Three mayoral candidates are vying to replace the departing Martha Click in Smithers’ upcoming municipal election, slated to take place June 13.

While each has his own unique agenda for the town, their unanimous concern is for the city’s lack of economic prosperity and fiscal health.

“It’s time for a great, big change,” John Aquino, 55, asserted. “It’s time to have some young blood in there. I have a lot of ideas that need to be brought out. There’s a lot going on that shouldn’t.”

After contemplating his current electoral run for about a year, Aquino decided the city could not afford to wait any longer. His priority list, if elected, puts the police department, city council, the town’s appearance and the business environment in its sights. A new trash truck is also in order, he said.

“We need a new police department, one that involves officers getting out and doing their jobs instead of sitting in the office. You can’t see what’s going on by sitting in the office,” he charged.

“I would like to have a working council where everybody is appointed to different positions to carry out their duties. We have a lot of buildings that have to go — fire hazards that need to either be fixed up or torn down. These are eyesores.”

Aquino added the dual losses of Wendy’s and a gas station could have been prevented had Click and city council gotten together and engaged in dialogue with the business owners.

They say the third time is the charm. For the man who has twice run unsuccessfully for the position, he certainly hopes so. “I’ve run twice before. Give me a chance,” he asked.

Thomas Skaggs hopes voters will consider his extensive business experience when they enter the voting booth in June. Economic development is what he sees as Smithers’ most persistent need.

“We have to attract new businesses to the area. This is a very poor area, and the mining industry is not working here as it should,” Skaggs, 56, explained.

“I’m running because of what’s not happening. They (town leaders) are not trying to get everything paid and not trying to get money to help out with street beautification. We need grant money to help with the city. Some of our costs could be offset with grant money.”

Skaggs retired from a public utility after 33 years of service, 25 of which featured management experience. The man has crunched a lot of numbers in his time, and he believes his knowledge of budgeting would serve him well as mayor. One of his primary goals is to balance the budget and find out what each department is spending.

“I’m usually pretty aggressive when it comes to getting things done,” he declared.

“There are ideas I can go after, but I just need to sit down and work with council. I will roll up my sleeves and get the town in good shape. The reason I’m running is that I love my town.”

If you ask him, Gregory B. Wagner will list 140,000 reasons why he is concerned about his little hamlet — those are the number of dollars he says the town’s budget is mired in the red.

“That’s a conservative estimate,” Wagner, 48, lamented. “I see first-hand the challenges ahead for this city, and I feel my years of experience could help remedy the problem. We’re in dire straits as far as our financial condition.”

The 20-year veteran of city council sees the town debt as a problem of the highest order. Cutting waste, making government more accessible to the people and bringing in programs geared toward senior citizens and children form the crux of his proposed solutions to what ails Smithers.

As he gazes at the past, he is proud of the programs he has helped to initiate for the town. On the other hand, he is quick to criticize a 1990 inter-governmental agreement the municipality entered with the Kanawha Falls Public Service District, wherein the PSD would handle Smithers’ wastewater treatment.

Despite spending over $4 million on the move, Wagner charged, Smithers residents have endured three sewer rate increases before the first gallon of wastewater has ever crossed over to the Kanawha Falls PSD.

“Seventy percent of our residents are in the low-to-moderate-income levels. You see my reason for concern,” he said.

“There’s no way the town can grow being as far in the red as we are. We can’t look into a crystal ball to get us out of this debt. I will take advice from local business leaders and citizens as mayor. I like to empower people.”

In other races:

Residents are guaranteed to see a majority of new faces on city council, regardless of the election outcome.

Even if incumbents Thomas Whittington and Ruth Ann Cavalier hold on to their seats, they will be joined by a trio culled from among five challengers — Johnny Barnhart, Gail Warren Williams, C. Gayle Fannin, Christina Tolley and Pat Sue Cooper.

Susan Skaggs is waging a crusade to wrest the office of recorder from current office-holder Rebecca Fair.

— E-mail: mhill@register-herald.com

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