Eight candidates are seeking election to Russell’s six member city council. They include all six incumbents, David M. “Dave” Kersey, Roy Parsons, Esther “Sissy” Shaffer, Ron Simpson, Don Fraley and Donna Baldridge. Michael Whitt and Michael F. Schirtzinger are also seeking election.
Whitt, 69, is running for the second time in two years. After retiring from a long career with CSX, Whitt works in security at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital. He said he has the time and wants to “give back” to the city where he raised his family.
Whitt, a member of the city’s Blighted Property Committee, believes Russell is well-run and simply wants to “be a part of it, to make some decisions to bring new ideas in.”
He said the city’s need of a new water plant, as well as changes in traffic patterns when the new Ironton-Russell Bridge opens and the reconstruction of the U.S. 23 interchange in town, are the biggest issues facing the city.
Schirtzinger, 34, is a Russell volunteer firefighter and a yardmaster for CSX. A transplant from the Columbus, Ohio, area, he has years of experience in city government, including stints in law enforcement and as a member of the City of Gahanna’s Board of Zoning and Building Appeals.
“I just have a real desire to help the city any way I can,” he said.
One of his five goals if elected, he said, is to improve communication by improving the city’s web page and integrating social media.
Simpson, 59, is the newest member of the council, having been elected in a special election last year. He is seeking his first full term on the council. The insurance agent for Bob Meenach State Farm is a lifelong resident of Russell.
He sees the main responsibility of the post as “taking care of your neighbors and watching (taxpayers’) money like we watch our budgets at home.”
The downtown, he said, is “in a transition stage.” He’d also like to see the council help lure “a different type of restaurant to Russell.”
Baldridge is seeking a second full term on the council. A small business owner and the assistant manager of Toys-R-Us, Baldridge said she has done “a lot of learning” during her first term.
“I have a vision to make Russell a place that our future generations want to come back and live at,” she said. Improving the city’s infrastructure, including upgrades to water, sewer and streets, as well as extras such as wireless Internet access and better parks, will help attract economic development, she believes.
Parsons, a retired Russell police officer who is a security guard at OLBH, is seeking his third term on the council. Parsons said he is proud he’s been part of an administration that has kept taxes low while improving the city’s sidewalks, expanding the sewer system and supporting the senior center project.
He said he’d like to see more businesses in downtown and believes the restructuring of the bridge and U.S. 23 interchange can present opportunities. “I do what is right with my heart and I don’t take no sides with anyone,” he said. “I’m for what is best for the taxpayers and voters.”
Shaffer is the longest-serving member of the council, dating to the 1980s. Shaffer said she is seeking re-election “just to see that we do have a balanced budget and that our workers have good, safe equipment.” She said residents have learned over the years they can come to her with issues and she’ll see they are addressed.
Completing projects at the senior center, sidewalks, an emergency notification system and upgrades at the water plant are her top priorities.
Fraley, a network director for Medicare provider JenCare, has served three nonconsecutive terms as a city councilman in addition to serving as mayor of Russell for five years. His second term as mayor was cut short when he was appointed to the Greenup County Fiscal Court upon the death of Sen. Nelson Allen, from 2005 to 2008. He was elected to the Russell council in 2010.
Fraley said he is running for re-election to ensure Russell “remains fiscally responsible” and never returns to the financial instability it faced in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“We want to provide good service to the citizens at a reasonable cost without being lavish with their money,” he said. “We just need to really take care of our citizens and continue to supply them with the goods and services that we have historically provided them.”
Kersey, another longtime councilman, said he is seeking re-election “to continue to make Russell a place where people want to live. Period.”
Kersey, who is retired and owns Dave’s Bakery in Flatwoods, said he wants “to continue to keep Russell on a balanced budget. We’ve balanced that budget for several years, and at the same time there have been no tax increases. There is no reason we cannot continue to do that.
“I would just like to see us continue to work with the employees and make them feel like they are part of the city’s foundation, because they are the foundation.”
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2653.