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Local towns seek council candidates

Phoenix Mayor Jeff Bellah is campaigning, but he isn’t seeking re-election.

Instead he’s encouraging people to run for City Council seats and the mayor’s office in the November election.

“I’d like to see at least two candidates for each seat,” said Bellah. Three four-year council terms are coming up for election. One incumbent is uncertain whether he will run, while two others will not seek new terms

Finding council candidates can be a problem in some smaller cities.

Talent will have four council vacancies to fill in the Nov. 8 election. In 2014, only one seat was contested, while two other candidates were unopposed. In 2012, all four open seats drew only a single candidate each.

Bellah has served two two-year terms as mayor. Prior to that he was on the City Council.

Phoenix Councilor Terry Helfrich is on the fence about running again. He’s served two terms on the council, and counting his Planning Commission appointments he has 20 years of city service.

“I’m very interested in millennial types of candidates, the new generation,” said Helfrich. “I want to see freshness, new ideas and new concepts.”

Councilors Stan and Carolyn Bartell will not seek re-election. Both have served multiple terms.

“It’s time for us to have more family and friend time,” said Carolyn Bartell.

“Council workload has increased. Look at our growth,” said Helfrich. “The interchange is now done, and we are working on urban growth boundaries, and the downtown (project) still has more stuff to do.”

Bellah published an article in the mayor’s newsletter about serving that brought responses. Sarah Westover has taken out papers to run, and another person is considering it, said Bellah. Filing deadline is Aug. 22

“I want people who don’t have just one particular issue. I wanted to give back for some of the things I have received,” said Bellah. “I have a general interest in people who want to contribute to the city.”

“I don’t know that we are limiting this to any special skill set but, of course, I’d like somebody who is tuned in to where we are financially,” said Bellah. The town has built reserves for the water system, parks, road and other projects. Bellah hopes that a new council will realize the money was set aside for specific work and not view it as available for general expenses.

In Talent, Councilor E.J. McManus, who has served on the body since 2005, will seek re-election. Anthony Abshire, appointed in 2014, said he’s uncertain whether he will run. Teresa Cooke, elected twice, resigned this week due to an upcoming move. Christina Collins was appointed to Position 3 in 2015, but would need to seek election for the two years remaining for that spot. Filing deadline is Aug. 25.

While candidates have been tough to attract at election time, there are usually several applicants when the council has a vacancy to fill, said Talent Mayor Darby Stricker. Four of the five current council members began service through appointments.

Stricker said she encourages people to serve on city committees or commissions first before seeking a council seat.

“They are a little intimidated, but the qualifications are really just being passionate about your community, being a resident here and being a registered voter,” said Stricker. “It’s an ongoing dialogue that I never give up on.”

Jacksonville usually has contested races for mayor and council seats. In 2014, there were five candidates for three seats on the Jacksonville Council. In 2012, six candidates sought three seats, and the mayor’s race had two candidates.

Three four-year council terms will be filled by an at-large process in Jacksonville. Incumbent David Jesser will seek re-election. Incumbents Jocie Wall and Criss Garcia haven’t decided whether they will seek re-election. Mayor Paul Becker has filed for re-election. The filing deadline is Aug. 30.

“We have a number of people who volunteer, and we seem to have a new wave that is coming in,” said Becker. There are usually multiple applicants for positions on committees and commissions, which are often stepping stones to running for council, Becker said.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwqriter@gamil.com