Three North Webster Parish residents have qualified to run for Springhill mayor, including the incumbent, Ray Huddleston. His challengers are Ronnie Hearnsberger and Courtney Allen.
The Webster Parish Journal asked the three candidates five questions. Below are their answers in alphabetical order:
1. What makes you uniquely qualified to be mayor?
Allen: I’m unique because I surround myself with others who are stronger in certain areas that I am weak in. I know how to put pride to the side and do what’s best for everyone that is involved. We haven’t had leadership like that since I’ve been here and I’ve been here my entire life. I think it’s time for Springhill to have a Mayor that puts the people first, not his own propaganda.
Hearnsberger: My education and experience have prepared me to find the best solutions to problems and make good financial decisions that will lead Springhill through this time of financial uncertainty. I grew up in Springhill and served as an accountant in the U.S. Air Force Reserves for six years after high school. I have successfully operated businesses here and in Branson during the past forty years. I have a BA degree in Business Administration & Finance from SAU. I was the Executive Vice President of Citizens Bank & Trust in Springhill and worked for the FDIC in Bossier City. I am a member of Central Baptist Church, the Springhill Rotary Club and have served as past chairman of the United Way. I have served Springhill as Alderman for District Two for the past three years.
Huddleston: My experience as Mayor of Springhill for the last four years makes me uniquely qualified to serve another four years. I have knowledge of grants that are available and how to get them, I have created relationships with legislators in Baton Rouge, besides serving four years as Mayor I was an alderman for 8 years. I am retired after working 45 years of running commercial banks.
2. What do you propose to bring more businesses to the city? How would you bring more visitors?
Allen: I propose looking into our infrastructure and incentives to make sure we are attractive and comparable to other cities and let every company know how great our community is and enhance the quality of life. I would bring more visitors by working with the business community, tourism, and the citizens. We would see what type of visitors we would like to see come, what type of events we would want, and what would be best for our City.
Hearnesberger: Businesses generally prefer to locate in cities that are clean, safe and growing. In Springhill, we depend a great deal on the North Webster Parish Industrial Board to do the very difficult job of attracting industry and jobs to our community. What we CAN do is make our city a more attractive place to raise a family. This means ENFORCING existing ordinances to remove blighted properties and assisting business owners to obtain grants and help in upgrading their appearance.
We can do more to attract visitors to our two annual events we have had for decades, the Springhill PRCA Rodeo in September and the Lumberjack Festival in October. About a year ago, my wife and I created a monthly Branson-style show in Springhill called the Piney Woods Jamboree. The show provides music, comedy and family entertainment on the second Saturday night of each month. More monthly or quarterly shows and concerts will bring more visitors to our city. We need to research finding more places for visitors to stay overnight in Springhill.
Huddleston: I have been working for four years to beautify our City and clean it up to make it more inviting for businesses, families, and visitors. We have a financially stable City with an award winning hospital and a school anyone would be proud of. As far as a draw, we have the Lumberjack Festival, a monthly Jamboree at a theater venue, world renown rodeo and arena. We have a lot going on for a small community. We were recently awarded a $500,000 grant to build a splash pad, outdoor stage, and large pavilion. This should draw more visitors. We also offer sports programs year round for our youth. We can make additions to the above mentioned. Our cost of living and low crime rate is also attractive to outsiders.
3. With crime on the rise in Webster Parish, particularly crimes committed by juvenile offenders, how do you feel about a juvenile curfew in your city?
Allen: Being in the school system I know children need structure. Structure can be in many forms and a curfew may be one however, I would leave that up to the citizens. I would have a town hall meeting and hear their thoughts and concerns before we just jump to ordinances and laws without hearing from the constituents.
Hearnsberger: Springhill has been fortunate to have few crimes committed by juvenile offenders. Perhaps the fact that Springhill HAS a curfew ordinance has helped keep our juvenile offenders at a minimum. Persons under 17 years of age are not allowed in any public area after 11 PM Sunday through Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday. I support keeping Springhill safe and increasing pay for our police officers.
Huddleston: A curfew would help if reasonable but needs to be enforced.
4. Would you be in favor of broadcasting city council meetings to the public via social media like Facebook or YouTube? Why or why not?
Allen: Yes, I would be in favor of any type of media that is not distracting and still keeps our citizens informed. Some may have to be at work, or at another event and can’t make it physically but they can still watch via mobile device.
Hearnesberger: To increase transparency in government, I have repeatedly made motions and requested that our city council meetings be broadcast to the public on Facebook or YouTube. Unfortunately, our current mayor will not allow it and my fellow aldermen will not second my motions. Many people have job conflicts that prevent them from attending our meetings in person. The written minutes of our meetings are merely a “summary” of the council meeting and usually omit many important comments. If I am elected mayor, our regular monthly meetings will be recorded on video and broadcast in some format.
Huddleston: This has recently been done and I am fine with it, although our meetings are open to the public and anyone is welcome to attend. Notifications are on facebook, the local newspaper, and City web page.
5. What do you see as the top priority for your city and why?
Allen: Community Development- Springhill has been stagnant for far too long and we don’t know how much more we can remain that way before things get even worse. We must start community engagement and building our community, with school programs, youth involvement, elderly activities, economic development, and so much more. I have served my community for so long and now I still want to serve but I want to lead as well. WE can do this with your prayers and support!
Hearnsberger: As costs increase and our population decreases, my main priority will be making sure our city is financially stable for years to come. Our residents want good streets, clean, affordable water, dependable garbage service and police and fire protection. By reducing wasteful spending and making good financial decisions, we can deliver dependable services with less rate increases. It is also important to me that our city increase accountability and transparency as we pursue economic development.
Huddleston: As always my priorities are economic development and infrastructure. We are in the process of obtaining several large grants to improve our infrastructure with the help of Representative Wayne McMahen. We are also working with the North Webster Industrial Park to promote the North end of Webster Parish and attract businesses.
The election is Tuesday, November 8.
Early voting is Oct. 25 through Nov. 1 (excluding Sunday, Oct. 30) from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. at the registrar’s office in the courthouse.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 4 by 4:30 p.m (other than military and overseas voters). You can request an absentee ballot online through the Voter Portal or in writing through your Registrar of Voters Office.
The deadline for a registrar of voters to receive a voted absentee ballot is Nov. 7 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).
On election day, the polls are open from 6 a.m. until 8 p.m. If you are unsure of your voting precinct, please call 377-9272.
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