By Alex Bridges -- firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- Strasburg voters face choices when they head to the polls May 1.
The general election for Strasburg town council features seven candidates on the ballot and one write-in -- all seeking four seats on the panel.
Robert B. "Bob" Baker, R.A. "Rich" Orndorff Jr. and Richard A. Redmon sought re-election to their seats on council.
Kim M. Bishop, Steve W. Nicholson, L. Carlyle Swafford and Jocelyn C. Vena qualified for spots on the ballot. Scott Burkhart filed to qualify as a write-in candidate, according to the Shenandoah County voter registrar Lisa McDonald.
Mayor Timothy Taylor is running unopposed for re-election.
Counciman Justin Ritenour opted not to seek re-election to a second term and told the Daily he has to devote time to his landscaping business.
Council candidates concurred in recent interviews that the biggest issue facing the town remains economic recovery and its need to draw and keep businesses. But most candidates when asked how they would try to address the issue did not have a definite solution.
"I think the main issue is trying to get some businesses in here," Baker said. "There are lots of issues. I mean I think the one I'd like most to see solved is to do something about the vacant store fronts on Main Street. As to how we do it and whether it's something that the council can do anything about I don't know."
Baker, 74, is seeking his second term on council. He also called on other candidates to come forward with any solution.
Orndorff and other candidates cited the $40 million cost for work needed on both the town water plant and wastewater treatment facility as a financial burden facing Strasburg.
Orndorff cited a need to create a wide range of jobs for both young people and those with high salaries for residents seeking to raise families in town.
"I think we need to do what we can do to bring businesses and industry to the area to broaden our tax base," Orndorff said.
Orndorff, 47, served on council previously from 1990 until 2000, the latter four years as vice mayor. He was elected mayor in 2000 and served in that position until 2003, when he resigned after he was charged with assaulting his now ex-wife.
Redmon, 63, seeking his second term on council, noted "it takes a couple of years to get with the program" and pass the learning curve. Redmon criticized the state for failing to provide adequate funding for roads, education and other needs of the localities, thereby putting the burden on municipalities.
"What I hope for is that our efforts toward tourism -- I think having a new town manager who is schooled in planning and having a new assistant town manager who is very active at bringing tourism and reenergizing business as his focal point -- I think working in cooperation with them that's our best bet at solving the problem," Redmon said. "Hopefully we're all working toward bringing in new businesses as a form of revenue to offset the immense burden that's on local taxpayers."
Bishop, a homemaker who has lived in Strasburg for 10 years, recently told the Daily she decided to run for council upon a recommendation from several residents.
"I've heard from people in other towns that Strasburg is just the last place people want to come because it's very business unfriendly and I'd like to try and change that," Bishop told the Daily.
Swafford served on council twice before. A year after his re-election in 2008 Swafford resigned to take a job in Philadelphia. Council appointed Swafford again to fill a vacancy left by Michael Whittle. Swafford kept the seat until a special election in November at which time he did not run.
Nicholson, 53, served on council from 1996 until 2008.
"I set out a whole [term], now I'm trying to come back," Nicholson said.
As for an issue facing the town, Nicholson cited the water and sewer service in Strasburg. He also noted the fact that when he left council the upgrades to the two town facilities had not yet begun and work remains incomplete four years later.
Vena served on council from 2009 to 2010 when members appointed her to fill Swafford's seat. Vena seeks her first four-year term.
"Basically I have been watching since I hadn't been on [council] and I felt that I still have the desire and the energy to follow through on what I wanted to do while I was on council," Vena told the Daily.
Burkhart has lived in Strasburg for eight years and said its "small town" charm reminded him of where he grew up outside New York City.
"I just want to see some change for the town, see if there's any way that we can help out the residents of the town," Burkart said. "My attitude is if we can get commercial work in here, it will relieve some of the taxes."
Kaitlin Mayhew contributed to this story.