With less than a week remaining for candidates to qualify for the November election, the race for McMinnville city government seats is heating up.
Up for grabs are the seats currently held by Mayor Ben Newman and Aldermen Kate Alsbrook, Mike Neal and Rachel Kirby.
During the first five weeks of qualifying, action was calm. Ryle Chastain, current alderman and vice mayor, announced his plans to run for mayor, while Kirby will be seeking her first four-year term after being appointed in 2018.
The mild interest ended the first two weeks of August with another individual seeking to be mayor and five vying for alderman.
Billy Wood, who served as a city alderman for eight years with five of those being as vice mayor, has revealed his plans to run for mayor.
“I am deeply concerned about the financial burden and obligations that are currently being placed on McMinnville taxpayers,” said Wood. “When I left office six years ago, the city’s fund balance was just over $6 million. The fund balance at the end of this fiscal year is projected to be less than half that amount. The current debt incurred by the city is so large that my 11-year-old grandson will be 32 years old before it is paid. The spending must stop.”
Among the wasteful spending, Wood points to a recent renovation of the mayor’s office.
“Money has been spent moving employees out of City Hall, and is now being spent to move them back. If the city couldn’t afford to spend $90,000 to fix the elevator, how do they justify two TVs, new flooring, furniture, mini blinds and paint in the mayor’s office?”
Picking up aldermanic papers are former city aldermen Rick Barnes and Rickey Jones, former county commissioner Sally Brock, Senior Center Board chair Dennis Kronlage, and Creative Illusions beautician Keri Curtis Morton.
“I’m considering it,” said Barnes, who was last on the board in 2014. “I just retired. I’ve worked all my life. I’ll need something to do. Last time, I was working full time and out of town. I didn’t feel like I could put a whole lot into it. I’m seriously thinking about it.”
Candidates have until 12 p.m. this Thursday, Aug. 20, to qualify and until Aug. 27 to withdraw if they change their mind.
Jones, who left office in 2002, is concerned with the city’s financial status.
“It was a tough decision,” Jones said. “I have been increasingly concerned about the way the city has been run. We have gotten ourselves into a spending problem. The city doesn’t have the ability to print money like the federal government. Our first priority should be to get our spending under control. It’s my understanding they took money out of savings for this fiscal year. By law, we should be operating under a balanced budget. It’s time to make some tough decisions. I hope I can bring some sanity and accountability to the board. I am against raising taxes at this time. We need to get our spending under control.”
Brock spent 16 years as a county commissioner.
“I want to bring my experience in local government to the city of McMinnville to facilitate the city in moving forward,” she said. “McMinnville has come a long way in the last 30 years. I want to help us continue to move in that direction.”
Kronlage wants to help move the city forward.
“I think I can make a difference,” he said. “The current election affords an opportunity for someone like myself to participate. The more choice that people have, the better off the city is going to be. If elected, I will probably have to step down from the board since the city donates to the Senior Center. If it’s not required, I might do it anyway just to avoid the appearance of a conflict.”
Morton wants to right some wrongs.
“We have several infrastructure problems within our city,” she said. “I won’t get into them right now, but I think we all know what they are. I think it’s important for those issues to be resolved. I feel like we’ve got some really good department heads right now who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get things done. I, too, am a hard worker. I want to get in there, roll up my sleeves and work with those department heads and work with city resident to fix those infrastructure issues.”
For more information about the upcoming deadline, the Warren County Election Commission can be reached at 473-5834.