Municipal election candidates speak on community issues at forum

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People’s Party candidates: mayoral candidate Mark Carver (left), and councilmember candidates Thomas Shannon, Donald “Joe” Taylor and Martha Hilton
Citizen’s Party candidates: mayoral candidate Beverly White (left), and councilmember candidates Arron Seams, Sarah Elkins, and Edward Johns

Candidates running in the Lewisburg Municipal Election this year had the chance to speak to the community at a forum hosted by the Greenbrier County Republican Club on Thursday, Apr. 25, at the Greenbrier County Visitor’s Center.

Those running with both the Citizen’s Party and the People’s Party spoke at the gathering.

On the Citizen’s Party ticket is mayoral candidate Beverly White; Edward Johns and Sarah Elkins both running for open four-year terms on city council; and incumbent Arron Seams running for a two-year term. With the Lewisburg People’s Party is mayoral candidate Mark Carver; Tom Shannon and  Martha Hilton running for four-year council terms; and incumbent Joe Taylor running for a two-year term.

As the forum opened, each candidate was given several minutes to provide an overview of themselves and why they are running for office. Each contestant spoke about their personal histories with Lewisburg, their backgrounds of volunteerism and employment, and why they chose to reside in the Greenbrier Valley.

“I was born in Lewisburg, and I stayed here,” said White. “I raised my children here. I have a son, a daughter, and three grandchildren. I have served on the Lewisburg City Council since 2003. Lewisburg means a lot to me, I’ve watched it grow since I was a child. I am proud of the job that our city council has done, and I look forward to us continuing to grow, not only downtown, but on the outskirts as well.”

Carver followed with some of his own history, saying he has lived here his entire life, and noted his wife and two children. “I was on city council from 2001 to 2003, I was director of public works for 14 years, and with that I gained a lot of knowledge about the inner workings of the city from the infrastructure side and what we need to make it even better. I served on the fire department for 14 years, I was an assistant fire chief for eight years, president of the Volunteer Corporation, and vice president on the board for the West Virginia State Fire Convention that was hosted here in 1995.” He said he also hopes to see Lewisburg grow “outward.” He added that, “we need to actually generate more taxes so that we get more money into the system.”

When asked specifically about raising taxes or city annexation, Carver responded, “The last thing we need to do is raise taxes on residents and businesses,” and emphasized, “We need to grow, and that probably will involve annexation at some point since we can’t grow out. The last thing we need is urban sprawl. We need to be organized.”

The candidates were pressed for insight on how they will respond to the community’s needs and challenges as a whole. White opened with how she would make the upgrading of the Fire Station Number 1, the Lewisburg station, a priority. Carver agreed, and said that the building has been is disrepair for a number of years.

Overall, Citizen’s Party candidates spoke about the bonuses of city growth, expressed concern with the departure of ABB and lack of initiative to keep youth and college graduates in the area, and acknowledged the water treatment plant is in need of upgrades. Seams stated, “In building a new water plant, it would reduce the number of hours it has to run from 22 hours a day to eight hours a day. This would make it easier for us to go in and fix issues in the water system without having to take the plant offline and immediately have to play catch-up to get our reserve tanks back up. I’m glad we’re looking into that.” He also added that more recreational activities would benefit the city, and said the public works department does “an excellent job” of maintaining the parks and other city areas.

The People’s Party responded with concern as well over lack of jobs in the area, and said a long-term trend in smaller southern West Virginia communities is that they are shrinking, with Shannon noting, “Revenue’s are flat, expenses are going up.” An emphasis on encouraging tourism in the area and focusing on infrastructure to combat these issues was a main focus. Hilton said, “Folks are coming here because they love the lifestyle and the people that they meet, everyone is so friendly here.” She added, “Our tourism is a really big part of this, but we also need structure on the bottom line.”