Candidates for municipal office in Fayetteville made a pitch Tuesday evening to the public at a Meet the Candidates forum in the lead-up to the June 11 election.
Hosted by the Canyon Rim Rotary Club, candidates for the mayor’s seat, along with the five council seats, made their pitches.
For the mayor’s seat, incumbent Dennis Hanson is running against Sharon Cruikshank, a current councilwoman.
As for the council, incumbents Lori Tabit, Stanley Boyd and Okey Skidmore are facing challengers Brian Good, Gabriel Peña, Debbie Richardson, Olivia Tygrett, Mariah Ritterbush, Rob Long and Janette “Jet” Woodrum.
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The mayoral candidates, Cruikshank and Hanson, shared their goals with the audience.
Cruikshank called for greater involvement between the city and its businesses and residents. If elected, she said she would open up committee positions for those who are interested in serving the city.
The current councilwoman pointed toward the town’s overhead bridge, stonewalls and water quality as key issues for the future. She told the audience that if elected, she would spend her first 100 days getting acclimated to the office with the involvement of the elected council.
As for her biggest issue, Cruikshank said the continuation of growth while maintaining “quality and consideration” is key.
Hanson pointed toward his experience in office as top qualities, highlighting the transition of the town from a one-season destination to a year-round destination.
As for infrastructure, the current mayor said the city has multiple projects in the works through grant funding and state funds. He said multiple projects are in the hands of the state now.
Hanson said that infrastructure, or lack of infrastructure, has kept the town from growing even more than it has in the recent past. He cited examples where developments were pulled because of lack of access to sewer.
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The council candidates made a general call to grow the town, while maintaining its community feel.
Tabit focused on her business background, telling the audience the city needs to be business-minded and needs to work on fostering local business.
While calling for business growth, Tabit also called for Fayetteville to maintain its historical integrity and small town feel.
Good, a teacher, said that while he is a local, he has traveled to many small towns and believes that experience will help him find ways to move the town forward.
Also a coach, Good spoke on moving the city forward without shutting people out and making sure that any investments in the town are done to benefit the town as a whole.
Peña, a deputy resource coordinator for the Fayette County Commission, told the audience his experience working with all forms of government by writing grants and working on projects will assist him in doing a good job for the town.
Coming to West Virginia in 2007, Peña said that one of the best decisions in his life was buying a home in Fayetteville. The tight-knit community made him feel welcome, he said, and he believes that the same community could help move more people in and keep people from leaving.
Peña pointed to the erosion of the tax base as a key problem. He pointed to a lack of affordable housing, partially due to the number of rentals in the community. He called for creative use of hotel/motel fees collected to build affordable housing.
Richardson spoke highly of the candidates who spoke before her and highlighted her role on multiple local committees.
Pointing to the surrounding region, Richardson said that Fayetteville needs to be proactive with businesses so the town can maintain its growth.
Speaking on tourism, Richardson said Fayetteville needs to work on developing attractions for smaller children so that the town can attract families with children of all ages.
While the other candidates stuck to speaking on Fayetteville, Richardson told the audience that a successful Fayetteville needs to help to build up other Fayette County locations like Oak Hill, Mount Hope, Ansted and Gauley Bridge. She said if those communities improve, Fayetteville would benefit.
Tygrett pointed to her experience with finances and business as a tax preparer and a local small business creator. She cited the ability to make sound fiscal decisions as a strength.
Tygrett also spoke on her work on a national survey on drug use and her work with Home in The Hills, an organization aimed at fighting addiction in Appalachia.
Also pointing toward rentals, Tygrett said income coming into the town needs to be balanced with keeping the community feel.
Ritterbush pointed toward her background as a community coordinator for Valley College and as a paralegal as her strengths.
Listing four main concerns, Ritterbush noted small businesses, the youth, the town’s historic nature and water quality as central issues.
Ritterbush called for more town events and activities. She said that taking advantage of the town’s historic buildings will be a repurposing of resources.
Boyd pointed toward his experience as a current councilman, his time as a teacher and as a coach as major benefits, adding he currently sits on the Board of Governors of the West Virginia Municipal League.
The incumbent listed parking, the town’s stone walls, the 2nd Avenue Bridge, dilapidated buildings and unkept yards as issues the town needs to tackle.
Woodrum told the audience she wants to help maintain the development of the town in both the business districts and residential districts, calling for a partnership between the town government and the townspeople.
Like Boyd, Woodrum pointed towards cosmetic issues, such as junk cars and dilapidated buildings, while calling for the development of a dog park.
Candidates Long and Skidmore were not present at Tuesday’s forum.
Fayetteville’s municipal election will take place on June 11, with early voting taking place between May 29 and June 8.
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The Rotary Club will host a similar event this evening in Oak Hill for the city's candidates. The 6 p.m. event will be held at the Lewis Community Center on Central Avenue.
Five individuals are going after Oak Hill’s mayoral position, including the current mayor, a former mayor and a former county official.
Mayor Fred Dickinson has filed for re-election. He is opposed by Saundra Smith, former mayor Barbara Hickman, former Fayette County circuit clerk Daniel E. Wright, and Mark Hurt. All have agreed to attend the event.
Tom Oxley, current councilman-at-large, is being challenged by Quartney Settle.
Three council members will be elected from the city’s two wards. Seeking election from Ward 1 are Diana Janney, Don Williams, Christa Hodges, Missy Kidd Wilshire, Michelle Holly, Wes McDonald and Curtis G. Taylor. Janney and Wilshire are incumbents.
Vying for seats from Ward 2 are Charles Smallwood, Colby Lopez, Timothy Moses, Tim Buskus, Paul Baker, Jeffrey D. Atha, Steve Hayslette, Danielle Dearing-Harris, Erin Ellis-Reid and Vicky Pizzino. Atha, Baker and Hayslette are current members of council.
Terms begin July 1 and run through June 30, 2023.
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