Freeport residents packed a Highland Community College auditorium last night: they were there to hear from the four mayoral candidates they’ll choose from in the February 26th primary election.
There aren’t Republicans or Democrats in Freeport: instead, the primary is about nominating candidates from the People’s Party and the Citizen’s Party. The candidates were quizzed on a number of subjects, including crime and where city hall should be located. But the number one topic? Jobs. Realtor and People’s Party candidate Bettye Corbin says that’s why she is running for mayor.
“I do not like the political climate or the economic climate in the city of Freeport. And I feel with my business background, I can help turn it around and put it where it should be.”
Corbin’s opponent, Jon Staben, says his managerial experience will help advance the city’s economic development. He was a business manager at Newell Rubbermaid for 31 years.
“We need to go after, I mean literally go after those small businesses out there who can come to Freeport. Freeport has the assets, it has the capability of supporting it.”
Over in the Citizen's Party, Freeport mayor George Gaulrapp is being challenged by former mayor Jim Gitz. Gitz says he’s proud of his record of job creation and infrastructure improvements – he was mayor from 1997 until 2005. But now he wants the opportunity to help direct the city’s future again.
“We don’t have a focused way to retain jobs here and to grow jobs here. The proof is in the 2500 jobs that have been lost in just the last 8 years. We can’t afford to do that and survive as a community.”
Gaulrapp says people seem to be forgetting that he has served as mayor during the worst economy since the Great Depression:
“And we have come out of it with a balanced budget, in fact, a surplus budget. But we need to retain jobs here in Freeport. We need to make sure more jobs come here.”
Freeport voters will have even more choices in the General Election in April. Two additional candidates will join the race then: Independent Kathy Knodle and write-in candidate Andrew Crutchfield. All six will take part in an NAACP-sponsored debate tonight (February 12th at 6:00 pm) at the Freeport Public Library.