Culver Candidate Night

Candidate Night 2015 (reduced)

Joel Samuelson addressing the “crowd” Thursday Evening

I attended the candidate’s night last night at the Culver Depot.  Thank you to Kathy Clark, Jeff Kenney and Bill Githens for helping arrange it.

First off, let me repeat my mantra regarding these things:  These are volunteers putting themselves out there so I cut them a lot of slack.  That mainly applies to the Council candidates since the clerk’s position is a paid position, but even that is a public position where keeping your job is as much a popularity contest as it is an assessment of your skill.

The event was set up as a “get to know the candidates” forum as opposed to a debate.  It was very easy to see that some were comfortable with public speaking while others weren’t.  Weeding through that, it was a matter of determining what they were saying as opposed to how they said it.  While I did form some opinions, suffice to say that I’m going to keep those to myself for now.  I was there because even though I can’t vote for them, their decisions will affect my business and property.

If I had to pick up the major themes that came out last night, the three that I thought came through the most strongly were Affordable Housing, Community and Fiscal Responsibility.  I’ve written a lot on my feelings about the need for affordable housing in Culver and how that can bolster our community.  Those discussions were the most pertinent to me.  All of the candidates made some statement regarding the importance of affordable housing and community even before it was presented to them as the main question coming from the audience.  While I feel the current council lost their sense of urgency on these issues this past month, I do agree that they have made positive strides and I have hopes that whatever the new mix is, the Council continues to move things forward next year.

Beyond the housing issue, community was addressed through various advocacy efforts and questions regarding how we can fill the vacant store fronts.  An item of merit was the call for surveys and interviews.  I appreciated the acknowledgment that just shooting at these issues in the dark was not the way to go.  There was also a call for working to bring young families back into the community.  I agree that this would not only be a boon to our local schools, but would be a positive economic initiative as well.  (And that once again circled back to affordable housing.)

I think the third theme, fiscal responsibility, was the issue with which all the candidates struggled most.  While it is a difficult question for candidates seeking a first term, I was disappointed that they hadn’t done more preparation on this issue.  It is important and all of the financial records are public records and accessible.  That said, I can’t honestly say the incumbents answered the questions better.  The question that was posed to them was somewhat nebulous, but I felt it might have been handled better.

In closing, I can personally say I recognized all but one candidate as active in the community, involved in various volunteer positions and generally working to make Culver a better place.  I commend them for taking the chance at leadership and trying to move Culver forward.  In almost all cases, I felt like their hearts were in the right place and their reason for running was to make Culver a better place.  As someone who attends the majority of their public meetings, I know it’s generally a thankless job.  I commend them for putting themselves out there.  To all of them I say, “Good Luck!”  But I honestly don’t know which outcome would signify that they were lucky!

Culver candidates in this year’s election include (top row, from left), Robert Cooper (town council), Karen Heim (clerk-treasurer), Ginny Munroe (council), Jean Rakich (council), Joel Samuelson (council), Tammy Shaffer (council), and Gil Standley (clerk-treasurer).

Candidate Picture Source:  The Pilot News

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