ALPENA - Voters in Alpena will have five candidates to choose from to fill the two seats for Alpena Municipal Council up for grabs during Tuesday's general election.
No matter which two candidates are elected, one thing all of candidates share is a deep passion for Alpena and wanting to see it grow and develop. They also know in order to achieve that goal, there is work to be done and financial issues that need to be addressed.
Councilman Shawn Sexton and former Councilman Mike Nunneley are the only two names listed on the ballot, but they are expecting a fight for the seats from write-in candidates Cindy Johnson, Anna Bass and Cal Howard.
Sexton said he thinks Alpena is moving forward and is pleased with the progress that has been made in recent years. He said there are still challenges that lie ahead and he wants to continue to work with the council to overcome them.
"I think Alpena is in the same situation most of the country is and our problems here with the economy and jobs isn't all that unique. For as secluded as we are in this economy I think we have done a pretty good job of keeping the ship afloat," Sexton said. "When you look at the future of the community, though, you want to do better than pretty good, or keeping afloat. My hope for the future is we become more diversified and create a larger tax base. I think we can still promote tourism a little better than what we do now and I believe we can make a better effort to bring blue-collar opportunities here, so we can create careers and not just jobs."
Bass said she believes because she is a younger candidate her presence on the council can offer a different point of view, new ideas and a provide a voice for the younger generation who wish to remain in Alpena and not have to move to find quality employment. She said she believes that sometimes the city takes on too many projects or tries to tackle too many issues at one time and it hinders the overall growth.
"I think the city needs to be careful on how many tasks it puts on its plate. I believe we need to focus on one or two things at a time and focus on those in order to get where we need to be in 10 years," Bass said. "I want to offer a fresh perspective to the council. I expect excellence from myself and others. I will encourage teamwork, creativity and collaboration. I am familiar with the council and the issues and everything I do I will do with the citizens and visitors in mind."
It is hard for anyone not to notice the passion Howard has for Alpena. He said Alpena and its residents have provided him and his family the opportunity to thrive. He said with the progress that has been made, Alpena is still searching for its identity and where it fits into the overall scheme of things.
"At this point I think we are in a state of flux for expansion. We need more jobs and we need the youth to become a larger part of this viable community," Howard said. "We need them to feel like they are a part of Alpena and I think right now they don't think that they count. Alpena can offer things and do things nobody else can do. I think we can move mountains, but everyone has to be on the same page, working together for what is best for the city."
All of the candidates said the efforts of entities such as the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development Authority, the Alpena Convention and Visitors Bureau and Target Alpena has bared fruit. They agreed that working with them more closely and offering financial assistance is important in helping develop and promote Alpena.
Johnson said she has noticed Alpena's economy has become more diversified than what it has been in the past. She said Alpena's future is bright, but work must be done to achieve the type of success it deserves.
"It is exciting because we don't have to depend on one segment of the workforce, and that is industry, to keep the city going," Johnson said. "I'm excited about Alpena and what has already been accomplished. I think working more closely with the chamber and Target Alpena is important and continuing to work with other governing bodies locally is something we need to do, because we are all in this together."
Nunneley said Alpena is on a good path and there are a lot of exciting opportunities ahead for it. He said it is important that as Alpena expands council takes steps to provide a friendly business environment, as well as services and infrastructure for those who want to open up a business in town and live in the city. He said plans must be made in advance to handle the growth in business and population.
"Alpena has two very distinct paths in front of it. We could be on the verge of winning the Powerball lottery and have unbelievable development," Nunneley said. "With that though comes a huge responsibility, but incredible opportunity. We have to have a plan and we will have to manage it. I don't want to be Traverse City or Petoskey. I want us to have a plan where we are always Alpena. With the development going on we have to attract businesses downtown, because right now the development is in the township and that means the revenues from the growth is out in the township. City services though will be pushed to new limits because of the growth though and we need to figure out how we pay for that and how we move ahead."
All five candidates said the city needs to continue to find ways to increase revenue and shave expenses. They said luring new residents, having them purchase homes and adding them to the tax roll is the best way to significantly increase the amount of money the city receives. They all said they believe that is difficult financial times persist they are prepared to make difficult decisions on cuts and cancellation of services if needed.
All the candidates acknowledge the city's failing water and sewer system needs to be addressed and streets that need to be repaired or replaced should be a high priority. They also agreed that preserving and providing top notch police and fire service is the number one priority.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.