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“This office should be considered a public service,” she said. “And those running should consider the heart of those people in the City of Ashland. That’s my qualification. I want to do the best in revitalizing the hopes and dreams of those living here. I attend a variety of meetings, both Democrat and Republican, and I even visit small businesses to hear their concerns. That’s what the city needs. Someone who listens and implements the wishes of those who elect them.”

Wilson said if elected, she will giveaway one year’s salary for the FRYSC program in the Ashland School System to keep it open. She would also like to do everything possible in the role of city commissioner to combat the region’s drug problems. She wants to bring vocational jobs, perhaps through a clothing factory and work on getting government grants and loans.

“The looming pension crisis facing the City of Ashland could be addressed by building our tax base,” she said. “We should no longer look to big government to solve our problems but look to building our economy to support the upcoming debt we will be facing. In the meantime there will possible be cuts that will have to be made. Without going over the books with the accountants no one could say for certain.”

Howard said the key issues impacting Ashland include the state pension crisis, a lack of livable-wage paying jobs, drugs, infrastructure, a lack of transparency and “a general hopelessness for some, apathy for others and no sense of urgency.”

Howard said to solve some of the issues impacting Ashland, he would call for a comprehensive internal audit of all programs, then look at high priority areas such as 29th Street and the drug problem. A massive sewer project on 29th Street has caused frustration for some local residents and small business owners in south Ashland.

“Also, every process must be easily explained and the process would be the same for everyone. No friend specials,” he said, adding that the city must look to “change archaic laws and embrace the 21st Century trends such as technology and clean energy processes.”

Howard said the city needs to embrace its strengths but acknowledge there are problems. “I will not enable those who say Ashland is fine. It might be for them but not for most. So if you ask me if I have all the answers, I will answer no. But I will find them,” said Howard.

“I am qualified to be an Ashland city commissioner because I believe in the future of Ashland,” she said. “Personally, my involvement with various groups in the city – Friends of the Children, Ashland in Motion Board member, Highlands Museum Advisory Board, South Ashland Family Resource Center Advisory Board and Young Professionals Board – allows me to interact with a variety of Ashland’s citizens; to learn their needs and concerns,” she said. “Professionally, I have a background in management that has served me well in helping guide the city. I understand how a budget is crafted and the importance of communication both in and out of the city building.”

Clark said Ashland’s most significant challenge is dealing with its water distribution infrastructure. The city experiences an abnormal number of water main breaks and outages as a result of pipe failure in a system that dates back more than 100 years in some areas. A consultant with a firm, BlueWater LLC, is studying the city’s infrastructure, and recommended the city start the replacement process now for some of its 300 miles worth of lines.

“Since January 2013, the city has issued 102 new business licenses,” said Gute. “With the announcement of Braidy Industries and the sale and renovation of the Ashland Plaza Hotel, the city is on the verge of an economic uptick that has never been experienced before in its history.”

Gute is also experienced in fielding a well-trained workforce that is “well equipped and well compensated,” he said. The city “has approximately 300 employees that do a tremendous job are always accountable to the city and its people,” said Gute.

Ashland is facing some financial hurdles. The largest is an increase in annual payments to the state retirement systems to the tune of about $500,000 initially, as part of statewide obligation increases to help fund the financially-strapped pension systems.

Other major issues facing the city include dealing with an old, damaged water system. “The replacement of water lines and the completion of all of our Combined Sewer Overflow projects are a top priority. The schedule of replacement and repairs remains ongoing,” he said.

“Lastly, we along with every city in America have an opioid problem,” Gute said. “I promise to work with our rehab facilities, as well as law enforcement, to help those addicted or affected by this problem and to support our law enforcement and the courts at all levels to eradicate all illegal substances in our area.”