The voting won’t come until November, but Mount Airy Mayor Deborah Cochran and two city commissioners already have decided they will seek re-election.
Both Jon Cawley and Steve Yokeley did not hesitate last week when asked about their plans to try to retain their commissioner seats in the 2013 municipal election. And after initially saying she was undecided about running again for mayor, Cochran announced at the end of the week that her hat will be in the ring as well.
“The board of commissioners, business owners, individuals and my employer at (radio station) WSYD encourage me to run again,” stated the mayor, who earlier had pointed to the demands of the office as a factor in her being undecided.
“Although the mayoral duties are much more than pounding gavels, running meetings, cutting ribbons, riding in parades and granting interviews, I have made the decision to seek another term,” Cochran added.
“The mayor’s job is considered part-time, but carries a full-time demand. The past three years have almost been a blur.”
Along with duties directly tied to city government operations, Cochran cited many hours devoted to appearing on television and radio programs and documentaries which are mostly due to outside interest in the Mayberry element of Mount Airy.
While Cochran believes she has accomplished many of the campaign goals she advanced when initially being elected as a commissioner in 2007, and later becoming mayor in 2009, Cawley and Yokeley say there’s much they still want to do as councilmen.
In opting to seek his second full four-year term as a commissioner from the city’s North Ward, Cawley has his sights set on economic development.
“I made that decision (to run again) at the end of last year. And while I don’t think that the government can bring jobs, unless they’re government jobs, I do think that we’re trying to do some things that are good for the business climate,” Cawley said of city officials collectively.
An upcoming development in that regard, an announcement expected next month by a new company that will hire 140 people, also will reflect another objective of Cawley’s. “I want to sell some water, that’s been one of my goals,” he said of ongoing efforts by Mount Airy to market its H2O surplus.
The incoming industry will use several million gallons per month, Cawley said. “That’s the kind of companies we’re trying to recruit.”
Yokeley, meanwhile, wants to see continued progress on enforcement of minimum housing regulations, which picked up momentum last year in conjunction with the city privatizing its planning functions including codes enforcement.
“I think we still have a lot of work left to do on minimum housing,” said the South Ward commissioner, who also mentioned an interest in cutting municipal expenses if elected to a second term.
“I’d like to see us work on trying to do some cost-saving analysis.” Energy savings is one such area, Yokeley said, including streetlights. “I want to see us get some information on that.”
Yokeley additionally wants the municipality to consider revising a policy that prevents sewer service being extended to areas outside the city limits.
A staunch advocate of Mount Airy’s curbside-recycling program, Yokeley further wants to explore ways to increase the participation rate and possibly expand the program to the business community.
Another goal of Yokeley’s is to continue providing quality services to taxpayers, which is coming from a man who said he enjoys helping people and serving the city. “And I’ve learned a lot and still have a lot to learn, but I have enjoyed it,” he said.
Cochran said that since she took office, Mount Airy has reduced property taxation by 7 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. And she believes progress has occurred concerning another of her goals, economic development, including the upcoming announcement by the new industry.
She also mentioned gains made in selling city water to outside areas such as Dobson and Carroll County, Va., and the fact Mount Airy is on solid financial footing despite a poor economy and job losses.
City government is run by “a strong team,” she added. “Despite the challenges, we have not wavered in doing what is best for Mount Airy.”
While Cochran had to overcome three other candidates to become mayor in 2009, both Cawley and Yokeley each ran unopposed in the municipal election that year. Yokeley was a newcomer to the council, while Cawley had been appointed in 2008 to fill the unexpired term of a retiring commissioner, Tom Bagnal.
One key difference in the 2013 city election, which is non-partisan, will involve the absence of a primary, which had been required when three or more candidates filed for a particular office.
However, officials decided last winter to do away with the primary season due to the high cost of those preliminary elections and their traditionally low turnouts.
Now all candidates who file will be on the ballot for the general election, although the same effect could be achieved in narrowing a large field of office-seekers. If the winner fails to gain at least 50 percent of the vote, the second-place finisher will have the option of calling for a runoff.
Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or firstname.lastname@example.org.