After a quiet 2011, Akron’s Ward 4 on the near west side again is living up to its recent reputation for hard-fought Democratic primaries. This year, incumbent Russel Neal, who upset Renee Greene in 2009, faces a strong challenge for the Democratic nomination. It comes from Eugene Norris, senior pastor and founder of Mountain of the Lord Fellowship on Copley Road.
We recommend the election of Eugene Norris in the Sept. 10 primary.
A former Akron firefighter, Norris has been a pastor in Akron and Cleveland for 13 years. What helps set him apart are his many accomplishments in bettering the community.
From a Cleveland office, he administers energy efficiency programs for low-income residents in 30 counties. In Akron, Norris founded a nonprofit, faith-based community development organization called Charisma Community Connection. Norris is also the chief executive of FameFathers, an initiative to encourage fathers to be involved with their children as they grow.
Norris makes a persuasive argument that his diverse background and wide range of skills are needed to help Ward 4 deal with its challenges, among them crime, economic development and housing. He also would bring valuable experience and know-how to the City Council as it discusses broader issues that affect the city as a whole.
Neal has a strong record of community involvement, too. A print shop owner, he founded the Buchtel High School Alumni Association. As a councilman, he is responsive to constituents and insistent that the community must unite and work together to confront its problems. Where Neal has struggled is getting beyond the conversation to deliver the practical and the possible.
Also in the race is DeAndre Forney, a former community relations worker for Buckeye Health Plans. Forney has run twice before in the ward, coming close to upseting Greene in 2005. He has been active in the Summit County Young Democrats, and pledges to get young people involved.
There is broad agreement among the candidates about the problems in Ward 4 and about the need to get the community involved in solutions. Norris already understands that part of a ward council member’s job. What distinguishes him is his longstanding drive and ability to establish programs that achieve concrete results.