Emilee Chinn

Boosting Economics


Incumbent for Athens 2nd Ward, Jeff Risner, runs unopposed for fourth term

Shelby Campbell / For The Post

After six years on Athens City Council, Jeff Risner, a Democrat, is running for re-election to represent Athens’ second ward, the southern parts of the city.


Risner grew up in McArthur and spent his first two years as an undergraduate student at the University of Rio Grande. He then transferred to Ohio University for his final years as an undergraduate student.


Following his graduation in 1975 from OU with a bachelor’s degree in geology, Risner went to work with the Libyan government as a geologist.

“My biggest concern for Athens is city revenues matching city expenditures."– Jeff Risner


“I had a professor with contacts in the Libyan government, so I went to Libya and studied rocks there,” Risner said.


After two years in Libya, he moved back to Ohio to study and earn his master’s degree.


In 1982, he graduated with his master’s degree and went to work for ExxonMobil, before moving to Thailand and marrying his wife. He spent a short period of time in Thailand teaching information technology at the Bangkok Business College before returning to Ohio, where he began teaching Management of Information Systems at OU’s College of Business. While teaching, Risner earned his second master’s degree.


During his retirement, Risner taught as an adjunct professor at the University of Rio Grande and DeVry University. He said his political career began by happenstance.


“Six years ago, I was approached by the county chairman of the Democratic party,” Risner said. “A ward seat had opened up in the second ward, where I live, and I had done a lot of work for the party.”


Risner said he passed legislation in his previous terms in office that said corporations do not have the same rights as citizens living in Athens.


“In my first year, when I was just a junior councilperson, I got the city to pass a resolution stating that corporations are not people,” Risner said. “I thought that corporations are not people and, therefore, should not have the same rights as people.”


Risner’s main political ambitions for Athens during his next term are economic.


“My biggest concern for Athens is city revenues matching city expenditures,” Risner said. “Athens is totally dependent on local revenue. We’re mostly dependent on income tax and grants from the state.”


Although Athens is not in financial trouble, Risner said, if it has “major problems of some kind, we don’t have the money in the bank for that,” due to how dependent Athens is on local funds.


Risner, the chair of the Finance and Personnel Committee, has previously been very vocal about cuts in funding to municipalities by the state.


“I've noticed since I've been on council the amount of grants and other funds that are supposed to be coming in from the state to the cities has decreased quite a bit,” Risner said in a previous Post report. “We're down to practically nothing at this point.”


Aside from finances, Risner’s other concerns include Athens’ housing situation.


“Seventy-eight percent of all housing stock is rental property, which leaves less than 25 percent for everyone else,” Risner said. “New families are going into subdivisions outside of town, which changes the whole character of neighborhoods and affects the economy.”


In what would be his fourth term in office, Risner is looking to increase the amount of starter homes in Athens to make the city more attractive to new families looking to move, he says.


Although it may not always be glamorous, Risner enjoys his position in Athens’ second ward.


“It is the everyday workings of city council. You don’t have a lot of issues that come up where you’re going to have lots of debate and controversy,” Risner said. “It’s just the grind you do. It’s an everyday job.”


Risner made $7,919.55 in calendar year 2017 as a councilman and is running unopposed.

Development by: Taylor Johnston / Digital Production Editor

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