By MARK NEWMAN
Courier staff writer
---- — ELDON — In a town of a thousand people, four have decided to run for the job "Mayor of Eldon." Residents head to their polling places today. Candidates included the incumbent, Shirley Stacey, as well as challengers Sean Coulter, David Bowen and Tommy Reaves. Each of them answered two questions for Courier readers: What will be your priorities as mayor, and why are you running?
"Someone needs to save our town," said Reaves. "I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing this for the children of Eldon. Because if this town dies, they won’t have a town to call their own."
Reaves said there are ways to succeed, especially for Eldon.
"We have far [more] assets than just the Gothic House," he said, listing the Opera House and the half-mile dirt race track, as examples. "We need to bring in businesses."
"I haven’t seen any mayor try to bring in small business. Maybe we need to try something new. I’ve lived here for 12 years, and as a parent and foster parent, raised nine children."
In a way, those children are part of the reason he wants more jobs in the town: Without young people, he said, the town can't go on.
"All the kids but the two at home have left, because there are no jobs for them here. I don’t want to see this town die."
Another priority, he said, is, "Probably to get city officials and the fairground board to work together."
"I don’t try to dazzle people with big words, [but] every goal I’ve set in front of me, I’ve accomplished."
Bowen said he has experience: He's a former mayor of Eldon.
"I enjoy working with people," he said. "I had three or four terms as mayor, and the people know I work hard for everyone, rich or poor. I enjoy the people in this town, and I know a lot of people in this town."
And they know him: He said if residents are worried about calling Eldon City Hall to complain, they'll call him instead.
"I’m not afraid to stand up to anybody," Bowen said. "Ordinances that we put in place ... are not being enforced by city government."
For example, there are parking restrictions along the boulevard. Someone left a car just sitting there, he said. A resident complained to Bowen that it detracts from the appearance of the town.
"It’s a city law for everybody, just like a stop sign," he said.
It's a matter of being fair, welcoming and realistic. When a medical waste plant was trying to locate a facility in Eldon, Bowen was part of the effort that helped drive them away.
"A business that hires 100, 110 people, we have no room," he said. "Small business are more than welcome. Eldon will never be a big community, I’d like to see downtown get built up a little more."
Anything else? "Just that I encourage people to get out to vote."
Asked why she's running, Stacey said, "Because I care about Eldon. I want to make it a better town to live in, and continue to see it grow."
Though they've been small steps, there have been signs of growth, she said.
"I’ve been able to get the [medical] clinic back open, and we’ve got an antique business opened on Main Street."
She said there is still more to do.
"Continue to see improvements with our sanitary sewer intakes, continue additions to the trails," Stacey said. "I just want to continue working towards making Eldon a better place to live."
And "work," she said, has been a key word for her.
"I haven’t been afraid to do anything I’ve asked anybody else to do. That includes making the town look better," she said.
If someone's property is in violation of code, she said, she'll usually try to talk to them first. If that doesn't work, the City of Eldon will take further steps. It's important to keep everybody's property values up, she said.
One of her priorities has been getting communities together.
"I’m involved in a lot of Wapello County groups," she said. "One of my big priorities when I first took office was to bridge the gap between Eldon and Ottumwa. We’ve bridged some of those gaps, so that Ottumwa is willing to work with us, and that’s from building a friendly relationship. I want to say to [officials], 'Let’s not just promote Ottumwa, let’s promote Wapello County.'"
Coulter wants to create a better future for the people of his hometown and his growing family.
"I’ve spent my entire life in Eldon, and I take great pride in calling the community home," he said. "Now, my wife and I are raising a family here. For that reason, it’s important to us that Eldon succeed."
Maybe the people of the town are ready for a change, he added.
"I feel my education, work experience and enthusiasm will help me serve our community and better our community," he said. "Of the things I’d like to accomplish, my top priority is to support our local businesses. I think we need to do a better job of supporting our businesses by bringing in visitors from outside by letting them know what we have here."
That's not just limited to the Gothic House, though that is a treasure, he said. But there are other treasures, like the 1800s Opera House and a museum dedicated to the railroad.
"Eldon has so many things to offer visitors that many small towns do not have," Coulter said.
Another priority, he said, is reminding citizens that while bringing in shoppers from outside the town can be helpful, the people of the town are still the focus of city government.
"Another priority is building a sense of community, I want the residents to know that they are a focus," he said. "We need to have an open door policy, and have the city be engaged with the residents."
To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark