RIVERDALE -- Six candidates are crowding the ballot for one of three four-year terms on the Riverdale City Council.
Incumbents Don Hunt and Shelly Jenkins are seeking re-election and are being challenged by Allen Bowers, Michael Staten, Braden Mitchell and Detra Waikart.
Bowers, 50, said he hopes voters can keep an open mind when visiting the polls.
"Riverdale needs to go in a fresher direction," said Bowers, who has no previous government service. "Don't stay with the old favorite standby."
A project manager for a compressor company, Bowers said the biggest issue facing the city is the type of businesses that are trying to move in. If elected, Bowers plans to keep tabs on which type of businesses locate in the city by monitoring business license applications and other applications that must receive city council approval. Bowers has been a resident of Riverdale for five years.
Hunt, 54, said the biggest issue facing the city is the budget, battered by the double effect of the economic downturn and the Legislature's attempt to redistribute sales tax revenue.
"There is no magic solution. We need to get lean and tight with budget dollars while still providing services. It's a fine line to walk," Hunt said.
Hunt supports proactively lobbying to extend the sunset provision or terminate the bill that allows sales tax generated in Riverdale to be redistributed to other cities.
Hunt, a project manager for a commercial floor coverings contractor, said he is well-qualified to handle issues facing the city because of his four years of service on the city council and a four-year term on the planning commission.
"I have done some good things, and in some things I can do better," said Hunt, who has lived in the city for 22 years. "My experience and knowledge can help me make better decisions in my next term."
Jenkins, 54, said the issues facing the city are many, including land-use planning concerns, upkeep and improvement of city infrastructure, and the financial impact of a weak economy and distribution of sales tax.
"Riverdale has a unique and complex character, and your city government will direct the policies that continue to sculpt it," said Jenkins, who is self-employed. "We deserve a council that is informed, diligent and hardworking."
Jenkins said that after service on the city council and planning commission, she is well-qualified to navigate the issues facing the city.
"I bring diversity, balance and perspective to the council that is needed in order to broadly represent the needs and concerns of the entire community," said Jenkins, who has lived in the city for 20 years. "There isn't anyone that will please all the people all the time, but I work hard, study the issues and I stand by my votes."
Mitchell, 40, said his constant interaction with the public qualifies him to know what residents need from their city government.
Mitchell, a manager for Fresh Market Pharmacy, agrees that the distribution of tax revenue is one of the biggest issues facing the city now.
The answer in tackling the issue lies in spending budget money wisely, appealing to the Legislature to repeal the sales tax redistribution bill, and attracting businesses to keep Riverdale a destination retail place, Mitchell said.
"My experience on the planning commission helps me understand what will make the city more appealing as a retail center," said Mitchell, who has lived in the city for 15 years. He also was a member of the city's board of adjustments and chairman of Riverdale Elementary Community Center.
Staten, 35, said the sales tax issue is one of the biggest issues facing the city.
"With the ratio of business to residential that is much higher than surrounding cities, but with sales tax from these businesses being distributed to the neighboring cities, Riverdale's water system has to support fire protection flows, our police and emergency response system has to accommodate the crowds, our public works department has to maintain roads and utilities," said Staten, a civil engineer and owner of a home-based woodworking business. "The city council needs to take proactive steps to ensure equity in how the infrastructure that benefits those from out of town, as well as locals, is funded and maintained."
Staten, a 12-year city resident, campaigned for a spot on the city council in 2009, losing by just a handful of votes. His political experience includes two years on the planning commission, and two years' service as a delegate to state and county conventions.
Waikart, 47, said if elected, she would be able to bring balance and diversity to the city council.
"Diversity on the council is essential," said Waikart, a stay-at-home mother and PTA president for Washington Terrace Elementary School. "It means a stronger council and more proficient community. One of my strengths as a woman would be to be out in the community and continue to promote and participate in activities for the youth, families and the elderly."
Her strengths would help her tackle the issues facing the city, she said.
"I have noticed that Riverdale is divided up into small, varied sections, each with their own unique needs," said Waikart, a 13-year Riverdale resident. "We have a beautiful riverwalk, a modern community center and many shops within a short distance. The focus should be to entice families to come live here and join our community. We are more than just businesses. People are our strength."