SHEFFIELD — Five local candidates are looking to fill a vacant Sheffield Council seat, awaiting a decision Thursday.
The seat was left open by former councilwoman Jean Ackerman, who announced her resignation at the July 22 Council meeting. Ackerman stepped down so she could speak freely about the plans for a new commercial and housing development on property near 40 acres of land she and her family own along North Abbe Road and Colorado Avenue. Village Law Director David Graves warned Ackerman that she couldn't discuss the rezoning request with community members abecause of her status as a public official and ties to the land proposed for development.
The candidates are Louis Varos, Stanley Bielawski, Barbara Eifel, Daniel Forror and David Vovak.
Varos, 80, is a candidate with experience as a Sheffield Council member in the 1980s. During his time on Council, Varos said he was most proud of helping get the tennis court built in the area near the Sheffield Fire Department on Colorado Avenue. He worked as an area supervisor for Columbia Gas for 40 years until he retired in 1997. Varos volunteers part time at the Valor Home of Lorain County, a housing program for homeless male veterans.
"I've been retired for 22 years now, and I need to become more active in the community and I have plenty of time to do that, so I just want to serve my community as best I can," Varos said.
Varos also worked in the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division from 1958 to 1961, where he'd do work similar to a police officer within the military. Varos graduated from Lorain High School in 1957. He also serves as president of the St. Teresa Church Council and previously served on the Lorain YMCA board, the Sheffield Board of Appeals and as a member of the Lorain Lions Club.
After decades in education, retired North Ridgeville High School teacher Stanley Bielawski, 69, hopes to make a positive impact in his community if appointed. Although he has been living in the village for four years, he said he wants to bring a new perspective after moving from Grafton Township and attending township meetings there. In his opinion, Bielawski said his lack of political career experience shouldn't get in the way of his ability to be a good Council member.
"I don't look at it as politics, I look at it as being involved in the community you live in and trying to have a positive impact and to help whenever you can to give back," he said.
Belawski worked from 1973 to 2010 as a teacher for the high school, as well as a wrestling coach in the 1970s and 1980s at North Ridgeville High School and Cleveland State University as well as the director of the Grafton Township Park Board. He also was elected as president for the North Ridgeville Education Association, serving from 1985 to 1989. Bielawski graduated from Cleveland State University in 1973 with a bachelor's degree in education and then received a master's degree in education from the College of Mt. St. Joseph in 1986.
Eifel, 64, retired last year as the product manager for American Greetings with experience in sales and marketing for 37 years. As a Sheffield resident for the past 15 years, Eifel said she believes she could do her part as the next councilperson. With both her work experience and community involvement, she said, she can be a great candidate.
"Throughout out my career, I had the opportunity to develop many skills that I think would prove to be valuable in a position on the Sheffield Council — critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration to name a few," she wrote in a letter to Mayor John Hunter.
She also works as the capital campaign committee member for the Blessing House in Lorain, which provides shelter for children ages birth to 12 whose families are experiencing emergencies. She also is the chairperson of the Social Concerns Committee and Parish Council member of the St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church. Eifel graduated with a bachelor's degree in English in 1977 from State University of New York at Geneseo with a concentration in elementary education.
Forror, 30, is the youngest of the candidates to pursue the vacant seat. Forror grew up in Sheffield and Sheffield Lake and has spent the past five years living in the village. Forror has worked as a firefighter for the Sheffield Lake Fire Department since 2014. He used to work as a part-time firefighter for the Sheffield Fire Department from 2013 to 2014 before he was offered a full-time position at Sheffield Lake. With his background in community service and knowledge of the community, he hopes he can be chosen to fill the position.
"I just have a great interest in public services, obviously with the Fire Department, and I want to continue that and make the village the best it can be for the residents," Forror said.
Forror graduated from Brookside High School in 2007 and attended Lorain County Community College, from which he graduated from the emergency medical technician program in 2010 and from the paramedic program in 2011. In 2017, he received his associate's degree in fire science from the Lorain County Community College.
With a long background as a geotechnical engineer and leadership positions in engineering, Vovak, 45, said he hopes to be chosen for the skills he picked up in his work experience.
"Having a registered professional engineer on Council can provide the village with invaluable insight and perspective with critical matters relating to infrastructure, maintenance and new construction within the village," he wrote in a letter to Mayor Hunter.
He's lived in the village for nearly 20 years. Vovak works as the Cleveland operations director for environmental consultant TTL Inc., a job he's done since 2016. Since 1997, he's worked nearly exclusively in engineering positions for multiple companies in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Berea and Columbus. Vovak graduated from Brookside High School in 1992 and received a bachelor's degree in 1996 from Ohio University and a master's degree in 1997 from the University of Akron, both in civil engineering.
The council will meet 7 p.m. Thursday in a special meeting in the Sheffield Municipal Building Council Chambers, 4340 Colorado Ave., to appoint the Ackerman's replacement.
Ackerman was first elected to Council in 2005. The term for her empty seat will expire Dec. 31, 2021.