Run down properties can negatively impact a community, particularly in commercial areas. How should the city address blighted or run down properties in commercial districts? For example the former Schmidt building on Main Street.
The city, Medford Area Chamber of Commerce and the Medford Area Development Foundation have made this a top priority in the last couple of years. We have had a number of meetings and walking tours of the downtown area and the Highway 13 commercial buildings that are run down or blighted. These efforts have resulted in a former Medford resident and his partner, not only moving back to our city, but buying some of these properties. They have worked on these types of projects in other cities and we are excited to have a former Medford resident come home and help us improve our city. This is just a start to a solution, but an important one.
How would you address citizen concerns about the growing role of city employees rather than elected officials in the development of city planning and policy making?
I believe that we need the input of both city employees and elected officials to keep the city moving in a positive direction. I meet with our department heads twice a month for their input and ideas. I have contact with many of them on a day-to-day basis. It is important to get their expertise in our planning process even though it is the elected officials who make the final decision.
As for policy making, it is the elected officials’ responsibility to set policy. The mayor can suggest and offer an opinion, but it is ultimately the council who makes the final decision.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the city in the next five years and how would you work to turn this challenge into an opportunity?
When I ask our residents this question, the answer I get most of the time is we need more affordable housing. I think that in the next five years that is going to be one of our biggest challenges.
In the past couple of years, we have had some success in getting our local builders to build affordable apartments. Their success in filling these apartments shows there is a definite need for more. In addition, I have a list of residents who have come to my office asking when there will be more apartments built. We also have been in contact with builders from outside of our area who see a market for their businesses. So, it is a challenge, but also a great opportunity for our city to provide affordable housing for our citizens.
Compared to Taylor County, which has a powerful committee structure, the city of Medford works through the committee of the whole on most matters. What do you feel are the strengths (or weaknesses) of the current committee structure and would you support changing it?
When I was elected mayor, I changed our meeting structure to a Committee of the Whole format. This allows all council members to hear the same information at the same time. It also allows council members to then think about the recommendations from the committee of the whole for a week before they vote at a council meeting. During that week, council members may hear from their constituents or after more research change their mind on what would be best for the city.
I think that those are two important strengths of the committee of the whole format and I would continue to support this structure.
How would you work to “make Medford fun again,” to encourage new community events and to address the process for requesting permits for first-time event organizers?
The Medford Area Chamber of Commerce has always done a great job in promoting community events. This past year in order to promote even more events, the Medford Area Chamber of Commerce has added more “Chamber Ambassadors” to help organize and promote these events.
This has been a great way to get young adults involved. It is always a challenge to get all the permits for an event because many times there are not only city ordinances to follow but state laws. Therefore, to address the permit process for first-time events and organizers, the city is working on a new application form that will hopefully make the process easier.
What should be the city’s role in supporting economic growth in the community?”
As mayor, I am a member of the Medford Area Development Foundation. I believe that the city needs to continue to work closely with the Medford Area Chamber of Commerce and the Medford Area Development Foundation.
The city and county also financially support economic growth in the community. The city also supports economic growth within our industrial parks. We have been able to keep some of our major industries in Medford and bring new ones in because of the Industrial Park land we have available.
We continue to try to bring new industries in, but economic growth can also be accomplished by expanding the industries that already call Medford home.