More than a dozen res­i­dents and city offi­cials gathered in Handmade Sand­wiches and Bev­erages on Thursday to meet the can­di­dates running for posi­tions in city government.

Those running for mayor and city council shared what they hope to accom­plish for the City of Hillsdale if elected Nov. 7. The re-occurring theme of Thursday’s dis­cussion was eco­nomic devel­opment — how to expand and improve on what the city has already achieved.

“Great strides are being made within the city,” said Mayor Scott Ses­sions, who is running for re-election. “I want to see the city keep on pros­pering. We need to keep on building on the direction we’re going.”

Ses­sions said he wants to focus on regen­er­ating Hillsdale, and he sees taking advantage of federal grants as one way to do this.

“Take all the oppor­tu­nities you can get, and use them,” Ses­sions said. “And right now that means getting all the grants you can.”

His opponent, Coun­cilman Adam Stockford, said eco­nomic devel­opment is a top pri­ority of his, as well, in addition to public safety.

Stockford said to expand eco­nomic devel­opment, the city must focus on the rela­tionship between the work­force and busi­nesses. Hillsdale lacks an able work­force, and there aren’t enough busi­nesses to employ a sub­stantial one, he said. Expanding edu­ca­tional oppor­tu­nities is a solution to this problem, Stockford said.

The drug “epi­demic” is another serious threat to Hillsdale, Stockford said. He said as mayor, he would work with the police and private insti­tu­tions, like the hos­pital, to crack down on drug usage. 

“I think we have all the pieces to the puzzle,” Stockford said. “We just need someone to put them together.”

Ray Briner, who is running for Ward 4’s city council seat, which is cur­rently held by Patrick Flannery, said the city gov­ernment needs to figure out how to attract busi­nesses to Hillsdale. He rec­om­mended improving the city’s infra­structure to do so.

“We all need to step up and play a part in this,” Briner said. “We can all help figure out how to attract busi­nesses to Hillsdale.”

His opponent, Penny Swan, said the best way to attract busi­nesses is to reduce gov­ernment reg­u­la­tions, which she said hamper eco­nomic devel­opment. Swan said she also wants to see the city reduce its spending.

“We need to think before we make more rules and spend more money,” she said. “We need to watch the bottom line a little more.”

Swan said she also wants to establish a liaison between the com­munity and the college to address the “existing rift.”

“I want to bring a better feeling for both the cit­izens and the college,” Swan said. “Right now it seems like we are on a merry-go-round, and we need to deal with some of these issues directly.”

As the election nears, the can­di­dates said they hope to hold more events like Thursday’s so that cit­izens can get to know them and the per­tinent issues they plan to tackle.

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Kaylee McGhee is a senior at Hillsdale College, majoring in Politics with a minor in Journalism. This is her fourth year writing for the Collegian and she serves as the paper's Opinions Editor. Kaylee worked in Washington D.C. last year and wrote for the Weekly Standard. Her work has also appeared in the Detroit News and the Orange County Register. Follow her on Twitter: @KayleeDMcGhee email: [email protected]