FAIRFIELD — On Wednesday night the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center was packed with citizens who wanted to hear what the three candidates vying for the open mayoral position had to say.
The forum, moderated by Southeast Iowa Union Deputy Editor Andy Hallman, was an open platform for Connie Boyer, Michael Halley and Ed Noyes to explain to citizens what their vision for Fairfield would be and how they would bring it to fruition should they become the next mayor. The city’s current mayor, Ed Malloy, who has held the seat for 18 years, announced earlier this year he would not seek reelection.
In his opening statements, Ed Noyes thanked Malloy for his many years of service and sited him as one of many blessings the town has. He said another blessing the town has is the sense of community.
He said not all towns have that, but because they do in Fairfield, he vowed to make it his mission as mayor to bring out the best in everyone.
“We all want the same things: we want to be able to raise our children so their happy, loved, successful and prosperous, we want a clean environment, we want all these good things for each other. I’m committed to the vision of everyone belonging, everyone feeling loved and supported and the creation of a community we can all be proud of,” he said.
Boyer said her vision as mayor would be to continue to grow the legacy of Fairfield. Having served on the city council and as mayor pro-tem in the past, Boyer said she was looking forward to the opportunity to unite the community and work together.
“The job of mayor is local (and) non partisan ... One of the great things we have the opportunity to do is find those mutual goals we can agree on and look forward to accomplishing,” she said.
Michael Halley, a present city council member and current mayor pro-tem said his motivation to run came directly from the town. Halley said he moved to Fairfield at age 18 and has been active in the community ever since.
He said his goals for the community would be to bring in younger families, upgrade housing, fix roads and bring more attention to those who often get overlooked, such as the homeless, drug addicted and those in need of mental health services.
“When I’m chairing or in charge of groups, we work toward solutions and it would be the same in the mayoral position,” he said.
Currently, the City of Fairfield has a 20 year comprehensive plan that will expire in 2020, leaving the next mayor to help develop a new one. Boyer said as mayor, she would first review the existing plan.
She said by looking at what worked and did not, she felt there would be a better, more accurate picture of how the city could positively move forward in the future. Boyer said she would like to get the community involved in the plan and allow them an opportunity to express their feeling and thoughts.
“I want to remind people that it is a living document. Even though it is a comprehensive plan that will be set for 20 years, it can be changed as needed,” she said.
Another component Boyer is looking to bring in is what she has dubbed a Fairfield forum, where citizens can bring issues to they care about and can work together with the city to solve the problem.
Noyes said his first step would be to identify the rights of citizens and integrate them into a plan. He said locals have the right to a better education system, environmental purity and the right to live how they would like.
Halley said he would start his mayoral term with creating a strategic plan that would both set adjectives and develop steps. He said he wanted to get the community involved in the process to ensure the plan was not catered to one group or another, but to ensure it was created for the good of all citizens.
Taxes were a hot button topic of the night and how each candidate would increase city revenue without raising property taxes was addressed. Halley said this was one area he would not make a promise on.
He said there was no simple solution to lowering taxes because it would involve cutting amenities which would in turn result in cutting staff.
Boyer agreed, saying when she was on the Fairfield City Council previously, there was a discussion of making the fire department a volunteer service in order to lower the budget. She said citizens were not on board with the idea then and did not feel they would want to see anything similar happen now.
She said the only way to increase the general fund would be to grow the tax base through population and building growth. Noyes had a different plan entirely.
He said by increasing tourism, the local sales tax revenue will increase when visitors come to town and spend money. Florida uses this method and he felt it could be done in Fairfield as well.
Noyes said by increasing the desire for people to come to Fairfield, tourism would drastically increase.