City of Athens voters will get some options this November after all. With the filing of independent candidate Troy Gregorino last Monday, the race for the three at-large City Council seats will now be contested.
On Tuesday, at-large incumbents Christine Knisely and Steve Patterson both won Democratic Party nominations for re-election. Nabbing the third Democratic spot was Jennifer Cochran.
These three will vie with Gregorino for the most votes in the Nov. 5 general election, with the top three vote-getters winning the three at-large seats.
Gregorino said Wednesday that he decided to run because he wanted to provide another option for voters instead of having all unopposed races in November.
"We were set to have the at-large race decided by the primaries, and I think there should be more to it than that," he said. "I'd like to provide a broadening of the discussion."
Gregorino elaborated on how he would go about broadening the discussion.
"I think there's a place for imagination in politics. I think Athens is that place. That's really what my candidacy is about," he said. "I'm not a conventional candidate but this is not a conventional town. I think the people of Athens are open-minded enough to hear out and support independent candidates."
Gregorino has never been elected to office, he said, adding that he is not a politician.
In fact, Gregorino is a local musician and former news reporter who handles music and event booking for Donkey Coffee in Athens.
Though an independent politically, Gregorino described himself as being a progressive and diligent voice for the community.
On the issues, Gregorino said his main focuses would be protecting the natural environment as well as anti-poverty efforts.
"I think anyone who knows Athens knows that it's the people and the environment that define the very essence of this place. Those are some of the reasons some of us picked Athens in the first place," he said. "That's certainly high on my priority list."
He also said he favors working with community members toward the goal of creating a no-kill animal shelter. The current shelter is a county-run agency, but Gregorino said he would be an advocate on that issue.
"That would be a major undertaking but it's something I feel strongly about," he said.
Gregorino added that some of the impetus for his deciding to run came from his work as booking manager for Donkey, including his initiative for a month-long benefit show series for local non-profit organizations.
He said that he's was working with Rural Action to help get produce from the Chesterhill Produce Auction to various local food banks and decided that a month-long benefit show could act as a fundraiser for that.
"I found myself really heartened and inspired by both the community response and the artists' response to that," he said. "It just got me thinking about a broader picture about how that kind of innovation could be applied on a city-wide scale."
He said he has since put on a similar month-long benefit for My Sister's Place and has one in the works for Friends of the Dog Shelter.
"I feel inspired by the possibilities for getting to play some kind of part in forging creative relationships among organizations to help alleviate the effects of poverty," he said. "I think we can do more in Athens. That's also something that's very important to me."
Gregorino said that he came to Athens just over 10 years ago after graduating from Kent State University with a degree in journalism. He grew up in a combination of Northeast Ohio and Nashville, Tenn., he said.
He said he is currently a graduate student at OU in clinical mental health counseling.
He also has been a member of the local band The Jarts. Gregorino said that the band members are spread out now across the country, so they don't have any upcoming shows.
"I don't know if we will have any upcoming shows, but all of our music exists on a BandCamp site," he said. "So that's all active, and all the music is on there for free but we're not actively performing at the moment."