The three aspirants for Camden mayor and the three contenders for seats on Camden’s town council held their only public forum Saturday, a week before the town’s Feb. 22 election.
Mayoral candidates Justin W. King Jr., Richard Snyder and Christopher Warga were joined by council hopefuls John W. Green Jr., Michael Schock and Tracy Torres in an opportunity to introduce themselves to Camden’s voters and to take questions from an audience that took up almost all of the more than 70 seats provided at the Harvest Years Senior Center.
Speaking first, Torres said she became active in town affairs because she wanted to close Thomas Harmon Drive to through traffic in the Newell’s Creek development she calls home, and to rein in tax increases she found burdensome.
“I became well known to Camden council at that time and wasn’t well liked,” she said. However, she added, both goals eventually were achieved, despite her being told they could not be done.
Currently a board member of the Camden-Wyoming Sewer and Water Authority, Torres said she wants to see an audit of the town books, which hasn’t been done since 2011 and would like to add to the police department without raising taxes.
Council incumbent Green emphasized his banking and business background, noting since his election in 2011, he has worked to reduce expenses through divesting the town of unnecessary property and by consolidating town offices on two of the three floors of the town hall. The town thus makes money by renting out the third floor, Green said.
Green acknowledged the town’s recent expansion and the addition of retail stores along U.S. Route 13, but added that growth should be controlled through judicious decisions on the part of town council, which is what he first was elected to do.
Green asked Camden voters to allow him to continue that work.
Council candidate Schock highlighted his seven years as a member of the town planning commission.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job,” of keeping Camden a good place to live, Schock said, adding he didn’t have an agenda for office other than to work well with other council members should he be elected.
“I think I’ll be a really good fit with them,” Schock said.
Mayoral candidate King eschewed the forum’s podium and talked while walking around the room. King brought up his family’s four generations of ties to Camden, his service on the town police force and his work in helping balance the town budget and holding the line on tax increases since his election in 2011.
Page 2 of 2 - King said he would like to see Camden property owners receive a discount on their taxes if paid early, would like to work out a plan to refinance the 40-year mortgage on the newly-built town hall and wants to see a plan to actually reduce taxes for Camden residents.
“With the experience I’ve had, I’m the best candidate for that,” he said.
Warga spoke of his military and teaching background, adding he thinks the future growth of the town is an issue for many Camden residents.
“I don’t have a vision personally,” he said. “I want it to be our vision together.”
Snyder pointed out his prior experience on council as well as his 23-year Camden residency as his qualifications.
“I really don’t have too much of an agenda,” he said. “I’d just like to throw my name out there.”
During the question-and-answer session, Torres said she felt the town needed to become more aggressive in enforcing current building codes, a point Warga agreed with. Green, however, said many of the current ordinances are vague and need to be clarified before sending in inspectors to penalize property owners.
King agreed in part, noting the town possibly could face litigation if, as was suggested, police officers were used to administer civil matters such as building regulations.
In response to another question, King said he would like to increase the number of officers on the police force, allowing the department to become more proactive than reactive. The problem is how to do so while staying within the budget, he said.
Torres felt the department should be reorganized by releasing higher paid officers and using that money to bring in more patrolmen.
Afterward, audience members said they were pleased with the forum.
“I think it went really well,” said Eileen Scanlon. “You were able tell who was prepared and if they have a clear idea of what their job would be as mayor or candidate for the council.”
Camden voters who will not be in town to cast ballots on Saturday may vote by absentee ballot. For more information on absentee voting, contact Town Clerk Jamie Fenske at 697-2299.
IF YOU GO:
Camden town elections
When: Noon until 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22
Where: Town Hall, 1783 Friends Way, Camden
Requirements: Identification to verify identity and proof of residency