The race for three Springfield City Commission seats is shaping up as four candidates have announced their intention to run and the city faces significant budget cuts next year.
At least two political newcomers will compete, two incumbents will seek to retain their seeks and one current commissioner will step down.
Former Springfield City School District Superintendent Dave Estrop and co-owner of Littleton and Rue Funeral Home Rob Rue announced they’re running for the office.
Current Springfield City Commissioners Joyce Chilton and Daniel Martin said they intend to run for re-election while City Commissioner Karen Duncan told the Springfield News-Sun she will end her 12-year career.
The deadline to file for petitions for the seats with the Clark County Board of Elections is Feb. 1.
All four candidates said Monday they believe it’s important for city agencies and businesses to work together to move Springfield forward and entice new opportunities such as jobs to the area.
The incoming city commissioners face about $800,000 in budget cuts next year after voters denied an income tax increase in November. Cuts include trimming overtime pay for police office and firefighters, and closing a fire station and a police substation. More cuts may follow next year to balance the budget.
The four candidates said they appreciate the work the current commissioners have done to balance the budget. Everyone but Martin said they would support the city going back to voters soon to ask them again to approve a tax increase. Martin said he hasn’t decided on the tax increase and is reviewing options.
A primary election might be held in May depending on how many residents file for the nonpartisan offices. A final election will be held in November for residents to select three candidates.
Estrop announced his intention to run for the commission Monday evening during an event at Mother Stewart’s Brewery. Estrop served in public education for 45 years in two states and was the Springfield schools leader for six years before retiring. He said he believes his leadership experience will serve him well on the commission and he will work hard to bring people together.
“We absolutely must pull together,” Estrop said. “When we do, boy, we can get a lot done and we have got a lot done.”
Estrop said his time at Springfield City School District was a success. When he started at the district, he said it was nearly financially ruined. But working with city leaders and business owners opened up new opportunities for students.
The Dome was one of the district’s major successes, he said, as the aging old South High School was near destitute before the community got together and renovated it. It’s now home to several after school programs, the John Legend theater and the Global Impact Academy.
He said he will also focus on street repairs if elected and that it’s vital for the commission to balance the budget every year.
Rue was born and raised in Springfield. He said as commissioner he would work to bring businesses in to the city and work hard to improve relations with other agencies and companies in the community.
He understands being a commissioner is hard work, but said he has studied up and believes he’s prepared for the job.
“They are doing what they can at this point,” Rue said of the current commissioners. “We need to continue with strong and accountable leadership. I think there are still difficult decisions to be made.”
It’s time to see Springfield as a city of potential, Rue said, instead of a victim of economic decline. He said his time as a small business owner would help him on the commission.
“I am passionate about the city,” he said. “I want to see Springfield thrive.”
Chilton is vying for a third term on the city commission. She said she believes the city has done a good job bringing jobs back into the city, however there’s more to do.
“My No. 1 priority is to listen to our citizens, to make sure they are safe and to create jobs,” she said.
She said she believes the city has a lot going for it that other cities don’t, including colleges and universities around the area to produce an educated work force. She said her time as a commissioner has been a success, and she wants to continue to work for its residents.
“We have done pretty good, but we can do better,” Chilton said.
Martin said the recent cuts have been tough to make, but the budget has demanded the commission take action. He said he will continue to work hard to make sound decisions.
“It’s one of those things you have to do, like anything else in a household, you can’t spend more money than you take in,” he said.
Martin said he believes the future for Springfield is bright. He said he brings a unique perspective to the commission.
“The commission is always best served when you have people with different perspectives,” he said. “I am a Republican and I bring a conservative prospective to issues before the commission and I think it is important to have that prospective on the commission and be represented.”