ONTARIO — After interviewing six candidates, the Republican Central Committee appointed Sherry Branham and David Rehfeldt to Ontario City Council on Wednesday.
Branham will serve as Third Ward councilwoman, replacing a vacancy left by Mark Weidemyre. Rehfeldt will fill the At-Large seat left Larry Arnold.
“It was very difficult to make a decision. We had three excellent candidates for both positions,” said Zoi Romanchuk, who headed the appointment committee that also included Neil Chitwood and Jane Zimmermann.
Branham has worked for Richland County for almost 28 years. She currently serves as associate director of the Richland County Mental Health and Recovery Services Board, a position she’s held since 2008. Before that, she spent 15 years as program supervisor for Richland County Children Services.
Being on city council is something Branham has wanted to do for awhile. She applied to fill the vacancy left by Roger Heston in 2014 and ran against Weidemyre in the primaries in 2015.
“I’ve always really had ambition to learn and be involved in things that I haven’t been involved in so I feel very honored that I was selected to do this,” she said. “I’ve worked in public service for so many years and to get involved in a position now that is more political is exciting.”
Branham said one of her goals is to help bring more jobs and businesses to Ontario.
“I think that’s a given. We want to ensure that the city is sustained and has a nice taxable base to what we need to do as far as ensuring safety services are available for the community, keeping the roads in good order,” she said.
Maximizing funds is also a top priority.
“I am a person that wants to get every penny out of the dollar and hopefully get more than a dollar,” she told the committee during her interview.
Branham grew up in Wheelright, a small coal-mining town in eastern Kentucky. She moved to Ontario to live with her brother after graduating high school. She has lived in Richland County ever since.
“I grew up in the mountains and worked my way up out of poverty,” she said. “I’m really super happy to be able to give something back to the community and county that has given me so much.”
In addition to working at the mental health board, Branham is on the board at the Ohio State Reformatory and Foundation Academy. She serves as a volunteer public information officer for the City of Ontario police department.
Branham said she is willing to step down from the role if it would be a conflict of interest, but hopes she can continue to serve the police department.
Rehfeldt moved to Ontario 16 years ago and works as treasurer of NEXT Generation Films in Lexington. He has been involved in finance and administration for 35 years.
“I have been involved in companies in excess of $400 million since I came out of public accounting way back 30 years ago,” he said.
He currently serves as treasurer for the Ontario City Schools booster club and Ontario Youth Sports. He’s been a part of the Ontario tax review board for the last 10 years. He’ll have to forfeit these positions to avoid a conflict of interest.
Rehfeldt said he hopes to bring more high paying jobs into the area.
“We’ve been growing on retail,” he said. “The big money jobs that come here are all medical. We need more diversity in the jobs that are coming here.”
Rehfeldt also stated he wants to help improve council’s relationship with the school and would love to see more events take place in city parks.
“There’s a lot of opportunity here in Ontario,” he said. “I think you’ve got to get involved to see how you can really help. I really didn’t come in with an agenda, I came in to help and see what they needed and use my experience to make it happen.”