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.