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Duncan, Light and Wallace share their thoughts on how to correct 3 biggest issues facing Norwalk

By Norwalk Reflector staff • Apr 21, 2019 at 8:49 AM

Norwalk Mayor Rob Duncan will square off against challenger David Wallace in the May 7 Republican primary.

That winner will take on Democrat Dave Light in the November election.

All three were given four questions by the Norwalk Reflector. Here are their responses:

 

1. What is the main job of a city mayor?

DUNCAN: As mayor I serve as CEO of the city which entails everything from budgets to employees. Representing the residents of the city by providing vision and direction are a major part of the mayor’s responsibilities as well as the practical aspect of working with businesses, city council and organizations in the city to provide a better quality of life for all.

LIGHT: Under Norwalk city charter section 1.05, Norwalk operates as a “strong mayor-council plan.”

The mayor has both executive and legislative powers. Under executive powers, the mayor is the chief executive officer of the city who supervises the administration of all affairs of the city, including all departments and divisions. While this section lists 12 specific “powers and duties,” I feel “keeping council fully advised as to the financial condition and future needs of the city” and to “prepare, maintain and update a long-term capital improvement program and annually submit the same for review by council” are two of the more important duties.

The mayor should be a leader who looks out for the safety and best interest of all citizens of Norwalk. He or she should constantly strive to represent Norwalk in the best light possible. He or she should be a good listener, have complete transparency and not let political agendas interfere with doing what is best for the city. Party politics should not interfere at the local level.

WALLACE: I think there are several objectives that the mayor of Norwalk is responsible for. First, is to manage the city of Norwalk in a way that improves the quality of life for all of its citizens. Second, is to help support and expand existing businesses including creating an appealing environment for new businesses to locate here. Third, doing this all in a fiscally responsible way.

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2. What are the three biggest issues facing Norwalk?

DUNCAN: • Stability in our business community which provides quality jobs and stabilizes our tax base

• The drug issue is extremely important

• An ever-aging infrastructure

LIGHT: 1) Economic development: Lack of businesses to provide good paying jobs while increasing our tax base and raising the quality of life for citizens. Retaining current businesses and encouraging expansion. Our young people should not have to move away to find good jobs.

2) Our increasing drug problem: This is devastating families, resources, employers and jeopardizing the safety the community overall.

3) Infrastructure: Repairing streets, aging buildings and mandated EPA projects while being mindful of our city revenues and expenses ratio.

WALLACE: 1. War on drugs

2. Economic development

3. Clean up blighted properties in our city

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3. How do you propose to correct those three issues?

DUNCAN: • Serving our business by working with NEDC, HCDC and the chamber on business retention, attraction and expansion as well as working toward workforce opportunities and talent attraction. Striving daily to ensure an atmosphere in which businesses can succeed. This includes infrastructure, doing all we can to keep the cost of doing business affordable as well as providing a quality of life that causes employees to want to live work and play here.

• We continue to be proactive with education from Safety Town, D.A.R.E., Norwalk Alive and public education by working in tandem with the mental health board and other organizations in the community. I personally serve on the MHAS (Mental Health and Addiction Services Board) to give direction and assistance to solutions for our community. We have been supportive of bringing peer support into the community as well as working to bring long and short-term recovery solutions. We are also adding a 25th police officer to help our force to deal with the ever increasing load and to discourage drug dealers from being active in the Norwalk area.

• As a team, my administration has worked hard and has been successful at obtaining a number of grants to help with our infrastructure. We have created the cities first long-term plan to make sure our facilities and infrastructure are well maintained and continue to find ways to fund and meet mandates of the EPA. We have been having strategic planning meetings and visioning for our future needs which may include some consolidation of facilities. I do believe the long overdue fire station was a great step forward in our master plan.

LIGHT: 1) Economic development: Work closely with current business leaders, city and county economic development corporations/councils, chamber of commerce and local, state and federal officials to aggressively pursue new businesses for our city and provide incentives to retain and encourage growth for our current businesses. I will personally reach out to businesses looking to relocate to our area. Norwalk is full of great business minds that I will reach out to and listen to their ideas. We have not embraced and marketed our current businesses that attract thousands of people to our city each year. We have missed other opportunities for both large and small businesses that would have improved our city. We need to be more forward thinking.

2) Our drug problem: Our drug problem is real and we’re all in this together. As chief of police for eight years, I was required to publish an annual report. The last several years I noted that three things were needed to combat our drug problem: We need to do a better job educating our young people about the devastating consequences of drug use, we need aggressive enforcement for those selling this poison in our community and we need to provide the resources to get the help for those already addicted. Addiction is real. I see it on a day-to-day basis in my job as a pre-trial services officer and as a 19-year board member of Huron County Mental Health and Addiction Services. In recent months we have made great strides to improve our services for mental health and addiction. Local businesses, agencies and employers are coming together to tackle this problem. Working together, we can beat this.

