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Just as falling leaves sprinkle about Shelbyville to signify the arrival of autumn, political campaign signs are beginning to pepper the city, indicating that Election Day is approaching.
Seven candidates are vying for six spots on the Shelbyville City Council. And with Nov. 4 drawing near, the hopefuls are actively spreading their names and listening to the concerns of the people of Shelbyville.
Council members are elected on a non-partisan basis every two years, and the Mayor is elected to a 4-year term.
Two familiar faces did not file for the re-election. Mike Miller had been required to resign a few months ago because he was moving outside the city lines. "If not for that, I'd file and continue to serve," he said. His interim replacement, former councilman Donald Cubert Sr., did not file for the election.
And after 20 years of serving on the council, Val Owens is excited to be stepping away. "I'm looking forward to it," she said. "I just felt like I needed to spend more time with family."
But there are four incumbents among the remaining candidates, and three newcomers say they hope to provide fresh perspectives on key issues.
And there are plenty of issues, as candidates are hearing from their constituents.
Incumbent Donna Eaton went from door to door last week to talk with citizens about their concerns, she said the economy seemed to be the primary concern for most of the people she met.
As the national economic crisis trickles down to the local level, Eaton, a Democrat, said it's important to make sure that jobs stay strong in Shelbyville.
"The strength of the economy is important to any budget, so we have to recruit more [jobs]," she said.
Eaton is running for her second term on the council. She said throughout her first term, she felt her personal values were evident.
"I haven't voted for any tax increase, and we've been able to improve their (citizens) services," she said. "And I'd just like to be able to continue to do that for them."
Dudley Bottom Jr. knows all about Shelbyville services and economics. Bottom, 60, has been a Shelbyville resident for 50 years and spent 36 years of them with Shelby Energy Cooperative, eventually rising to the position of CEO.
Having retired in 2007, Bottom, a Democrat, is now looking for his first term on the council.
With his experience in engineering and management, he said he feels he'd be an asset when it comes to working with budgets and trying to come up with money without raising costs.
"The people I've talked to - that's what's on their mind," he said. "They're looking at excellent use of their tax dollar. And of course they'd like to have more services."
With all of the decisions the city council makes, Bottom said it's vital to have input from locals and planning with an eye on the future.
"I think we need to do strategic planning. We need to have public input and business input to plan improvements for Shelbyville five or ten years from now."
One such improvement involves the city's sidewalk system and bike paths. A walker himself, Bottom said improving these alternative public transportation paths should be a priority, especially with the prices of fuel.
"If you've ever tried to walk from downtown to Clear Creak Park, it's miserable," he said. "I think we really need to make that a priority - take some areas that people go to on a regular basis and look at those as a part of a strategic plan."
Incumbent Mike Zoeller was adamant about sidewalk improvements when the issue was brought up in a recent city council meeting.
"I would like to unite the city through a sidewalk system," he said. "I want people to be able to go from one end of town to the other. I want wide sidewalks. I don't think anybody should be allowed to develop anything without a sidewalk on it."
Zoeller, a Democrat, hopes to push the issue in a third term on the council. He said the citizens have kept him well-informed, and his work on committees, such as the Finance Committee, helps him return the favor.
Though there is a national economic crisis, he wants residents to know that the city of Shelbyville is in good financial health.
"In fact, we recently bought a fire truck," he said. "A fire truck is pretty expensive, and we paid for it in cash. We're also in the middle of putting plans up to build a fire station between West Middle and Painted Stone. I don't like to borrow money unless you just have to. We do need the fire station, but again we saved money to pay for those things."
To ensure that city government and local economy stay strong, he said recruitment should remain a necessity.
"The growth issue is always going to be important because of our location. We're still trying to recruit. The Industrial Foundation does a good job to try and find good industries to come here, but the housing [market] has slowed down."
Jon Swindler said he has heard similar concerns from locals. He said it's important the city makes sure to spend efficiently.
He was elected to the council in 2004 and very narrowly lost his re-election bid.
"I think everybody has similar thoughts on their minds, not only on the national level but on the city level, when it comes to financially making sure we're being accountable and responsible with the tax payers money," he said.
Swindler, the lone Republican in the race, said for a city council to be effective it needs to have different voices and opinions being shared among its members.
"I think people understand that my feelings about the city and its operation are very genuine," he said. "I'm a native of Shelbyville and they know that I only want the best for what's here. I have a family, and I live and I work here. I don't look at it as a bipartisan race, but I definitely think there should be different viewpoints on the council."
Incumbent Alan Matthews said the best thing for the city's residents is to keep taxes low. The city was able to do in the last couple years, he said, but to continue that trend it's important for the city to grow in industry and commercial businesses.
Even as Shelbyville strives for growth, Matthews said he agreed with the other candidates that the city needs to be efficient with the taxpayers' money.
Matthews, a Democrat, is running for a fourth term on the council, and he said when he talks to local citizens there is one concern that comes up more than others - illegal immigration. Though the city needs to continue fighting the problem, he said, serious strides have been made in the city's efforts.
"I think we are dealing more effectively with it," he said. "Our arrest, detainee and deportation numbers are up. We've gotten ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] to pay attention to Shelby County."
Ultimately, he said any government action should be taken with the people in mind.
"I view my time on city council as serving the people of Shelbyville," Matthews said previously. "I want to do whatever I can to make the city a better place to live, work and raise a family."
George Best thinks he can help with that. Best is running for his first term on the city council, but he is already a veteran when it comes to overseeing the city's development.
Best, a Democrat, has long been active in city planning, having spent 47 years serving on the Transportation Cabinet before retiring. He is a commissioner of the Triple S Planning Commission, a post he'd have to resign from if he were to be elected.
With his experience in city planning, Best said he would be able to offer insight on two of the most important issues the city faces.
"City growth and city finances are probably the top two issues," he said. "The city needs more revenue, but more revenue without raising taxes."
Best said his experience could help the city plan for such growth.
Incumbent Shane Suttor was not available for comment. In a previous interview he said that responsible growth is the key to the city's economic success.
Running for a second term, Suttor is also vocal about he illegal immigration problem the city faces.
"Employers take advantage of illegal employees for cheap labor," he said. "And illegals take advantage of the system."
To reduce the impact of gangs and drugs in the city, he said employers who offer illegal immigrants jobs should be cracked down on, and efforts should be made to deport immigrants that are arrested.