The Coming Council Elections


City Council: What you need to know about this fall’s city council elections

Bennett Leckrone / Slot Editor

Athens City Council elections will take place in November. City council members are elected in odd-numbered years and serve two terms. Here’s what you need to know about who’s running and what’s changed during the summer months:

Athens City Council

Camille Fine | FILE

Council Member Patrick McGee speaks at a city council meeting Aug. 22.

First Ward

Incumbent Democrat Kent Butler is running against Independent Brian Cristi, a University Commons resident who is a Kent State University graduate. Cristi is currently a librarian at the Athens Public Library.


Butler was unchallenged in the primary election on May 2. He serves as the chair of the City & Safety Services and has served on council since 2008.

Second Ward

Local realtor and longtime Republican political candidate Abe Alassaf dropped out of the race against incumbent Democrat Jeff Risner, according to a letter he wrote to the Athens County Board of Elections, which has left Risner to run unopposed. Alassaf’s withdrawal leaves no Republicans running for seats on council.


Risner joined council in 2011 and is the chair of the Finance & Personnel committee.


“I believe in cooperation with Ohio University when necessary but believe in a strong city government in which OU is located,” Risner said on his Facebook page.

Third Ward

Democrat Samuel Emerson Crowl is running unopposed for the Third Ward seat. Crowl, OU’s sustainability project coordinator, won the Democratic primary earlier this year with about 56 percent of the vote against Eric Gunn, the owner of The Union Bar and Grill.


Crowl said he would support issues like the City’s Sustainability Action Plan and the East State Street improvements to make the street a “Complete Street.”

Fourth Ward

Democratic Councilwoman Chris Fahl is running unopposed for the Fourth Ward seat. Fahl has served on city council since 2008 and serves as the chair of the council’s Planning & Development committee. Before being elected to council, she was the chairwoman of the city’s Planning Commission.

Council President

Incumbent Democratic Council President Chris Knisely is running unopposed for council president. She was sworn in in 2015.


During her term, the city’s new pool, on which construction will begin later this summer, was designed and approved.


Knisely previously worked as the director of grant development in OU’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and has been praised for her professionalism.


“She’s very efficient and professional and tries to look at all sides of an issue,” Michele Papai, D-3rd Ward, said in a previous Post report.


Five candidates are vying for the three At-Large seats in the 2017 election.


Two incumbents, Democrat Pete Kotses and Independent Patrick McGee, are campaigning to keep their current At-Large seats, while three other candidates, Democrats Arian Smedley and Sarah Grace and Independent Noah Trembly are also campaigning.


Kotses and McGee have both served on council since 2015.


McGee, a 1974 OU graduate, is a managing attorney at the Center for Student Legal Affairs. In a previous Post report, McGee said he wanted to represent students while on council.


Kotses, the owner of Athens Bicycle, 4 W. Stimson Ave., wanted to bring his business background to council when he was elected, according to a previous Post report.


Former councilwoman Jennifer Cochran, a Democrat, vacated her seat this summer. The Athens County Democratic Party’s Central Committee voted in 5-4 against Grace to appoint Smedley to the seat until the election, Athens Democratic Party Chairman John Haseley said.


Smedley works with the Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities as an executive assistant to the superintendent and has previously been the director of Integrated Professionals for Appalachian Children, a nonprofit organization that addresses the physical and mental health of Appalachian children.


Grace, a small business owner who is a cancer survivor, previously expressed interest in campaigning for city council but instead campaigned for the Ohio House of Representatives 94th District seat, losing to Republican Jay Edwards in the 2016 election.

Trembly is the treasurer of the Athens City Disabilities Commission and has previously been an alternative communication educator at OU.


Development by: Taylor Johnston / Digital Production Editor

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