|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Wednesday, 26 January 2011 00:00|
People planning to vote in the Tuesday, March 8, primary election for Cottonwood City Council get a chance to watch the candidates in action at a forum set for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, at Cottonwood Recreation Center.
Incumbent Councilmen Duane Kirby, Terence Pratt and Darold Smith are scheduled to appear at the forum along with three challengers: Jesse Dowling, Ruben Jauregui and Mary Eichman. A fourth challenger, Allen Lawhorn, said he could not attend due to a conflicting travel schedule.
In all, seven candidates are running to fill three four-year positions on the council.
Incumbent Mayor Diane Joens, who seeks another term as mayor, will also attend the forum, but she runs unopposed in the March 8 primary.
At the forum, candidates will be asked to answer questions about the issues and explain how their decisions on the issues will impact the city and the Verde Valley as a whole. The candidates will also take questions from the audience, the league announced.
Candidates spoke and wrote about their backgrounds and issues in anticipation of the Jan. 26 forum.
An information technology specialist with a background in engineering, Dowling works in Old Town. Born in Jerome, he graduated Mingus Union High School in 1989.
Fans of Marauders football know him as the man dressed as a pirate who fires off the cannon at Mingus football games. A sports enthusiast, Dowling said he assisted in the master planning for the River Front Sports Complex through his work.
He enjoys spending time with his family, and practices at being a luthier — an artisan who makes stringed instruments — and a Volkswagen auto mechanic.
“I have owned VWs on and off since I was 14 or so. I have never quite kicked the habit. There is just something about them that makes driving one an interactive process rather than just cruising on autopilot,” Dowling said.
Dowling has considered running for City Council for several years, but decided 2011 was the year to do it.
“Having lived here my whole life, I think I bring a combination of an appreciation for the historic nature of the area combined with an understanding of the changes we have seen over the decades,” Dowling said. “Knowing that we can move into the future while still respecting and preserving our past is a crucial part of maintaining the place we have all chosen to live.”
Dowling supports Old Town revitalization and would advocate for the use of local business in city projects. He said he wants more open communication from the council when decisions are made, but generally supports the level of service it provides.
He questions the wisdom of building a new wastewater treatment plant at Riverfront Park when the area poses a severe flood risk.
A Cottonwood resident since 1999, Eichman, a retired police records manager, does a lot of volunteering. She currently volunteers each week for Verde Valley Caregivers and as chairwoman of Cottonwood Bookmarks and Friends of the Library. She is also a member of the Cottonwood Public Library Board.
As a Mesa Police Department records clerk for five years and a shift supervisor for 10, Eichman was responsible for taking cash bonds, balancing cash registers, confirming warrants and redacting and releasing police reports to the media.
Eichman said she believes in planning for the future. She is interested in sustaining a good quality of life in the city by focusing on street improvements, recycling and conservation.
“I believe a new city hall will be needed in the future, and should be located centrally near current city court, fire and police services,” Eichman said.
She said she attended most City Council meetings during the past year, learning the city has a long-range plan and is providing appropriate services. She favors, as far as the budget allows, new projects like the proposed wastewater treatment plant because it promotes energy and water conservation. She supports the continued development of Old Town as a tourist destination and local gathering place with more small businesses, parking, green areas, and special events.
“I have no particular agenda,” Eichman said. “A lot of people encouraged me. I’m not running against any candidate but, as was stated to me, it’s good for the voters to have a selection,” Eichman said.
A veteran, former Cottonwood mayor and local businessman Jauregui wants another term on council after a two-year absence from city hall.
A local businessman, Jauregui said he misses the chance to influence policy for the city. He said he would encourage conservative spending policies if elected.
“It’s exciting, a feeling of trying to guide the community and make it a better place to live for everyone,” Jauregui said. “For 10 years I had the honor of serving as the Cottonwood mayor. During that time, many projects were accomplished and all without raising taxes,” he said.
Jauregui wrote he believes the city cannot continue its current rate of spending without placing a greater tax burden on residents.
