Chelsea candidates talk growth, beautification

On stage Monday night at Chelsea High School, the eight mayoral and city council candidates spoke on a variety of issues, but two kept cropping up: beautification and city growth, both in population and in business.

During the forum, only candidates for contested positions spoke. Those candidates included incumbent Mayor Earl Niven and challenger David Birdsong; Place 2 incumbent Tony Picklesimer and challenger Cammie Sanders; Place 3 candidate Robert Barnes and incumbent James Ferguson; and Place 4 incumbent, Mike Denton, and candidate Keith Roberts.

All the candidates made either beautification or growth—or both—the focus point of their campaigns.

During his turn to speak, Birdsong said Chelsea’s strengths lay in the city’s natural beauty, growth opportunities and talents of its citizens. He also said there were improvements that could be made in the city’s resources, notably its Citizen Observer Patrol program.

“It’s very important that we find a way to get that done,” he said.

Niven said the city’s main issues are public safety and road work, but that the city does have a lot of needs, most especially a community complex with something for everyone.

“The young people can have a gym and play basketball, whereas there can be rooms on the side for the seniors,” he said.

Both candidates spoke about their leadership abilities. Niven said his 12 years of experience is essential to the mayor’s position, while Birdsong said he’s spent the past 12 years developing his leadership skills.

Picklesimer said his goals for the next four years were to help build the fire department, expand recreational facilities and increase city population. His challenger for the Place 2 seat, Sanders, said she would focus on city beautification and improving the architectural look of Chelsea’s downtown.

Place 3 incumbent James Ferguson said he wanted to see the completion of the community center Niven spoke about, while Barnes emphasized working on the city’s relationship with the county and helping the city grow.

Roberts, the challenger for Place 4, said he helped come up with Chelsea’s comprehensive plan as a member of the planning commission and wanted to see that plan through as a councilman. He also said he wanted to see the parks and recreation department improve and help bring an entrance to Oak Mountain State Park to Chelsea. The Place 4 incumbent, Denton, said he hopes to see an professional office park complex in Chelsea, which would help provide employment opportunities for the community.

After the forum, Niven said he disagreed with what Birdsong said about the COP program.

“It’s better now than it ever was. Volunteers are up, and people have spent over 4,000 hours working with the program,” he said.

Niven said there are around 30 volunteers in the program.

Birdsong said he had been told that volunteer numbers were actually down.

“The number of volunteers has dwindled down to about 12 and it used to be about 30,” he said. “We have people that can help get it back to where it needs to be.”