The Republican Women’s Club hosted a bipartisan candidates’ forum at the Union County Courthouse on Monday evening, April 24th. Sue Morrison, President of the Republican Women’s Club handled the evening’s official duties, and Daniel Sparks, an Oxford attorney and active Republican worker, served as moderator.
An engaged crowd of at least 129 citizens of New Albany, Blue Springs and Myrtle turned out to hear candidates who are running for office in the upcoming municipal election. Each candidate had five minutes to hit the highlights of why voters should cast a vote for him/her. Additionally, written questions taken from the crowd were addressed to the appropriate group of candidates and voters were encouraged to ask spontaneous questions of the speakers. Several questions were addressed at the end of the evening in a “town hall” type session.
NEW ALBANY CANDIDATES:
Incumbent Mayor, Tim Kent (D) stated that, if reelected, he intends to continue fulfilling the goal he set for himself when first elected: “to serve with honesty and integrity.” He is proud that visitors see New Albany as a “little Hallmark town,” and wants to continue working for New Albany by improving the local jobs’ picture, so that our kids will want to and be able to stay here. Financial considerations are always key to changes and improvements: current funds now allow for paving only 3.5 to 4 miles of roads per year, down from the original goal of 8 miles. Kent also cited the fact that New Albany’s taxes are among the lowest in the state.
Jeff Olson (R), is currently serving as Democratic Alderman for Ward 1, but is running for mayor as a Republican. Olson said that New Albany’s mayor should be “a facilitator” who makes things that are good today even better for the future. If elected, he plans to focus on five main areas that he believes need improvement: communication, infrastructure, quality of life, a master plan, and economic development. He urges voters to do their “due diligence” before casting their votes.
Chief of Police
Incumbent Chief of Police, Chris Robertson (D), stated that “keeping New Albany safe” will continue to be his first priority if reelected. He listed the many job actions successfully accomplished during his tenure. In addition to his experience as Chief of Police, Robertson cited his education, his broad range of experience in law enforcement and related areas and his determination to continue striving to make things work better.
Paul Voyles (D), stated that he feels the New Albany Police Department’s employees do not always get adequate support from administration, which results in a lack of implementation of “new ideas” and “inadequate training”in some areas of police work. He believes that, if elected, he can bring more leadership, structure and organization to the department.
Alderman, Ward 1
Scott Dunnam (D) currently serves as Democratic Alderman at Large. In addition to his experience as Alderman at Large, Dunnam cited his successful experience in building an organization that is improving areas of the city by improving individual properties. If elected, he will continue to work to improve the look of the city, to improve infrastructure and to keep taxes as low as possible.
Amy Livingston (R) says, “I am a leader.” She believes that New Albany needs a strategic plan for preserving its history and planning for its future. If elected, she plans to “bring people together” to take advantage of their diversity in problem solving and to continue investigating what other communities have done to deal with similar issues.
Alderman, Ward 2
Incumbent Johnny Anderson (D) is running unopposed for his position. He reminded his listeners of the many accomplishments that have taken place over the years in New Albany: waste water treatment, new landfill, Wellspring project, Tanglefoot Trail, education, 2% tourism tax, Main Street, increased employment, etc. In response to an audience question about taxes, he stated that he would support a rise in some taxes as a means of providing for future needs.
Alderman, Ward 3
Chris Buford (D) stated that “we all have to work together,” and that we should always keep our future generations in mind when addressing problems in New Albany. If elected, he will work to improve infrastructure, schools, parks, etc., because “things can always be made a little better.”
Alderman at Large
Jerry Shiverdecker (D) stated that when traveling I-22 between Memphis and Birmingham, “New Albany is the most amazing sight you will see,” with its nice parks, and convenient commercial district. He chose to live here 17 years ago because he liked New Albany and its good public schools. During his career in the news business, he has observed many government entities, and says there is much good about New Albany’s. However, he fears that a lack of work on future needs can “kill the golden goose,” and, if elected, he will focus on working for long-term improvements to ensure New Albany’s continued success.
Keith Conlee (R) has spent 30 years in corporate America, and believes that the goals of the mayor and board should be to make the quality of life for current residents as good as possible and to encourage industry, etc. for the future. He wants a place where “visitors want to come back.” If elected, he will encourage the city to “copy what is good in other places,” improve accountability and communication and encourage growth in the city itself. He wants to invest in the downtown and incentivize business.
David Brown (R) recently moved to New Albany from Myrtle, where he served as alderman for 20 years. Like other candidates, he wants to see improvements in water and other infrastructure. In addition, if elected, he would like to see more “activities for kids during the summer, possibly with grants, etc.,” a 5 year and 10 year plan for the city, neighborhood watch and more town hall type meetings to discuss goals, problems and possible solutions.
Larry Dykes (D) is a military veteran who has worked in and retired from a variety of jobs and careers. He believes in the power of volunteering to help one “know the people you are trying to serve,” and has served with many organizations such as Meals on Wheels, veterans’ groups, neighborhood associations, projects to help weatherize homes, etc. If elected, he pledges to work to improve small businesses to increase jobs, to bring retirees and their tax dollars to New Albany and to continue “working from the bottom up” to help make things better.
BLUE SPRINGS CANDIDATES:
All candidates are running as Independents
Incumbent Mayor, Rita Gentry says that she likes that Blue Springs is “more Mayberry than Hallmark card.” If reelected, she plans to continue leading by example. Her goal is always to “make the town better.” She will continue to work with her board of aldermen to help the town grow through its “growing pains” and make sure that Blue Springs continues to be “a small town with big values.”
Kevin Rackley has lived in Blue Springs for 17 years. He freely admits that he has no direct experience in government, but he says, “I will learn.” Years of coaching has given him helpful insights, and having risen from entry jobs to higher and higher levels of responsibility in industry has taught him to “run a business, cut costs and save money.” If elected, these are the skills he will bring to the mayor’s job.
Michael Canerdy is an engineer with government experience, having served as Myrtle’s Vice Mayor. If elected, Canerdy looks forward to putting his budgeting experience together with the “fresh ideas” that will inevitably result from this election, since many current office holders are not seeking reelection. Canerdy wants to put the knowledge he has gained from working with other towns to work to help Myrtle “grow in the right way.” He plans to visit every home before the election.
Lisa Galloway has spent a great deal of time attending meetings and watching the process of government in Myrtle. She has been active in town events such as the Christmas Parade and Music at the Tracks. If elected, she will help keep Myrtle “business friendly” and will keep her finger “on the pulse” of the town to keep it moving forward. She wants to “pay it forward and be a new, fresh voice” for her town.