Election to focus on police, fire operations
All three challengers cited the failing programs as a factor to run against the incumbents.
Published: Monday, June 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 11:13 p.m.
An ill-fated decision to start police and fire departments will likely play a key role in Hawthorne City Commission elections on June 9, in which the three incumbents on the ballot each face one challenger.
The departments, which began operations in 2007, were disbanded earlier this year when it was determined that their financial drain could have put Hawthorne's budget in a deficit.
Incumbent city commissioners John Martin, Patricia Bouie and Michael Rutledge each have one challenger in their bids for re-election.
Martin will face Harry Carter, Bouie is opposed by Matthew D. Surrency and Rutledge meets William Carlton.
All three challengers have cited the police and fire department issue as a factor in their decisions to run.
For seat 1, political newcomer Carter is taking on a 13-year veteran in Martin.
Carter, who is retired, said he has long had an interest in city affairs and has served on a city advisory council for the past year. The budget will be a key focus, Carter said, if he's elected.
"The most important thing right now is to put the budget back where it should be and to act professionally during that period. We need to be a little frugal," Carter said.
"We are in the process now of looking for a new city manager and also an attorney," Carter continued. "Both of those will need our attention. I spent 28 years in the military, so I have experience with different things."
Martin said he believes voters will be more concerned about utility and garbage rate increases than police and fire, but added those increases were necessary.
Martin said his goals include trying to balance needs that can sometimes compete.
"My goal is essentially what it's always been - to bring a broad spectrum of knowledge to the commission to balance the needs between individuals and the community as a whole and to try to continue to steer Hawthorne to maintain our small-town character but at the same time continue to be progressive and grow," Martin said.
In seat 2, Carlton has more commission experience than the incumbent - he served for 18 years before he was defeated by six votes by Rutledge.
Carlton, a retired businessman, was on the commission when the vote to start the police department was made, but he voted against it.
"I am sick and tired of them voting on projects that we don't have the money to pay for," Carlton said. "I know you can't buy if you don't have the money to pay for it, and they have continued this last go-round with the fire and police department. All the public told them, consistently, they had no way to pay for it and they refused to listen."
Rutledge, a driver for Shands at the University of Florida, said he is stressing the need to rebuild Hawthorne financially. He said finding a new city manager and city attorney will play a key role in that effort.
"Rebuilding is going to take time. I am asking people to give us the time to do what we need to do as a commission. Let us restructure. We are building from the ground up to the top," Rutledge said. "I know we are getting back on our feet financially because we don't have to pay (police and firefighters) any more."
In seat 3, Surrency is making his first run for office but he previously worked as the city's recreation director. He cited the police and fire issue as well, but added the overall impression that people have of Hawthorne has declined.
"I want to bring some new ideas. I want to find a creative way to, one, spend less money and to be more efficient," said Surrency, currently Hawthorne High School's baseball coach. "I was the first recreation director for the city of Hawthorne, and I was looking at ways to generate revenue and make money so we didn't have to look for other sources of city money."
Bouie did not return phone and e-mail messages from The Sun.
A candidate forum will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at Hawthorne High School.
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