“For many households and businesses this may prove at best difficult and possibly devastating,” he said.
Jauregui said he questions spending on a wastewater treatment plan in Riverfront Park, a project discussed but rejected by councils in the past due to flooding in the area where the plant is proposed to be built.
A member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and Loyal Order of Moose, Jauregui stays involved in the lives of his constituents as barber and hairstylist at the shop he operates with his wife.
A veteran and retired businessman, Kirby enjoys a background in broadcasting and government service. His brief remarks at council meetings normally focus on points related to issues he cares about, like the improvement of city streets, construction of the new wastewater treatment plant at Riverfront Park and fire arms in public parks.
Kirby points to completion of the 12th Street improvement project, which widened thoroughfares and connected Verde Villages to Old Town on a direct line, as one of the council’s proudest accomplishments during his term.
Kirby said he has watched the city’s budget for street maintenance grow since taking office. Projects like the 12th Street improvements is good for all city residents.
“It has opened a segment of Verde Villages to Cottonwood. It makes it easier for people to get into Cottonwood and of course, that means city merchants will increase their revenue, which means more sales tax for the city,” Kirby said.
Kirby supports the wastewater treatment plant proposed for Riverfront Park.“I’m very much in favor of it. No question in mind it’s absolutely necessary to the city’s future,” Kirby said. “We need to get on it while we still have the money. If we’ve got a lot of money set aside for sewer improvements, I’m one of those who says we should spend it.”
Kirby served on the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors from 1981 to 1984. He then served as district manager of Camp Verde Sanitary District from 1985 until 1991, when he purchased an RV park in Colorado. In 1997, Kirby retired to Cottonwood.
A college English professor, Pratt taught at Yavapai College for the last 16 years and has been a city resident for nearly as long.
His interests include people, quality of life, literature, art, social and political issues, exercise and good health.
“I’m passionate about this and am committed to supporting those privately owned businesses and have requested to have this item placed on a council agenda for a work session on [Tuesday,] Feb. 8,” Pratt wrote.
Pratt believes the city provides an adequate level of service in a variety of areas. He listed programs like Rhythm ’n’ Ribs and Walkin’ on Main as worthy promotions of the city as an arts, entertainment and dining destination for tourists.
He points to the city’s installation of a new disc golf course during his term as an example of innovative thinking by the city to promote tourism and a healthy lifestyle.
He supports construction of a wastewater treatment plant at Riverfront Park, but acknowledges it is a controversial issue this year.
“It is very controversial but if it’s done well, and I believe it’s progressing that way, 10 to 15 years down the line, it will be a common perception that the city made a wise decision and was efficiently proactive,” Pratt wrote.
A veteran and retired businessman, incumbent Smith said he wants to be reelected to protect scarce taxpayer resources and voice a more prudent and cautious approach to spending issues.
He would maintain police services at current levels and seek new ways to improve the local economy.
“I believe that my experience in the last two years as a member of the council has provided me with experience that I can use effectively to better protect the best interest of the community and to be even more responsive to community needs,” Smith wrote.
Smith said he believes the city should place a moratorium on spending for projects that are not vital. Smith wrote the proposed new wastewater treatment plant at Riverfront Park is not a vital need of residents.
“With the downturn in the economy, the city needs to prioritize how it spends its money to be certain that essential services such as fire, police, water and sewer are protected now and over the next several years,” Smith wrote. “If the city continues to spend on projects at its current rate, the reserves needed to maintain these essential services, should this recession continue, will be gone.”
On the other hand, Smith believes viticulture should be supported as an economic generator. The Cottonwood Recreation Center should also be aggressively marketed as a tourist destination, Smith wrote.
“We also need to promote serious expansion of the Yavapai Community College on the Verde campus. It holds promise for future jobs and income by attracting many students into the community.”
Candidate Lawhorn was unavailable for comment.
Election officials will mail out early ballots for the March 8 primary election on Tuesday, Feb. 15, and ballots must be received by the city clerk’s office before polls close on March 8.
If a runoff is needed, candidates would advance to the general election held Tuesday, May 17.
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