New Martinsville Mayor Candidates Speak on Issues
1. Why do you want to be Mayor?
Steven Bohrer: I love the city of New Martinsville and the people that reside here. I have spent my adult life here, attending school in New Martinsville, graduating in 1963, and then attending WVU. I returned home and have lived in New Martinsville for the past 55+ years. I have lived and breathed this city from its strong periods of growth through its challenges over the past 30 years.
Sandy Hunt: I have spent the last 16 years in community development, first with the Chamber of Commerce as Chair of the Community Engagement Pillar, as it was called back then, and in late 2009 I organized the Wetzel County Convention & Visitors Bureau as a marketing agent for New Martinsville and Wetzel County as a whole. Our focus since then has been New Martinsville since all our funding comes from this community. I have mapped our assets and our strengths, worked collaboratively with multiple agencies both in our town and throughout the state, and am aware of what potential New Martinsville possesses. Most recently, I organized the New Martinsville Blueprint Communities team and using community input we have determined what our citizens want the focus of improvement to be. I feel that I have a lot to offer New Martinsville and I want our town to be the place that people want to live, work, and play.
David Hoffman: My great grandmother and grandfather came here over 100 years ago , they could have settled any where, but they chose New Martinsville. I am proud to be from this city, and I would like to make it a nicer city, a place where people can stay after college and want to settle down here with their family .
2. What are your qualifications for the office of Mayor?
Steven Bohrer: I currently have 16 years of experience working with our city government (12 years on Council and 4 years as Mayor). I am up for the challenge of continuing to learn and strive to make the best decisions I can. I have developed cohesiveness with Council and city employees along with State and County officials and our neighboring towns. I will be able to utilize my past experience and relationships to help us move forward.
Sandy Hunt: I have been a business manager for over 38 years. I have worked collaboratively with multiple groups in order to accomplish goals. I have supervised employees and I have also built teams. I have been a life-long learner and believe you should learn something new every day. I have a background in accounting I consider myself a numbers person – but most of all I love New Martinsville and I want to see her thrive.
David Hoffman: I have worked with many of the people and businesses. I also have been in charge of many people in the business’s I have work for .
3. What would be your top priorities if elected Mayor?
Steven Bohrer: I have great pride in our beautiful little town. Therefore, I would first address dilapidated buildings and neglected properties. I can proudly say that last October, after close work with our State Senators and Representatives we received authorization to avail ourselves of the benefits of “Home Rule” legislation. With that ruling, along with ordinance adjustments we enabled with Council, we are able to fund these initiatives without an increase in property taxes.
Second, is management of the City’s budget. I will continue to work closely with all Department Heads to keep expenses at a minimum while continuing to accomplish priority projects, so that everyone can benefit. I will continue to work with our State officials to search for alternative financial avenues, such as Federal and State grants to better our infrastructure and tourist industry. In my role as Municipal Court Judge I am working with our State Senator and Representative to initiate the ability for “Work Release in lieu of fines and jail time” to provide additional resources to maintain infrastructure and grounds maintenance.
Something I want to see happen and I plan on getting it accomplished quite quickly, is implementing video capability for all city meetings that are open to the public. It is imperative that citizens have the opportunity to know exactly what is going and how they are being represented.
I end every Council meeting with the statement “if you see something, say something.” I want to encourage and develop neighborhood watch programs. As the Municipal Court Judge, I see firsthand what our police officers are up against. I have great faith in our Police Department. We can safely assist them by simply paying attention to our surroundings.
Sandy Hunt: Open government is high on the list. Making sure the public has adequate time for input before important decisions are made and bringing our notification systems into the 21st century. Sometimes it is necessary to go beyond what is required for your actions to be completely visible to the public. I would begin with quarterly town hall type meetings where the departments can give the public insight as to what is on their upcoming agendas and the public can make comments and suggestions to help drive the priorities for the city. Fiscal responsibility is essential to our success as is strategic planning. If we don’t know where we are going, how can we possibly get there? We have ordinances that are outdated; we have ordinances that are not enforceable because they have no consequences attached to them for non-compliance; and we have a need for revisions to many of our ordinances to bring them up to date. I have heard there is some wage disparity and if that is the case, that will also need addressed. Our police department is constantly losing officers because our wages are not competitive. We also need a prospectus to market New Martinsville to potential businesses and residents. We can identify gaps in goods and services that are available to our citizens and market ourselves accordingly. In addition, the City needs its own disaster plan. We live in an area that has experienced numerous floods and some severe weather incidents and we need to be better prepared as a community. The OEMS has a county plan and would be a great, local resource to use to create a plan for the city.
David Hoffman: I would like to see people in the city work together, with the city workers and clean up the town and the surrounding area’s . Also I would like to bring more tourism to the area, and events to the town.
