CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Public safety, downtown revitalization and planning for growth rank among top priorities for candidates seeking an open at-large seat on the Cleveland City Council.
Contenders for the council's At-Large 2 seat include Ken Webb, former president and CEO of Cleveland Utilities, and business owners Larry D'Agata, David Durkin and Scott McGowan.
Attorney Richard Banks, who currently holds the seat, announced six months ago he would not seek re-election. He has served on the council since 2003.
The candidates shared their visions for moving the city forward in recent interviews.
"I think it will take an overall long-term approach to get us where we are headed," Webb said, citing the need for budgetary discipline to meet the public safety, educational and infrastructural needs of a growing city.
He said he supports the rebirth of Cleveland's downtown and wants to remove obstacles to revitalizing the city's old industrial district and surrounding communities.
Webb, who retired from Cleveland Utilities in 2016, said he has "the time and willingness to serve," putting 40 years of accounting and management experience to work for all the city's residents.
Durkin calls for the council to play a stronger facilitating role, including offering tax abatements, in repurposing Cleveland's unused industrial and commercial properties.
"The council needs to be more vocal and put ideas on the table," Durkin said. "Lots of buildings need to be redeveloped, but the city is taking a wait and see approach."
He said he gained insights into the challenge when he and his wife renovated a downtown property for their retail and event planning business.
He also called for the city to entice better-paying jobs to Cleveland to bridge the gap between current wages and home costs.
McGowan, who owns a family restaurant business, described his election bid as an obligation to "correctly and wisely" spend city revenues, boosted by last year's property tax increase.
Public safety, traffic flow and other infrastructural needs rank as key issues, he said.
"We are growing at a rapid pace," McGowan said. "If the infrastructure is not in place, we've dropped the ball. We have to make it a safe environment to live."
He calls for the city to invest in its school system so Cleveland students can take their place in an increasingly technological workforce.
D'Agata, whose 25-year-old Can-It Recycling business has been at odds with the city for at least two years over improper zoning, described his election bid as means to end "good old boy politics" on the council.
"If you can't beat them, join them," he said. "Because of their 'good old boy' attitude, I don't think the people have been served well."
His goal is to make sure the council's ethics are "second to none," D'Agata said.
The city will close his South Lee Highway recycling business "over my dead body," he said.
Elections for Cleveland offices will be held on Aug. 2, as part of Bradley County's general election. Early voting begins on July 13.
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