Candidates Forum in OVA Board Election

    Interest in the upcoming OVA Board election almost returned to pre-pandemic levels Feb. 23 when just over 200 Oakmonters listened to what six candidates running for four vacancies had to say in response to a wide range of questions about their top priorities, whether they could be impartial, how to keep dues affordable and whether there are sufficient reserves in the event of a catastrophic fire.

Among the attendees 70 were at the Berger Center while the others participated on the live stream or on Zoom.

Questions moderated by President Tom Kendrick were submitted in advance. The topic that most candidates seemed to coalesce around was keeping Oakmont safe by reinforcing the work of the Firewise Committee. Four of the candidates – Ken Smith, Iris Harrell, Marianne Neufeld and Jeff Neuman – have participated in home fire safety inspections. Hiring a new general manager was also a top priority. The post currently is vacant.

When asked their personal agendas, Harrell said she wanted Oakmont to become the best Firewise Community in the USA and the most welcoming. She also focused on the need for ongoing maintenance of facilities, holding up a damaged sprinkler that sparked significant damage at the West Recreation Center that is being covered by OVA insurance. 

Ken Smith, chair of the Energy Resiliency Committee, said his priority is bringing electric power to the community while Jess Marsak said he wanted to lead a discussion about the issues surrounding the Berger Center.  Jeff Neuman focused on emergency responses. Also emphasized was doing a better job of keeping the Oakmont community informed.

Asked whether competitive bids should be required for construction projects, most of the candidates thought it depended on the project. Several pointed out the important thing was the relationship built with the contractor.  It was noted that Nordby Construction, which handled the East Recreation remodel gets at least three bids from his subcontractors. 

            Consensus around keeping dues in check was expressed by Marianne Neufeld. “We shouldn’t do things we don’t need to do,” she said.  But it’s hard to keep dues really low. We have to maintain our facilities. These are our assets.”  

Watch a video of the candidates forum at

Board candidates field questions from Berger Center stage. (Photo by Julie KiilI)