Clermont City Council candidate Tim Murry. (Fallstrom, Jerry B, Tim Murry / August 15, 2012)
By Amy C. Rippel, Correspondent
CLERMONT — The three candidates competing for City Council Seat 5 know Lake County’s largest city has steep challenges in front of it. Each hopes to serve as a guide into the coming years.
Facing issues that include growth, spending and a possible increase in property taxes, Thomas Spencer, Diane Travis and Tim Murry hope voters in Tuesday’s primary election will see their vision for the future.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, but people who want to vote early have one more day to get it done. Today is the final day for early voting. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at multiple locations including Cagan Crossings Community Library, 16729 Cagan Oaks, and Cooper Memorial Library, 2525 Oakley Seaver Drive.
The hotly contended race promises to be exciting to the end. If one candidate gets a majority of the vote in the primary, he or she wins. If not, the top two vote-getters will face off in the Nov. 4 general election.
The Seat 5 race results from movement on the council overall. Rick VanWagner, the current Seat 5 council member, is not seeking re-election so he can run for mayor after Mayor Hal Turville decided to step down. VanWagner is running against Gail Ash, a former council member, in the general election for the mayor’s seat, which is Seat 3. Seat 1 candidate Timothy Bates remains in his seat as he ran unopposed.
Each of the Seat 5 candidates is focused on specific areas for improvement in the city:
•Spencer, 43, said the most important task for the Seat 5 winner will be revitalizing downtown.
“Our city must encourage businesses to set up headquarters in Clermont and advertise our natural resources to increase prosperity,” he said.
Spencer, who is retired from the Army, also said the other important issues include addressing the problems with red-light cameras and giving residents the proper representation, including during council meetings.
“As I sat in on City Council meetings, I noticed a problem almost right away,” he said. “There is a need for the citizens’ voice to be heard at these meetings, beyond just the open floor.”
Spencer said purchasing the Celebration of Praise Church to serve as a recreation center was a brilliant move by the city. A new police headquarters should be built at the site, he said.
He also said the Wellness Way Sector Plan, which outlines future development of about 16,000 acres south of the city, “is key toward the ideal of innovation for high-end salary job growth in Clermont and South Lake County.”
•Travis, 60, said the most important job for the Seat 5 council member will be planning for the city’s future. That includes determining what kind of industry and job opportunities the city should have, financial planning and business planning.
“Planning is key,” she said. “I will continue to listen and support our citizens with the infrastructure needed to support the new branding of our city within budget.”
Travis, broker/owner of Travis Realty Group and an avid athlete, said she’s encouraged by the sector plan as long as there is proper planning.
“I want to be the champion for the health and wellness sector with the council,” she said. “I think there is great opportunity for high-tech jobs and additional medical state-of-the-art facilities within this area and those can be recruited and achieved with the proper planning. I can’t stress enough we need proper planning so we do not have an out-of-control residential development.”
Travis said the Celebration of Praise purchase provided much-needed land for the new police department building.
•Murry, 60, who retired from the Air Force and works for the Postal Service, said his regular attendance at city meetings and workshops makes him particularly adept to the job of councilman and the issues facing Clermont. He’s also an active volunteer around town. He said one of the biggest problems the city is facing is transparency. He wants to be a voice for the local residents.
“I’m about the people,” he said. “It’s not about me. It’s about us.”
He said while the Celebration of Praise purchase was a good one, city leaders must be cautious about spending money. He said the sector plan could be good for the community, but there also must be a focus on helping the local youth.
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