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Four Republicans seek council seats

Next Urbana leaders face aging infrastructure problems.

Four Republicans are seeking two at-large seats on Urbana’s city council, making it the only contested candidate race in Champaign or Clark counties this spring.

The race pits two incumbents against two newcomers, and it will decide who will help create legislation and serve as a representative for city residents on the eight-member council. Council members serve four-year terms.

Republicans in the May 7 primary race include incumbents Robert Thorpe and Doug Hoffman and challengers Tony Pena and Richard McCain. The two candidates with the most votes will move forward to the fall general election. Richard C. Kerns, a Democrat, is unopposed on his party’s ticket and will also move forward to the fall election.

Thorpe, who has served on the council for more than a decade, said his experience will help him serve as an effective council member. He said the city faces challenges in maintaining and upgrading infrastructure, and he said he will be able to work effectively with the city’s administration to help several projects move forward.

“I’ve been there long enough to get the experience,” Thorpe said. “I just think I’m the best candidate.”

Thorpe moved to Urbana in the early 1970s and initially ran for city council after a friend recommended he seek a seat because of his business experience.

“The administration is doing a fine job,” Thorpe said. “All we’ve got to do is support them.”

Hoffman, also an incumbent, said he believes his experience will help him as well. He was appointed to his seat on the council in February last year and said there is a learning curve to understanding the issues facing the city. Hoffman described the council’s responsibilities as serving as a watchdog for city spending and serving as a bridge between city residents and city administrators.

“Most people care but don’t have the time to devote to the nitty gritty of city administration,” Hoffman said.

One of the city’s biggest challenges in the next few years, he said, will be to upgrade and maintain more than 70 miles of water and sewer lines in the city, while making sure the costs remain manageable for residents.

“We’ve got a lot of aging infrastructure, and while the city is maintaining and fixing it, it’s become costly,” Hoffman said.

McCain said his experience working for the city for 40 years before retiring will give him insight into the issues he will face as a council member. McCain previously ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2007, but said his experience dealing with budgets and his knowledge of the city would make him a good fit for the council.

McCain said working with city administrators and other council members to maintain and upgrade the city’s infrastructure will be a significant challenge he’d like to work on if elected.

Pena, a youth and children’s pastor at the River of Life Christian Center in Urbana, is running for office for the first time. Pena said his primary responsibilities as a council member will be to work with other council members to appropriate funds for the city to and gather community input for issues that affect residents.

Along with an aging infrastructure, Pena said council members should work to make sure there are opportunities for younger residents to find work and stay in Urbana.

“Employment for our community is essential,” Pena said. “Urbana has a lot of young talent that we should try to keep working within our community.”

The two Republican winners in May will move forward to face Kerns in the fall election.

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