PIQUA — Two Piqua City Commissioners are retiring from the Piqua City Commission, each after gaining over a decade’s worth of experience on the commission.
Commissioners Bill Vogt and John Martin did not run for re-election to the commission during the November election.
Vogt, who is also currently the vice mayor, is retiring from the commission after 16 years of service on the commission with plans to move to Florida.
“It always interested me, the city functions and how it operates,” Vogt said about what first inspired him to run for election. Vogt was a former police officer in the 1960s before going to work for Goodrich. He later retired as an aerospace model maker in 2002, opening Vogt Engineering. Vogt joined the commission in 2003.
“I like the challenge to get things done,” Vogt said. Vogt, who has lived in the second ward for 75 years, said he would drive around his ward with a notepad to look for any needed improvements. He would then work with the city to get those improvements made.
“I still do that to this day,” Vogt said, adding that the second ward “is one of the nicest wards in town.”
Vogt said he has also faced his fair share of turmoil on the commission, such as in March 2011 where Vogt, former Mayor Lucy Fess, and former commissioners Joe Wilson and Julia “Judy” Terry defeated a recall vote. The group called Property Owners Improving Neighborhoods Together (POINT) organized the recall effort, and Positively Promoting Piqua (PPP) campaigned against the recall effort.
“We never backed off, and the recall failed,” Vogt said. The votes in favor of keeping the former mayor and the commissioners at that time on the commission exceeded 70 percent. Martin was also on the commission at this time, and he was the only sitting commissioner who was not targeted for the recall.
The commission later hired City Manager Gary Huff in October 2011, and to that, Vogt said, “He was a godsend to us.”
Vogt later complimented the other city employees as well, saying, “They’re all good people.”
During his time on the commission, Vogt said he took pride in advocating for a bed and breakfast that was once located on Park Avenue. Vogt is also a member of the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission’s (MVRPC) board and executive board, said, “I take pride in having a voice in that.”
Vogt said he has also “voted no on some good ordinances” until the ordinances improved.
When asked about how the city’s changed, he said he has seen it get “more progressive.”
“We’re not afraid to spend money on a good project,” Vogt said.
He mentioned the roundabout located at Garbry and Looney roads, saying he was once “dead set” against it but has since changed his opinion.
“I used it, and it’s great,” Vogt said.
Vogt also said he is supportive of residents voicing their opinions.
“I always listen to the people,” Vogt said. He said even if he does not agree with some residents, it is their right to voice their opinions.
Vogt spoke to the current scrutiny the commission has been under in recent months with a group called Watch Piqua, formerly called Citizens for Fair Piqua Utilities, which previously brought forward a petition and requests regarding the cost of city utilities.
“It is hard for me to swallow,” Vogt said, calling the scrutiny “negative.” “Yes, I have concerns about their high electric bills … Not everybody’s electric bill is high. I can’t figure it out.”
Vogt said that he plans to move to Cocoa Beach, Fla., where he has had a home ready for him since August that is closer to the three of his children who live in Florida. Vogt’s three other adult children live in Colorado, Nevada, and Cincinnati. Vogt’s wife Patricia, who was active in the city of Piqua, passed away in 2013.
Vogt said his goodbyes to the community and the commission during the commission’s meeting on Nov. 19.
“I’ve had good times. I’ve had bad times,” Vogt said. “I’ve kind of looked after my ward.”
“I’ve been treated real nice, and on the other hand, I’ve never been treated so badly (I’ve been) called so many rotten names in my life. I am still here,” Vogt said, adding that he does not pay attention to Facebook. “Would I do it again? Yes, I would if I wasn’t this old because it takes some involvement.” He said it was his opinion that if someone was not involved or trying to help, “you’re part of the problem.”
“I’ve enjoyed it, and I respect all of you,” Vogt said to the commission and the meeting attendees. “It’s been a good ride for me, and hopefully the city will prosper and grow.”
• Commissioner John Martin
Martin first joined the in 2008, representing the first ward for over a decade. Martin said he was inspired to join the commission after having previous relatives involved in city government, as well as from his experience volunteering on a neighborhood association for the Shawnee neighborhood. Martin has also been working at Hartzell Propeller for 31 years, where he currently works as a final inspector.
“I like helping people,” Martin said. Martin added later, “I wanted be able to help people in an effective way.”
Martin has also enjoyed seeing city projects, like the new Water Treatment Plant, get done.
In regard to the Water Treatment Plant, he spoke to the decision to build a new plant instead of joining with the city of Troy’s system. He said the costs the commission was provided in regard to burying water lines to connect to Troy were “formidable.”
Martin was also on the commission during refurbishment of the Fort Piqua Plaza, where the Piqua Public Library is currently housed. He said that was a stressful time because of the financing for the project, which saw a mix of donations, grant funds, and city funding.
“It was just complicated,” Martin said.
Martin, who has also served on the city’s Energy Board, said the two solar fields located in the city of Piqua were the result of “good timing and good people.”
The solar fields in Piqua — which include the 86-acre site off of Manier and McKinley avenues and the 8-acre site off of Staunton Street — were developed by NextEra Energy Resources (NextEra), which continues to own, operate, and maintain the sites. NextEra sells the energy to American Municipal Power (AMP), and the city of Piqua Power System purchases a portion of the power generated from the solar fields through the city’s membership in AMP.
“The solar fields are an accomplishment for the city of Piqua,” Martin said.
Martin also said that hiring Huff and getting Huff to work at the city was one of their “biggest accomplishments,” adding that Huff “does a good job of keeping us going down the path” for their vision for the city.
Martin said that his time on the commission gave him “time to give back to the city.”
“If you wanted to affect change, this is the only you can do it,” Martin said.
Martin decided not to run for re-election to the commission in order to devote more time to other projects.
“It is just time right now,” Martin said, explaining that being a commissioner, his job, and his other commitments have “made time really valuable.”
Martin is not against running for the commission again some time in the future, though. While he’s also moving, he will still be staying in the first ward.
“I would do it again,” Martin said. “I learned a whole lot about how government functions.”
New to the commission next year will be Cindy Pearson and Thomas Scott Fogt, filling the second and first ward commissioner seats, respectively. They each ran unopposed in the November election.
Reach Sam Wildow at firstname.lastname@example.org. ©2019 Miami Valley Sunday News, all rights reserved.