4. What would be your role in City Government if elected Mayor?
Steven Bohrer: I have been fortunate to have held the position of Mayor for the past 4 years and served on Council for 12 years prior to that. I have, respectfully, learned that running a city is a team effort. The title of Mayor is described as the Chief Executive Officer for the City of New Martinsville; however, New Martinsville has a “strong council center” with members having the say in City Ordinances. I define the Mayor as being a city leader, mediator, and code enforcer as well as assisting Council and being as versatile as needed.
Sandy Hunt: Leadership. I would attend all department meetings, weigh-in where needed or necessary, and use my network of contacts to help solve problems. Again, I would implement town hall type meetings for the public and lead both the strategic planning and disaster planning initiatives. There are many, many resources available to us as a community to aid in our efforts at growth and revitalization. We already have a team of people who are working to identify all buildings, vacant and occupied, as well as green or open spaces that might be underutilized. I will hunt for solutions to all our pressing needs. And I will be a full time Mayor with an open-door policy.
David Hoffman: A leader and someone people can come to for support .
5. How would you make New Martinsville grow?
Steven Bohrer: I have initiated a 5-year planning process with Council to identify opportunities, challenges, and resources required and available to New Martinsville as the region transforms itself into a City of the Future for our citizens and our children. I will continue to keep myself educated on programs/projects/ grants that are available to cities of our size. Open communication with our State Legislators is imperative. I will continue to talk with our citizens to advocate for their wants and needs of our city.
Sandy Hunt: There is data available to us that identifies gaps in our goods and services and the potential dollar amount associated with those gaps. In creating a prospectus for New Martinsville, you include that data. The Better Buildings Program, which identifies properties that are vacant or underutilized, will show where the potential gap-filling business might be able to locate. From that information, we have an opportunity tour inviting prospective businesses and developers to our community and show off our town and its potential. We use our resources such as our realtors and our Chamber of Commerce and together we create such a tour.
David Hoffman: That is going to be a joint effort between the mayor and council . In order to grow you have to have jobs and more business , one person can’t do that alone . I know many of the council members and I believe we can work together to at achieve those goals.
6. What do you have in mind for Parks and Recreation?
Steven Bohrer: Our Parks and Recreation Commission, along with Bev Gibb and staff, do an outstanding job. They have persevered and have provided our city with first rate parks, facilities, and programs. They have accomplished this by alternative funding sources such as grants and donations. An indoor facility has been on their radar for many years. I would love to see this come to fruition and will continue to support them with their endeavors. Through the City’s budget process and resources available through our ability to access Home Rule revenues, I would like to put the City on the path to make this a reality in the next 4 years.
Sandy Hunt: We have a strong Parks and Recreation Department now. There are some things I would like to see and I have shared them with Bev Gibb, our Parks director, already. All good things take time. I would like to see the bike trail completed and Bev applies for that grant every year. Along with that, I would like to see bike and kayak rentals available through the Parks Department if we cannot attract an individual business to fill that need. A citizen suggested to me that the old airport be converted to a marina. That is a fabulous idea but not something that would happen overnight. Our waterways could and should be better utilized. Another project that is already being considered as a joint project is an outdoor art installation at Bruce Park. And I know that Bev has some larger projects already under consideration by the Park and Pool Commission.
David Hoffman: Parks and Recreation are doing a good job . They have the Halloween, Easter, and Summer events. We would look into some other events to have, The kids in the area need to have outdoor events to have fun.
7. What will you do to make sure the city stays within its budget and still provide needed services to the community?
Steven Bohrer: The City Recorder, Council, Department Heads and Mayor diligently watch our budgets. We have instituted a process during the past 4 years where we compare, monthly, the City’s financial position versus the budget and review annual budget on a weekly basis to make adjustments where necessary. To economize on City expenses I have informally explored the possibility of converting City vehicles to natural gas or propane to take advantage of these abundant resources in our area. While gasoline prices are relatively inexpensive at the current time, we can all recall when prices were significantly higher.
Sandy Hunt: That comes back to strategic planning. Critical services first, plan for both maintenance and repairs, and then ask the “what do we want the City to look like, be like in 10 years” questions. In those meetings, all departments work together for the good of the whole. Everyone brings something to the table, we look at our problems, work our solutions, and determine how to reach our goals. The 2020-2021 budget will already be set by the time I would take office, so expect the first strategic planning meetings to take place in late fall.
David Hoffman: That is also hard to do when you have natural disasters to deal with each year. Again, you have to work with the council; to say the mayor can do all that with out council, it can’t be done. I will try and provide all needed services and try and keep the budget; but, I will not promise something that can’t be done.
