Central Point mayor to face first challenge in 12 years

CENTRAL POINT — For the first time in more than a decade, Mayor Hank Williams will face a challenge in the November election.

Mayor since 2002, Williams has faced a challenger only once, beating Charles Collins in 2004 by a count of 4,509 to 1,630.

His opponents are City Councilor Rick Samuelson, who said he wants to reduce unnecessary spending and bring new perspective to City Hall, and Bret Barlow Jr., who has voiced concerns about corruption in city government and local law enforcement.

A retired banker who estimates he spends about 40 hours a month on city business, Williams is a Klamath Falls native who moved to Central Point in 1966.

A vocal opponent of marijuana dispensaries and a strong advocate for water-rate fairness, Williams received the 2015 Mayor's Leadership Award in the “large cities” category at the Oregon Mayor's Association summer conference.

"Central Point is really doing pretty well as a city," Williams said. "We don't have a lot of the problems other cities have, and we agree with how our city manager is doing things. We've got a good council that doesn't fight with themselves.

"I just really love Central point, and I want it to run well. I've still got some loose ends to tie up, and we have some really good stuff happening. People complain about taxes being higher than other areas, but I think we get decent value for our taxes," he said, adding that the only notable fee increases had funded school resource officers at Scenic Middle School and Crater High.

Samuelson, owner of Central Point Florist, was elected to City Council in 2012 and, he said, "has never missed a meeting."

Noting that his campaign consisted of "$400 and a good pair of walking shoes," Samuelson said he set a goal to knock on at least 1,500 doors. He said he has heard from citizens a desire for "new blood" at City Hall and for the city to "live within its means."

"When I campaigned four years ago, it was all about taxes. This year, it's all about how we need somebody new in office," Samuelson said.

"They still feel like the fees are too high, so I won't say that's not mentioned at all, but everybody, overwhelmingly, is saying it's time for a new start. Anybody who sits in a position for too long goes to sleep, and they forget why they got in there."

Samuelson said he would serve two-terms maximum if he were elected.

Barlow, 26, emphasized a concern with police and government corruption. Barlow has established a Web presence documenting issues in the city, largely related to the police department.

"My platform is against police corruption. The biggest issues within the city is a lot of people feel left out and a lot of people feel like our government is kind of ... I'll say it, corrupt," Barlow said.

In addition to rooting out corruption, Barlow said he would require improved training for emergency responders and teachers to reduce offenses against children.

"Nobody wants to take responsibility down here in Central Point, but I know things work from the top down. As mayor, I would take responsibility even if it puts me in legal harm's way. Right now, there's no leadership. These other two have no idea what's going on."

In addition to the mayor's race, two four-year council seats are up for grabs. The candidates are incumbent Allen Broderick and newcomers Rob Hernandez and Richard Wedsted.

Broderick, a past board member of SOREDI who has served on council for eight years, is a real-estate broker focused on keeping taxes low and "providing the highest level of service at the lowest possible cost to citizens."

Hernandez, a past Rotary president and Crater Foundation member, is focused on youth programs and responsible planning.

Councilwoman Taneea Browning will run unopposed for the Ward 4 position.

— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com

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