NEWBERRY – With the April 9 municipal election drawing near, voters will soon be faced with familiar names on the ballot. In the mayoral race, John Glanzer will face off against current mayor Bill Conrad. Glanzer formerly served in that position for Newberry from 2004 to 2009. Commissioner Jordan Marlow is running unopposed for reelection to his seat, while Commissioner Robert Fillyaw seeks his second term and faces challenger Tim Marden.
Conrad and Glanzer were both asked what sets them apart from each other as candidates.
“I tend to be a little more outspoken than John, but I think we are both well suited to lead this city,” Conrad said, who thinks Glanzer differs very little from his own views.
“The major difference between us is leadership style. We have different backgrounds. He's been mayor for a long time. I've led troops in combat,” Conrad said, who writes a weekly newspaper column, talks almost daily with news media, and maintains a Facebook page, blog and website. Most locals have his cell number.
“I want city government to be open and transparent,” he said.
"The one thing I have learned,” Glanzer said, “in my 14 years as commissioner and four years as mayor is that there will always be differences of opinion, but you must respect the rights of your opponents to have their opinions.
“I strongly believe it is my ability to work with individuals of varying opinions to develop a consensus or a solution to the problem at hand,” he said.
Glanzer said that in addition to increases in rumors since his last term, “The citizens and I have seen a deterioration of the decorum and respect between the Commission and Mayor. I will work to reverse this.”
Commissioner Fillyaw set himself apart from his opponent with a comparison between Marden’s objection to transferring money from the utility fund to the general fund and his own short-term support of it.
“It can be easy to focus on one or two issues, but as a commissioner you have to realize that everything is intertwined, especially when it comes to the budget,” Fillyaw said, who has managed considerable sums of money in business production over his 12 years as a banker.
“The transfer is not ideal, but is the right solution for the temporary economic downturn that we have experienced.
“As the tax base grows, the transfer will go away without having to cut programs or raise taxes on the citizens,” Fillyaw said.
Marden believes his advantage over his opponent lies in the experience he has in business that can be applied immediately in next two years as the City adjusts to how sports tourism development will affect the local economy.
“I take other people's money very seriously,” Marden said.
His small business, Space Walk of Gainesville, cooperates with some of the largest businesses in the area.
“With 15-plus years in the insurance industry, I've worked tirelessly to save people money and encourage sound fiscal decisions,” Marden said, who has also spent over 12 years in the hospitality business.
To the question about the City’s most pressing issue, the mayoral candidates honed in on budget matters.
Conrad is concerned that last year the City “made decisions to fund projects that would fuel the local economy and create jobs with the understanding that our budget would be out of balance for a few years.”
“Staying on this financial path will lead to higher taxes, higher utility bills, more debt and the loss of our reserves.
“We need to do some strategic financial planning, prioritize our needs, and cut out those things we can’t afford,” he said.
Conrad believes that discretionary spending needs to be cut.
Glanzer was also troubled about symmetry in the City’s finances.
“I believe the number one issue is fiscal planning and working within a budget,” Glanzer said.
Glanzer said that in order to address the aging sewer, road and water systems that, “First and foremost the City Commission and staff need to develop a capital improvement element in our comprehensive plan.”
In additional to treating fund transfers like a business by addressing depreciation and service charges, Glanzer believes the City needs to “explore franchise fees for those utility companies who operate within our boundaries.”
“We need to realize that as a community the taxes we receive back from the state and federal governments will probably go down in some areas,” Glanzer said.
Commissioner Fillyaw believes growth related costs are going to be increasingly important. “I think growth is going to be our biggest issue.”
“We are going to have to manage the problems and costs that come along with adding and upgrading infrastructure.
“Frankly, Newberry has not had any debt for the last 10 years because no upgrades have been done,” Fillyaw said.
He cited the USDA loan the City took out versus using its own $2.2 million for the sewer plant expansion as an example of positive debt considering the optimum 2 percent interest rate.
“I would much rather borrow for a large expansion that will allow new businesses to come in than use the reserves and leave us with a potential issue in the future, especially when the payment on that loan cash flowed with no issues, and interest rates are going to be higher in the future.
“Let’s use our reserves then to avoid a 5 percent or 6 percent rate,” Fillyaw said.
Marden’s answer focused on a budget issue the residents stand behind, which is to stop utility fund transfers to the general fund.
Despite the “fundamental disagreement” between opponents, Marden believes the transfer issue will work itself out in the long run given that the contingency fund is held as a priority.
“We need to actively pursue some longer term strategies for 5, 10 and 15-year expenses.
“We need to create a list of priorities, and work the list with the money we have,” Marden said.
Finally, all candidates were asked to consider the City’s future path.
“Newberry will benefit from a slow but steady growth rate,” Conrad said. “Newberry will always keep its small town values.”
Glanzer said, “We have a reputation both statewide and nationally as being proactive in addressing growth issues and being creative in developing a niche for our community in the sports arena.”
Fillyaw had a similar sentiment, “I think sports tourism and all that comes with it is the future of Newberry. I think we have found a niche that will suit us well to grow and move forward. It is a family friendly, clean economic driver. I think we have to be mindful that the future is 10 to 20 years, not 1 to 2 years.”
Marden’s answer echoed both the mayoral candidate and his opponent. “In the near term, I want to see how the Nations Park, Easton, and Main Street programs work out. We want to put ourselves in the best possible position to take advantage of slow steady growth, new technologies, and those exciting unknowns around the corner.”
Commissioner Marlowe’s comments were not available as of press time. He has been involved with municipal government for three years. He has been a commissioner liaison with the City’s economic development committee, the North Central Florida Regional Planning Council and The Alachua County School Board.
Harry G. Nichols’ withdrawal from the mayoral candidacy was announced at the March 11 commission meeting. He declined comment.
The election will be held Tuesday, April 9 at the Newberry Fire Department located at 310 NW 260th Street, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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