FAIRBORN — Before moving anything forward, it must first stop sliding backward — or at least that’s what a citizen told Fairborn Mayor Paul Keller when he was initially elected to city council four years ago.
Since then, he and the team of council members have created a strategic plan, demolished blight and worked toward economic development.
“I got interested in running for council four years ago because I didn’t see Fairborn going anywhere economically,” Keller said. “I’m not trying to blame previous councils, I just didn’t see the intention to move Fairborn forward. I thought ‘I’ll take a stab at this.’”
Within his second year, Keller brought up the idea of creating a strategic plan, which he said took about a year to complete and is followed by sowing the seeds of a new budget cycle. The vision moving forward is more economic development — expanding existing businesses and welcoming new businesses into the city, while bringing good-paying jobs to the community. He also hopes to see fine dining come to the city and feels that the access Fairborn offers to Interstate-675 can attract transportation and distribution companies.
He said in 2018, he and council will be focused on polishing local housing.
“We want to improve housing solutions and options,” Keller said. “Not just adding new houses but helping our older, existing neighborhoods. Fairborn has been here a long time … If you look at our heritage, we’ve got some old neighborhoods and we want to work out with them what will help them as well.”
Keller pointed out that some of the existing houses in Fairborn were constructed at a time when building standards were different compared to recent years. They plan to have discussions with homeowners — asking how the city can help. At the same time, blight removal efforts will continue.
“I think we’re on a positive track,” Keller said. “Is everything rosy and perfect? Absolutely not. We have bumps in the road like everyone else but we’re trying to do what’s best for Fairborn.”
The local opioid crisis is also an obstacle the city plans to continue tackling. However, as part of the solution, a second school resource officer was added to Fairborn City Schools and a second K-9 Unit joined the Fairborn Police Department.
“We recognize that it’s going to take a grassroots effort from the citizens … you can legislate and pass laws, hire police, but that’s not addressing the grassroots of it,” he said.
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base was Keller’s last assignment when he served in the Air Force which is what initially brought him to Fairborn. After serving, he worked as a civil service employee at WPAFB. Upon retiring, he began working for Log Tech as a contractor and enrolled in real estate school. After earning his license, he worked in property management before he and his wife bought some investment properties in Fairborn and started their own real estate company, Keller and Associates.
“At some point, you say ‘how do I give back to the community? The community has been really good to me,’” Keller said. “I volunteered.”
He served as the economic revitalization chair in the Downtown Fairborn Betterment Association, where they worked on Main Street projects in downtown Fairborn. He also joined the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce, Fairborn Rotary Club and the American Legion Dignam-Whitmore Post 526. He is also a life member of the VFW, going through all the chairs up to senior vice commander.
“All those organizations give back to the communities,” Keller added. “They’re all volunteer, none are paid positions.”
It was then that he ran into exiting Fairborn Mayor Dan Kirkpatrick and got involved in the Fairborn Christmas in Action project, where he and a team work on repairing local homes for citizens in need.
And that’s when he decided that it was time to make a run for Fairborn City Council.
“I think I can make a difference, I hope I can make a difference. I like to think I have,” he said. “I think our strategic plan and citizens leadership class are two of the most significant accomplishments for me, but just being part of the council, part of the team who leads Fairborn forward.”
“When I first was elected to council in one of the economic development meetings, one of the comments was ‘well, before you can move forward you have to stop sliding backward and you, Fairborn, are sliding backward,’” he added. “It was an eye-opener. Other people see the need for economic development as well. From there, it was like ‘how do we do that?’”
Thus, the strategic plan was born.
“I want to thank the citizens for their support and recognition in that we are making progress and we are moving Fairborn forward,” Keller said. “I would ask for their continued support, not just for me, but for the council members and city staff who help us get there.”
Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532.