Inspired Independent


Brian Cristi challenges longtime incumbent for First Ward council seat

Hayley Harding / Digital Managing Editor

Brian Cristi won’t be able to knock on doors or shake hands before Election Day, but it’s not because he isn’t passionate about improving Athens.


Cristi, a city council candidate for the first ward running as an independent, will be spending his time at a farm near Chennai, the fifth-largest city in India, as he prepares for a conference on permaculture later in November.


“I want to win because I believe our two party system needs to be diversified with another party or with many Independents in the future.”– Brian Cristi

He hopes what he learns there about permaculture — the sustainable use of agriculture to work with the surrounding environment — will be something he can bring back to Athens to add to the conversations on local food and food insecurity.


“What I hope to learn is very similar to what OU Students in the Food Studies Programs learn,” Cristi, in India, said in an email. “Since I am not a student and no longer have the time or funds to go back to school for the long term I felt that going to India for these events would be an adequate way to get educated so I can work with local Athens people when I get back (if I'm elected to City Council or not).”


Cristi isn’t a politician, and for a long time, he wasn’t even interested in politics. A librarian at the Athens Public Library, Cristi says he was inspired by former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders.


Sanders serves as a senator for Vermont as an independent, though he ran as a Democrat during his 2016 presidential bid. Sanders “made politics more approachable,” Cristi said in an email.


By his own admission, Cristi felt insecure for having so many questions about how politics work, and the number of questions he had made him feel dumb. Politics seem overwhelming, Cristi said, and it felt like people who understood them were smarter than him.


“Even though I still don't know a lot, I felt it was necessary for me to learn by experience, which was why I decided to run for city council,” Cristi said in an email. “Local Government seemed a more manageable decision for a beginner like myself.”


If elected, he wants to go against the precedent set by council in the past. He says his opponent in the first ward, incumbent Democrat Kent Butler, has been in office “for too many years,” and Cristi wants to help the makeup of council.


“I want to win because I believe our two party system needs to be diversified with another party or with many Independents in the future,” he said in an email.


He thinks campaigns shouldn’t be a money game, so his is low-budget; by his own estimates, he’s spent about $4 to print out flyers. He filmed a five-minute-long campaign video on Radar Hill — in part because “the fall leaves matched the color of my leather jacket and I wouldn't get lost in the woods out there” — using a camera he’s had for many years.


In his video, he credits Frank Zappa and The Athens Cannabis Ordinance, or TACO, as reasons he is running. TACO would depenalize marijuana charges in the City of Athens.


He considers the depenalization of marijuana to be a good thing. He says he drove all the way to Denver to try legalized marijuana, and he thinks if legalized across Ohio, marijuana would stimulate the economy, create jobs and “create a lot more relaxation.”


Cristi also believes in small schools, although he argues it doesn’t matter what building students are in as long as classrooms and teachers are supported. Furthermore, he aims to encourage transparency in the city government, particularly in monetary decisions.


“What I do feel about politics in general is that people are tired of the same stories over and over again,” he said in an email. “In the end I hope my running whether I win or lose, will inspire others to do the same, do something, anything positive.”

Development by: Taylor Johnston / Digital Production Editor

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