Off the Cuff: Sharon Fairchild Soucy
Sharon Fairchild Soucy was elected to the City Council for a second, non-consecutive term on Tuesday, Nov. 6 and will be serving as the Council’s only female member. She retired after 30 years teaching and working in the administration at Lorain County JVS in Adult Basic Education and GED programs and is currently an Oberlin Heritage Center trustee.
You received more votes than any other City Council Candidate. To what do you attribute your success?
I think a number of things. I am a returning councilperson. I had a fairly successful stint between 2003 and 2005, so people were already familiar with me. When I tried to run a couple of years ago, I ran into a problem at the Board of Elections and that problem gave me a lot of publicity both in the local and county papers because there was a fair amount of criticism of the BOE and I think that helped make my name resonate with people.
I’ve lived in Oberlin all my life so I think I’m familiar in many ways to people. Finally, I would like to think that a lot of my goals espoused in my campaign material had something to do with it.
What issues of yours do you think resonated the most with voters?
It’s a little hard to say. My number one goal was to reduce truck traffic through town. I think it resonated with a lot of people. It’s not controversial since no one is for more truck traffic through town and a lot of people have experienced it.
I said I hoped to monitor the successful completion of the E. College Street project and, as you know, that has generated a lot of passionate support and opposition. I was careful in choosing the word “monitor.” I want the project to succeed, but there are many people who think it needs some oversight. I think I was able to reach people who have concerns about the project and who also very much want to see it succeed.
I also had as a goal to reduce Oberlin’s dependence on coal-based energy.
Going back to my first term, another goal is to get some of Oberlin’s police officers to live in town. I’m not talking about commanding them to live in town, but to provide some sort of incentive for those that chose to do so and recognize that that has an added benefit. I think it would be good for the town, particularly our local teenagers, and I think it would benefit College students. If you look at the recent episode between the police and the college, I think it makes sense since officers who lived here might be more familiar with the town and the town might be more familiar with them.
What kind of power does the City have to control truck traffic?
There is something called portable truck scales, and our previous city manager saw them used successfully in Delaware, Ohio and evidently a huge portion of trucks are overweight and the fines you can assign are very sizeable... In Delaware, those stops got around the trucking industry and reduced traffic through town. So if we bought the scales and measured the weight we could encourage trucks to take an alternative route.
It’s said that there is a tradition of making the highest vote-getter,Council President. Do you plan on being President of Oberlin City Council?
That’s a little bit of a misconception. The chair of council is chosen by a vote at the first council in January. That’s been somewhat of a precedent, but that’s not always been so. The last time Fran Baumann was the highest vote getter she was not elected chair, and in the last council and in 2005, Ron Rimbert received the most votes but Daniel Gardner was elected chair.
I need to think through some issues to see if that is something that I want to take on. It isn’t a major goal of mine. There is a part of me that thinks I can do more if I don’t have to handle the ceremonial aspect of being chair.
At this point we’ll have to see how that plays out.
About your experience in the last race — you were unable to run because a student challenged your nominating petition and the Board of Elections would not put you on the ballot. What do you make of that experience?
That leads me a little to the role of college students in issues. I think it is a real challenge for Oberlin students to get information from all sides that is balanced and really informative, and that is one reason it is important that information flow throughout the year from the city to students because it is hard to get an accurate picture in an election year.
I know there was some frustration with a group that sold themselves as the only group against the coal plant, but reducing coal power was one of my main goals and I think that was a concern for another candidate, too.
I think the town can only benefit when students are involved, but it is a challenge to make sure that students aren’t being biased by incomplete candidate information
Interview by Brian Pugh