that a few students have had on this
Do you think you’ll run in the next election in two
It’s a little early for me to say. I certainly enjoyed the
experience, but when you’re my age, which is 63, two years seems like a
long time. I’ll look at the situation then and see if it’s a good
I’d like to say that Oberlin is blessed with outstanding city staff.
It’s been a real privilege to work with them, and I have no doubt Oberlin
is in great hands.