Candidates: Oak Creek needs growth

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— Growth -- if done correctly -- can bring good things to Oak Creek, a majority of the town's mayoral and trustee candidates said Thursday night.

The town's two mayoral candidates, as well as eight of the nine trustee candidates, attended a forum held at the Oak Creek Town Board meeting on Thursday. Trustee candidate Chuck Wisecup was out of town for business.

During the forum, the candidates introduced themselves, then answered questions written by audience members. Many of the questions focused on growth; most candidates said that bringing more people and more businesses to Oak Creek would benefit the town.

Adjusting to change is tough, said trustee candidate Stacy Hayes. But new businesses provide employment, she said.

"It would be great to have that employer in this town to support the people that live here," she said.

Trustee candidate J. Elliott emphasized throughout the forum that the town needs new residents and businesses to help support the general fund, which is supported by property and sales taxes.

"We have to get people in here," Elliott said. "If we don't get controlled growth, we're going to die."

Trustee candidate Tom Bleuer said that more businesses will come to town because high-speed Internet is available. He said he prefers small, locally owned businesses because they bring character and diversity to a town. Bleuer also said that he supports more residential development, but he hoped that some of the units would be affordable.

If there are annexations, there should be affordable housing, said trustee candidate John Crawford.

New businesses are more likely to come if the town supports the businesses it already has, said trustee candidate Angie Kralj KenCairn.

One audience member's question identified Kralj KenCairn as a representative of "the new Oak Creek." Kralj KenCairn was asked to explain what that meant. She said that the new Oak Creek is a blend of the new and the old. She respects the town's elders and heritage, she said, but "I think a community dies when it doesn't get new blood." In relation to that, she said, she hoped that there would be more balance on the Town Board.

Trustee candidate Dave Fisher, who also supported growth, was identified as a "new Oak Creek" candidate as well. He said he does not shy away from that image.

"I recognize that there was work people did before we got here, and I have respect for that," Fisher said. He said the new Oak Creek could be whatever people wanted; they just had to be willing to take a risk.

Some of the questions put the heat on Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman, who is seeking re-election.

An audience member asked the other mayoral candidate, Bill Babcock, if he would hire Rodeman as the town manager.

Babcock said he would not.

"I think Cargo is a very important asset to the town," Babcock said. "I think she has done a great job."

However, Babcock said, he would remove Rodeman from the salaried staff and would hire her on a contractual basis. This change, he said, is like moving the pitcher to first or second base: the player still is on the team.

Rodeman was also asked whether she thinks she runs the Town Board and doesn't allow balanced viewpoints. Rodeman said that was not true and that the fact that the board disagrees sometimes shows that.

"The beauty of a good board is the ability to work through all of that," she said.

In her closing statement, Rodeman said that she was excited about the town's Main Street project, which will bring sidewalks, trees, benches and other amenities to the street. The project is one of her joys, Rodeman said.

Babcock said that he was excited that there were numerous candidates for the town's positions. He also said that he wanted to start a "paved streets fund" so more streets can be paved. As mayor, he said, he would donate his mayor's salary to the fund.

Trustee candidate Ann Kirton said during the forum that she wants to see a board that is civil, has open exchanges and has community participation.

"We should all have a voice and a say in what happens in our hometown," Kirton said.

-- To reach Dana Strongin, call 871-4229

or e-mail dstrongin@steamboatpilot.com

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