When voters in Catlettsburg go to the polls Nov. 4 to choose a mayor to complete the final two years of the term begun by Donald Wellman, they should choose James Allen Lambert, who has been serving as the city’s chief executive since Wellman abruptly resigned in January. Lambert, who was first elected to Catlettsburg City Council in 1992 as part of a slate of reform candidates, clearly is the best of four candidates for mayor.

Lambert, 61, a welder for CSX Transportation, admits that it has not been easy balancing his mayoral duties with his full-time job, but he soon will be eligible for retirement from CSX and will be able to devote full-time to being mayor. In fact, he said he had planned to run for mayor in two years after his retirement, but Wellman’s resignation forced him to become mayor earlier than he had planned. However, even as a part-time mayor, Lambert is the best choice.

Lambert offers the people of Catlettsburg years of competent service in city government and a number of progressive ideas that will move the city forward. He wants to involve the city council more in city government by forming committees within the council. Unlike his opponents, Lambert does not support immediately eliminating the city’s $10 vehicle stickers but says he is willing to take a closer look at it in a couple of years. If he does, we suspect he will discover the sticker costs more to effectively enforce than it is worth, but it is wise to be armed with a few facts before rushing to eliminate the stickers.

Lambert is opposed by three other candidates, two of whom have experience in city government. Long-time city clerk Pauline Hunt, who retired to run for mayor, has by far the most experience in city hall, and she supports getting rid of the city stickers and lowering sewer rates. While those are good ideas, we think Lambert can better lead the city into the future.

Billy Cornette, a former city councilman who lost to Wellman in the 2006 mayor’s race, wants to cut city revenue by eliminating the city stickers, while at the same time adding police officers. While we like some of his ideas, we are uncertain whether the city can afford to implement them. It is one thing to make promises; it is quite another thing to be able to fulfill those promises once elected. He hopes to solve some of the city’s revenue needs through annexation, but state law makes annexation extremely difficult to achieve.

Lonnie Ashley, the fourth candidate for mayor, admits that he has not attended recent city council meetings. The least voters should expect from those seeking the city’s highest elected office is that they have prepared themselves by attending city meetings.

Before Lambert joined the council as part of the slate of reform candidates, Catlettsburg was haphazardly run, sometimes without even having an approved budget. Lambert and his fellow council members brought more accountability and professionalism to city government. Lambert offers that same competence as mayor. City voters should give him the opportunity to continue to serve in the post he was appointed to in January.

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