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Published: Tuesday, 10/27/2009

Monroe mayor: Big tests awaiting winner


MONROE - The man who gets elected mayor of Monroe next month will face many challenges.

The slumbering economy, record home foreclosures, the area's ties to the automotive industry coupled with big reductions in state revenue sharing and decreasing property taxes are among the issues that the new mayor must tackle.

The candidates - James Kansier and Robert Clark - are touting their experience and pitching their goals in hopes of swaying voters, who will head to the polls on Tuesday to decide who will be mayor for the next two years.

Mr. Kansier, a retired fire department employee, and Mr. Clark, who is nearing the end of his first term as precinct councilman, are dueling to replace Mayor Mark Worrell, who is stepping down after one term.

Both candidates admit that taking on the job will require careful management of the city finances in a particularly tough economic climate.

"This is not the best time to go into politics. In the state of Michigan revenue sharing will be reduced even further. I know the city budget is strained," said Mr. Kansier, who retired as fire marshal in 2008.

Mr. Clark, a 30-year Michigan State Police trooper, is playing up his law enforcement experience and community service, stressing that fiscal responsibility is crucial for the city.

"We cannot and I will not spend money that we don't have. It is about balancing the budget in these tough economic times. You cannot spend money that is not readily available," he said.

Mr. Clark, 55, is the council representative for the First precinct. He has prior experience in government as a past member of the citizens planning commission and the zoning board of appeals.

"There are difficult decisions that are ahead of us in the next two years. I have the experience to make those decisions," said Mr. Clark, who is the commander of the state police east region.

As far as goals, Mr. Clark wants to continue putting money into capital improvement projects and continue providing essential services for residents, such as police and fire protection.

"We need a balanced work force to provide services that are necessary for residents," he said.

Mr. Kansier joined the fire department 28 years ago. After retiring, he took two part-time jobs; one as an investigator for an insurance firm and the other for Wells Fargo Advisers.

If elected, Mr. Kansier said he would advocate building relationships with adjoining townships to foster cooperation in providing services and equipment, using a regional approach to reduce costs for residents.

"I think we have got to think outside the box. We don't have walls around the city. We have to work with townships to save money," he said.

Mr. Clark said that if elected he will retire from law enforcement to devote his full attention to the city.

In addition to the mayoral face- off, the Tuesday nonpartisan election will feature contested races for three precinct council seats and clerk/treasurer.

Monroe has six city council precincts in which candidates run for office, although voters citywide cast ballots in their own precinct as well as the other five races.

Precinct Two pits incumbent Edward Paisley against former Monroe Mayor John Iacoangeli. Mr. Paisley, 54, was elected two years ago to council. Mr. Iacoangeli, 57, was mayor from 2005 to 2007.

Precinct Five has incumbent Mary Conner being challenged by newcomer Joshua Diulio.

Ms. Conner, 74, who is wrapping up her first term on council, said she wants to capitalize on the River Raisin Battlefield to promote the soon-to-be national park into a tourist attraction. She also believes the city needs to hire an economic development specialist .

"I am proud of the work council has done in making improvements in downtown Monroe. We have a very good group," she said.

Her opponent, Mr. Diulio, 35, is running for elected office for the first time.

"I am running for council because I believe we are not progressive enough and have become stagnant and disjointed. There is a lack of communication within the departments," he said.

If elected, Mr. Diulio said he will work to have a full-time grant writer employed by the city and foster a business-friendly atmosphere.

"We need to sit down with business owners and ask them what we can do for them. We need to open the lines of communications," he said.

In Precinct Three, incumbent Councilman Kelvin McGhee faces a challenge from Chris Bica, 37, a local restaurant owner.

Jeffery Hensley, 46, is running unopposed for Precinct One council seat and Jeremy Molenda, 32, who is complete his first term as Precinct Four councilman, is running unopposed.

Monroe Clerk-Treasurer Charles Evans is being challenged by Kathleen Powers, who ran unsuccessfully in 2008 for Monroe County Clerk.

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