8. What is your goal for the City?
Steven Bohrer: I want neighbors to stay connected so that we stay safe and are happy to be part of this great community. I want to promote development and beautification of our properties so they may be used for business and residential sites. I want to provide the brightest future possible for our children.
Sandy Hunt: I want New Martinsville to be the place where people want to live, work, and play. I want us to have pride again in our community. We start by cleaning it up and fixing it up. Our infrastructure needs both repair and maintenance and that must be a high priority. We work in collaboration with all those who share our common goal to revitalize New Martinsville and help her grow. When we start seeing even more new businesses and when we increase our number of citizens then we will know we are on the right path. And we will course correct as needed to reach our goals.
David Hoffman: The goal of every Mayor should be for the city to grow and prosper . We all hope to have a nice clean and safe place to live.
9. What is your position on homeless people in the community and how can the city help with the problem?
Steven Bohrer: This is not an easily solved issue, nor is it a new problem. I do feel that those who are homeless must be assisted with kindness, empathy, and compassion. Many who are homeless suffer from addiction(s) and/ or are not mentally stable. Maybe they are experiencing financial hardship and are sleeping on a friend’s or family member’s couch. We can create partnerships with our strong “Faith Community” and qualified Federal, State, and County resources. With my assistance the City started Operation Be Kind. Over 500 bags of food have been distributed to those in need. We are hoping to expand that with additional services.
Sandy Hunt: I am very familiar with the homeless situation and it was an organization that I chair that created the Feed the Need program here in New Martinsville. Using community donations and volunteers, we began preparing lunches six days a week for the hungry and the homeless. When the polar vortex was going to hit last winter, I spearheaded the effort to open a warming shelter downtown at the museum. The health department came and inspected to make sure we had adequate space and the OEMS provided cots for our use. Again, volunteers stepped up to man the shelter around the clock to ensure that there were no drugs or illicit activity going on at the shelter. Other volunteers brought hot food. The beginning of the polar vortex coincided with the annual homeless count so we were able to identify a good portion of the homeless in our community. The health department also came and gave Hep A shots free to anyone there who wanted inoculated. That count allowed additional resources to flow into our community and the homeless situation has improved since our involvement. Dealing with the homeless situation will also require dealing with the addiction crisis. And this will require working with those who are already on the front lines of this fight. We need a homeless shelter; we need a half-way house for those coming out of drug court; and we need a veteran’s shelter. There are organizations working in all those arenas and we can be more supportive of their efforts and again, by identifying the properties that are vacant or underutilized we can better address these situations. The issue comes back to the “not in my neighborhood” mentality. We must be willing to address the security and livability concerns of those neighborhoods where such shelters might be located. And those who are on the front lines will be the best ones to advise us as to what their needs might be and how we can best help.
David Hoffman: Homeless people are people in need. We can help them some, but if they don’t help themselves, it is hard to do anymore for them. With that being said, there is a difference in homeless and people that prefer to take drugs and keep homeless and do drugs. We will try and help those that can be helped and deal with those that need help to get off drugs, and deal with those that don’t try to help themselves.
10. New Martinsville has various events throughout the year. Do you encourage more or would you like less activity downtown?
Steven Bohrer: I encourage any “lawful” activity that attracts people to our city. I have volunteered for numerous years on the RegattaFest Committee. We have all seen the transformation of the beautiful Ohio River over the past decades and take great pride in showing off our historical downtown. I thoroughly enjoy seeing visitors appreciate what we have to offer and will continue to support and work to expand our tourism industry.
Sandy Hunt: Oh, definitely more. I was one of the organizers of the Back Home Festival which has had a very positive economic impact in New Martinsville. We have had visitors from 26 states and 3 countries come to enjoy Back Home. It has also been voted the best festival in the northern panhandle 2 years in a row by WV Living magazine. And this is only year 4 for the festival. Our organization also took over the Chili Fest two years ago, and has worked to bring name acts to the Lincoln Theater like the Ultimate Elvis Tribute and Beatlemania. But it doesn’t have to be large, organized events. Most downtowns that are currently undergoing revitalization, like what the CVB has been bringing to downtown New Martinsville, are largely arts and culture driven. By bringing people to your downtown area, businesses start to populate. Because businesses go where people like to gather. That is the new model. I would love to see more organic activity downtown local farmer’s selling goods, musicians playing out in the open air, maybe an artist at an easel painting a river scene. People milling about on the sidewalk, visiting the museum and the specialty stores. And more specialty stores. Taking in a show at the theater in the evening or a performance at the Doolin Center. And not just for downtown. All over town, wherever the opportunity presents itself.
David Hoffman: The people of New Martinsville should have events for all ages. If we could have more, that would be great for all of New Martinsville and surrounding area, as long as we have budget, grants, or donations to have them.