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Whatever the makeup of Elizabethtown City Council in January, most candidates agree the city must press efforts dealing with stormwater drainage, upgrading the city’s aging infrastructure, renovating downtown and attracting new jobs.
Five incumbent council members hope to reclaim their seats while four challengers have emerged hoping to take advantage of Councilman Larry Ashlock’s departure.
Edna Berger, who returned to the council two years ago after previously serving eight years, said she wants to return because she enjoys helping people and giving back to her community. Berger also said she is visible in the community and residents know how to find her through her small business.
Berger said the city must continue to upgrade stormwater systems to alleviate drainage problems and must work hard to ensure the Elizabethtown Sports Park is successful.
Berger also said she wants to see Westport Road receive sidewalks for safer travel and wants the city to attract jobs that can keep youth, including her grandchildren, engaged and active in the area.
“I don’t want them to get their education and leave Hardin County,” she said.
Tony Bishop, who also returned to the council two years ago after serving several previous terms, said he would like to see the council invest in a work force incubator that could assist small businesses and young people seeking jobs by partnering them with mentors.
“As we’re all getting older, I want to do more for young people,” he said.
Bishop also said the city must upgrade its aging infrastructure, including older sidewalks and neighborhoods that may have been “lost in the shuffle.” The city could likely use another firehouse and must address the challenges of planning around new growth, he said.
As for why he is running, he said he brings a relatable approach to the council.
“I’m just a common-sense guy with a common-sense approach to government,” he said.
Marty Fulkerson, who has served on the council for 12 years, said he wants to help the city continue its progression by supporting small businesses and expanding already strong services. The city has invested in stormwater management, and a project is in the works to make improvements to the flood-prone Poplar Drive area, he said.
Fulkerson also said extension of Towne Drive to Veterans Way will create opportunities and alleviate some traffic concerns.
Fulkerson is concerned about the city’s rising employee health insurance costs and is looking for ways to save money as part of good financial stewardship.
Fulkerson said he always examines issues from a long-term perspective and everyone on the council knows where he stands even if they do not agree with him.
“I have never backed away from any of the tough issues,” he said.
Kenny Lewis, who was elected to the council in 2006, said the city has progressed rapidly and he wants to help settle some unfinished business the city has put into play.
“I’d like to (continue my service) on the council to see these things are fulfilled,” he said.
Lewis said he wants progress in revitalizing downtown, and the lure of new jobs. The council also must make proper decisions regarding the city’s growth, he said.
“I think the city is in really great shape,” he said.
n Ron Thomas, the most senior of incumbents with 25 years of service, said his experience is his strongest asset because he can relate the changes and challenges the city has faced in the past two-and-half decades.
“I think my experience adds to the makeup of the council,” he said.
Thomas also said his experience as a former educator brings a different perspective than those held by the businessmen and women who round out the council.
Thomas said many hot button issues facing the council in recent years, such as battles over the 2 percent prepared food tax and the Elizabethtown Sports Park, has distracted the city from needs including modernizing antiquated infrastructure. Thomas said the city has identified worn water, sewer and gas lines in need of repair, and roads always are an issue.
“Infrastructure has kind of been put on the back burner,” he said.
Thomas said the city must maintain good financial standing as costs grow in every sector.
But while incumbents feel the need for stability, the four challengers believe a fresh perspective is warranted.
Bill Bennett, a local resident and teacher in Nelson County Schools system, has been a perennial contender for a council seat and narrowly was defeated by Bishop for the sixth spot two years ago. He initially had no plans to run but reconsidered once Ashlock announced he was stepping aside.
Bennett said he has been campaigning door to door and has noticed more empty homes in the city, which he said reflects the unemployment rate. The city must attract more jobs, he said, commending Mayor Tim Walker for taking a recruiting trip to India in September.
“BRAC did help bring jobs to the area, but I fear it’s not enough,” he said.
Bennett said he is concerned about mandates on local municipalities and counties from state and federal governments, and wants to see the city invest in paving roadways, improving sidewalks and taking care of its green space.
Bennett said the council commitment is important to him and is more about helping others than personal benefits.
“It’s not a retirement package for me,” he said.
Bob Hack is a retiree from Hardin Memorial Hospital who has run for a council seat multiple times and said he believes he can bring a different vision.
“I think I could be an asset to the city,” he said.
Hack believes the city is excessively taxed with increases in occupational taxes, the prepared food tax and a fee on alcohol sales.
Hack also has lobbied to extend Commerce Drive to alleviate downtown traffic and believes the city should be more vigilant in extending services to annexed properties.
Hack also said the council should promote recreational opportunities around the city and must diversify its work force to attract smaller industries if layoffs come from the city’s industrial businesses. Hack said a lot of the city’s industry is tied to the automotive industry and another downturn could prove destructive.
Arnold Myers, a longtime businessman, said his big business and corporate level experience in leadership positions with General Electric and Whirlpool gives him an edge on the council and a perspective incumbents do not possess.
Myers commended the council for its ongoing work to curb stormwater problems and said these improvements are needed perpetually.
“You just can’t give up,” he said.
Myers also wants to see the council maintain oversight over management of Elizabethtown Sports Park to prevent waste and said every aspect of city government must be examined carefully to ensure it does not get off track.
Myers said he believes a new set of eyes is needed despite his support of the incumbents and said he wants to give back to those who have given to him.
“I felt a sense of service,” he said.
Terry Shipp, a local business owner, said he was encouraged to run by friends and family and is trying to set an example for his children, who he has taught to be part of the solution rather than the problem.
By running for council, he said, he can “practice what he is preaching.”
Shipp said he is promoting job growth and protection of the city’s fund balance for future generations.
Shipp said his goal is to leave the city “in a little better shape than we are now.”
He also encouraged voters to research the candidates and make an informed decision Tuesday.
“Not just a vote,” he said. “An educated vote.”
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.