ALPENA -The five candidates vying for a pair of Alpena Municipal Council seats in the upcoming general election participated in a forum hosted by the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce and Alpena Rotary Club. Each candidate took time to introduce themselves, as well as share their reasons for wanting to be on council. Each candidate also answered prepared questions, as well as those from those in attendance.
Set on a stage at the APlex, Mike Nunneley, Cal Howard, Anna Bass, Shawn Sexton and Cindy Johnson spoke about the strides Alpena has made, the challenges that lie ahead and goals for moving it forward. Nunneley and Sexton are listed on the ballot, while Howard, Johnson and Bass are write-in candidates.
The repeated theme of the forum focused around attracting new development to the city, creating jobs and boosting the city's tax role. Bass said increasing the amount of quality employment opportunities to keep people from leaving is something she wants to help the city accomplish.
"Alpena is very optimistic about the future, but the city council needs to work together and with others to make sure that optimism stays," Bass said. "We need to keep investing in Alpena and spreading the word about Alpena. We need to let the next generation know they don't feel they are being forced to move away to have a career.We need to stay on the track of being fiscally responsible and take steps so we won't see such a population decrease like we have seen."
Sexton said larger employers need to be approached and Alpena needs to be sold to them. He said Alpena has a lot to offer, but it is part of the council's job to sell it to those who could invest in it.
"We are really lacking in recruiting white collar industry here," Sexton said. "Not jobs, but careers for people. Opportunities where they can make a good living and stay here. I'm a firm believer we can sell this community. We can sell the quality of life we have here. We can sell the natural resources we have here. We can sell the work force we have here. We have to go out to these companies and sell this community and I think that will help us have a more diverse economy."
Johnson said in order to help Alpena move forward and achieve its goals it is going to take the work of more than just those seated on council. She said the city staff needs to be involved in helping accomplishing the council and citizens's vision.
"The voters are the ones that set the city's direction and the council works with the staff to make sure we are moving in that direction," Johnson said. "Council needs to listen to the voters and we have an excellent staff. We have a better staff than any other city that is great as the staff we have in Alpena. They are open to suggestions and work with the chamber, Target Alpena and all of the organizations to help move Alpena forward."
Howard said he has been singing Alpena's praise to people for years. He said working with other local governing bodies, the chamber, Target and others is how things must get done.
"Alpena has a lot going for it and by unifying I think we can accomplish and do things nobody else can. I believe we can make Alpena grow. We need some things to come in and we need some better ideas. There are some great things happening with the drone project and Meijer, but we need more of those types of things and the youth need to be incorporated in all of this."
Nunneley said Alpena is on the rise right now, but more work and investment is needed to help it reach its potential. He said the county's drone project and Alpena Township's Meijer project are good for the entire region, but said Alpena has to find ways to capitalize on them because neither are the city's.
"I cannot think of a more exciting time than what we have right now in Alpena," Nunneley said. "Right now we have more opportunity in Alpena than I have seen in a long time. It is an exciting time, but those are township developments. It is going to be imperative for the council to take an aggressive role in making sure our existing businesses and positioned to bring the folks out in the township downtown, but also to find businesses to come in the city and develop."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com