3) Infrastructure: We need to improve and maintain our streets, buildings and services while planning for the EPA mandates for our water supply. The U.S. route 250 corridor, routes 18 and 20 and the nearby access to the Ohio Turnpike and route 2 make Norwalk an attractive place for businesses looking to relocate. We need to take advantage of grants available to assist with these improvements and use local companies to help make these improvements. Big businesses are leaving the big cities and moving our way. Look at the growth in Huron and Sandusky. We need to be prepared to stay ahead of the game.

WALLACE: 1. The war on drugs: As mayor, my role would be to collaborate and work directly with local law enforcement agencies, treatment centers, churches, schools and businesses to constantly improve education, prevention and treatment for those suffering from addiction.

I also want to send a loud and clear message: If you are selling drugs in our city you will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I will take an aggressive position on this and stand alongside our Norwalk Police Department, Huron County sheriff’s department and other law enforcement agencies to rid our city of drug dealers.

2. Economic development: Being a small business owner in Norwalk, I have first-hand experience knowing the challenges that face our business community. I will use this experience to work with Norwalk Economic Development Corp., Huron County Chamber of Commerce and the Huron County Economic Development Corp. to help support and expand existing businesses and create an appealing environment for new businesses.

Here are several ideas to help economic development in Norwalk.

Implement a shop Norwalk first policy. The city of Norwalk should attempt to make all purchases from local businesses when pricing is competitive. This policy will at least give our local businesses a chance to compete with outside competitors. Our businesses support Norwalk, we should support our local businesses.

Create a brochure that highlights and promotes Norwalk. I work as a Realtor and had a client moving in to Norwalk for work. I stopped at city hall to get information on our city to share with my client, only to find that there is nothing to give to people that highlights or promotes our city. I would collaborate with the Huron County Chamber of Commerce, the visitor’s bureau, and NEDC to develop this brochure. We all can use this brochure to give to people looking to make Norwalk their new home or to prospective businesses looking for a new place to start their business.

Meet with our local businesses and ask them how can the city of Norwalk help them.

Communication and building trust are critical in establishing a good working relationship between our local businesses and the city of Norwalk.

3. Clean-up bighted properties in Norwalk

We can improve the image of our city by identifying, monitoring, and enforcing our zoning regulations on properties before they get out of control. Aggressively research and apply for grants to help fund the necessary clean-up of these properties.

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What makes you qualified to be mayor?

DUNCAN: My proven track record over the past seven years. We’ve been able to maintain an average cash carry over of $2.1 million over the past seven years, build the first new fire station in 106 years without borrowing or owing monies, (I must pause and give credit to the great citizens of our community who made this possible with their incredible donations) and identified opportunities to help stabilize our revenue.

I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge about city operations and the needs of city departments and have been able to augment this by taking several courses on organizational leadership. The proven successes of the first new fire station in 106 years as well as being a part of the team that brought Borgers to Norwalk have given me a wealth of knowledge and experience and helped me to better understand the business community.

Lastly, I do believe my political and community contacts throughout the state have been beneficial to the city when we’ve needed assistance with problems that have arisen.

LIGHT: I was born here in Norwalk and have spent my entire life here. I love this city and I care deeply about the direction we are headed. I started working the first day of school of my senior year at Norwalk Furniture and stayed there for ten years. I worked for and with many wonderful people who exemplify the culture of our great city. I was a small business co-owner for six years. I left Norwalk Furniture to accept a position at the Norwalk Police Department where I remained for 34 years. The last eight years I was chief of police where I managed 30 full-time employees, numerous part-time employees and the largest budget in the city. I worked closely with city department heads, local, state and federal officials, school officials and numerous law enforcement agencies at all levels. I was fortunate to have advanced training by the some of the best educational institutions in the country in areas such as leadership, risk management, communication skills, media relations, contract negotiations, policy and grant writing.

Most importantly, I saw firsthand, on a day-to-day basis, the issues facing the citizens of our community. I worked under six different mayors. I was the “acting mayor” for Mayor Sue Lesch and Mayor Rob Duncan. I will listen to the needs of our citizens, make decisions based on what’s best for the city and accept responsibility for those decisions. Let’s move Norwalk forward.

WALLACE: Citizens of Norwalk, on Tuesday May 7, I am asking for your vote because of my experience being a business owner, executive director, serving as a Norwalk city councilman and being a public servant for over 25 years has prepared me to lead our city into the future. I will bring fresh, new ideas to the office of mayor, an example of this is my five-point plan which consists of:

• Implementing a “Shop Norwalk first policy”

• Instill a culture of good customer service

• Economic development

• Clean up blighted properties in our city

• The war on drugs

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