Highland News Leader

Two newcomers defeat incumbents for seats on Highland’s City Council

Highland News Leader

The Highland News Leader serves readers in Highland.
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The Highland News Leader serves readers in Highland.

Highland’s city council will have two fresh faces come May, after two long-serving incumbents were defeated Tuesday night.

Newcomers Sarah Sloan and John Hipskind unseated incumbents Neill Nicolaides and Aaron Schwarz in Tuesday’s election, earning the two open seats available this election.

Sloan defeated Nicolaides by a narrow 12 votes, while Hipskind won comfortably with a 62-vote lead over Sloan.

The vote total was as follows:

Nicolaides served on the city council for two terms, or roughly eight years, while Schwarz served nearly 10 years, two terms and a half of another when he stepped in for a council member who resigned.

Sloan said Tuesday she believes the city communicated it was ready for new leadership on the council. She said new faces on the council will help the city adapt to the city’s many challenges.

“I think it’s healthy to bring in new leadership,” Sloan said. “If we continue to have the same leaders year after year we’re never going to have fresh ideas for our community.”

Sarah Sloan
Sarah Sloan Provided

Goals for Highland

Sloan is a prominent member of the Highland Jaycees and Rotary Club. She said one of her biggest goals during her term will be making sure people know their city council members.

“When I was out campaigning I realized so many people don’t even know who is on city council,” she said. “ My goal is to be even more involved than I already am. I want community members to know who I am.”

Hipskind, who works as a lawyer at his practice Hipskind & McAnich, LLC, said he’s ready to help lead several projects in Highland. He said his major goals are restoring the Silver Lake Watershed, focusing on the city’s growth, possibly building a new senior center and finding a solution to the city’s aging public pool.

John Hipskind Provided

Finding a solution to the pool, he said, is a high priority. He said he wants the city to take another look at conducting a feasibility study on the aging facility.

Highland’s public pool was built roughly 35 years ago, and according to Parks and Recreation Manager Mark Rosen, every year when it comes time to open the pool, he’s unsure if the pool will work.

The city council voted down a feasibility study on the pool in December 2018.

“The pool’s a pretty big issue,” he said. “The last council voted down a feasibility study, but the pool we have now is not sustainable. I think that needs to be addressed.”

Sloan also noted the pool as a prominent issue her constituents were worried about. Sloan said while she’s not in favor of moving the pool, she wants to make sure it is in working order and that more people are using the facilities.

Tackling growth in Highland

Hipskind and Sloan both said focusing on the city’s growth also will be a major part of their tenures. Hipskind said while growth is good to see, the city needs to focus on how its economy is developing with the rise in residential and commercial needs.

“We need to assure we have a plan to maintain what we love about this city while bringing in new residents and quality economic development,” Hipskind said. “We need a comprehensive plan for economic development that brings in first-rate new businesses while also supporting the businesses who already call Highland home.”

A city audit determined the city was on the upswing when it came to several factors of growth, such as the number of building permits and the city’s assessed valuation.

Sloan said continuing that growth will be a big part of the next several years. She said bringing in more people to Highland is the best way to improve upon the city’s economy and to help fund the school district.

Hipskind and Sloan will be sworn to the city council May 6. The next meeting of the city council will be April 15.

Kavahn Mansouri covers government accountability for the Belleville News-Democrat, holding officials and institutions accountable and tracking how taxpayer money is spent.
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