MABTON - Mabton Mayor David Conradt will face two challengers for his position on the Mabton City Council in the Sept. 20 primary election.
Conradt, who is completing his first four-year term as mayor, will face long-time Mabton City Councilwoman Velva Herrera and political newcomer Jaime Alaniz for the council's leadership chair.
While all three believe the community is a nice place to live, they each have a different approach to improving the small community's quality of life.
Faced with declining revenues since the passage of I-695, Mabton has been forced to reduce the scope of the town's services, Conradt said. Finding new funding sources for the city treasury is a challenge, he said. Conradt said he looks forward to tackling those challenges if re-elected.
While Conradt doesn't see an immediate improvement in the city's finances, he said the pending annexation of more than 60 acres in south Mabton will be a real boon to the town in the coming years.
Conradt, who is a controller for Wyckoff Farms of Grandview, said the city is estimating tax revenues amounting to approximately $100,000 when the land, now owned by Northwest Horticulture, is annexed into the city limits later this year.
Conradt, who served one four-year term as a councilman before being elected mayor, said he wants to continue on as mayor in order to complete a number of projects being undertaken by the council.
For example, he'd like to be on hand when the new city well comes on-line.
"We have worked hard to get the funds for the new well, which once operational will not only replace a failing well, but will help us to be prepared for future economic developments in the community," Conradt said.
The new well, which is estimated to cost $700,000, is being funded by state public works funds and community block grant dollars, he said.
Conradt said of the accomplishments which he is most proud is the completion of recent sewer system upgrades.
"We've spent a lot of money upgrading sewer lines and we still have quite a lot to replace," he added.
He is also proud of the fact that during his time as mayor, the city has been able to add new playground equipment in the community's three parks. Now he is looking forward to seeing the city streets upgraded.
He said a lot of funding for the streets is reliant on the availability of Department of Transportation revenues. The new gas tax is tied to the state transportation budget, which is tied to the city obtaining funds for street preservation, he said.
"If we can get some of those funds, we'll be able to upgrade a number of our streets in our six-year plan," he said.
Conradt said he sees a revival of events in the community as an indication that residents are taking renewed pride in their community.
"I think the increase in new low income housing is helping to drive that revival," he added.
"The new housing in combination with the greenhouse annexation and the town's infrastructure upgrades will help make Mabton a nice city, one I want to continue serving," he added.
Herrera chose to forego her present seat on the Mabton City Council to challenge Conradt for the mayor's seat because she feels she can bring a different attitude to the position.
Concerned that not all of the town's citizens are being heard, Herrera, who has served on the Mabton City Council for the past 10 years, wants to expand the office of mayor to give a voice to those citizens.
Herrera said she has worked to make change happen in the community and wants to see more change occur. "I feel I'm the best person to make that happen," she said.
"I feel the time I've invested a lot in the community, listening to the concerns and problems facing the citizens is time well spent. I've tried to help and I want to continue to help. But I now feel I can do that better in the position of mayor," Herrera said.
"I want to find resolutions to the many issues facing our community," she said.
Herrera feels more needs to be done to involve the young members of the community in city government. For example, she is a sponsor of National Night Out block parties, which she saw as a way to get the community more involved in crime watch programs.
"As mayor I'll be able to expand my leadership capabilities to encourage that kind of citizen involvement," she explained.
Herrera also wants to create a more open door policy for citizens to ask questions of their city council. "I want the city to get better at addressing the needs of the citizens," she said, saying the recent shift in city hall hours is a good step in that direction. Mabton City Hall recently moved to being open four days a week, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admitting that during her time on the Mabton council there has been a lot of change, she feels the town is on the verge of even more change. To help aid that change, Herrera said city government needs the support of the community.
"I want to encourage the citizens to step up and be more a part of the change," she explained.
"I want to urge citizens to be a part of the revitalization of their community, not just for themselves but for future generations," she added.
Herrera, a caregiver for the Sunnyside Group Home, said she wants to see more businesses in downtown Mabton. She also wants to see more efforts made to encourage residents to clean up their neighborhoods and to eliminate some of the eyesores in the community. She said she is especially concerned with unsightly conditions at the entrances to the community.
Herrera said she also wants to see more youth programs, more activities for the community's senior citizens and a larger police force.
Alaniz is facing his first political race, but is not daunted by the prospect of facing two seasoned councilmen.
"I don't see our town providing enough activities for youth. As mayor, I'd work to find ways to bring more programs to the community for our youth and for the rest of the community," Alaniz said.
He said having more programs would also improve citizens' involvement in community activities.
Alaniz, who has lived in Mabton most of his life, said he feels it is the mayor's job to get the citizens more involved in being a part of the community's improvements.
"Most people just don't know what is going on in Mabton until after it happens," Alaniz said.
"I think we have to find a way to let people know what is going on ahead of time," he said.
Alaniz said he also wants to see city council be more receptive to the questions asked by citizens at the council meetings.
"It always seems like the council doesn't want to hear what the citizens have to say," Alaniz said.
"I think the communication in this town has to change in order for this town to grow," Alaniz said.
Saying he is concerned about the high prices of water, sewer and garbage rates, he also questions why there aren't more street lights on the city streets. "We have a lot of streets with no lights at all," Alaniz said.
"I'd also like to see more businesses move to Mabton," he said.
"There has to be a way to get new businesses to come to Mabton and to stay here," he said. "I want to explore that," he said.
Alaniz also said he wants to see more programs for the youth of the community to keep them busy and out of trouble.
But most important to Alaniz is Mabton's need for a city-wide clean-up.
"I want to see Mabton doing something like what Grandview and Sunnyside have as far as beautification programs. I want to reward those citizens who do take pride in their neighborhoods," Alaniz said.
"I think that will encourage others to clean-up their yards and homes," he said.