After Frankfort Mayor Chris McBarnes announced his plans to resign to take a new job in Wyoming, three candidates threw their hats in the ring to replace him. Republican precinct chairs will pick one of them tomorrow. WBAA spoke with all three candidates about why they’re running, why they should be mayor, and what they plan to accomplish.
Frankfort’s Clerk-Treasurer Judy Sheets, Frankfort Board of Works member Ken Estes, and Frankfort City Council member Eric Woods all say their experiences working with--and within--city government qualify them for the job.
“The council might decide this, the Board of Works might decide that, but it all ends up in my office,” Sheets says.
“Well, that’s one thing with the Board of Works position—you work with the mayor every day,” Estes says. “Everything that the mayor does, you’re a part of.”
“I just knew, once I set in that seat, and was doing the work of the people, that would be a natural progression,” Woods says.
Current Mayor Chris McBarnes leaves office one week from today, on Feb. 28. And on Monday, Clinton County Republican Party chair Jim Moyer will officially notify the county clerk that either Sheets, Estes, or Woods will take the post.
“Everything that happens, I have some knowledge of,” Sheets says.
Candidate and Clerk-Treasurer Judy Sheets just started her 13th year in that role. She says she’ll be a collaborative leader.
“You’ve got to have the citizens involved,” Sheets says. “You’ve got to have the council involved. You’ve got to have your Board of Works involved. Your departments. Because when you grow, those departments have to grow as well.”
Sheets says her day-to-day management of the city’s finances, her experience working with department heads, and her institutional knowledge of Frankfort’s governmental past make her the best person for the job. Before becoming Clerk-Treasurer, she worked at the Frankfort Police Department for nearly 30 years.
For his part, candidate and Board of Works member Ken Estes touts what he’s learned from current Mayor McBarnes.
“What's funny was he supposedly hired older guys to get wisdom from, but sometimes it worked just the opposite—I think I got more wisdom from him than he gave me,” Estes says.
Estes has served on the Board of Works for eight years, and served two different terms on the Frankfort City Council. He says both allowed him to see two different sides of city government — budgeting money, and then actually spending it.
“You know what’s going on on both sides of the fence,” Estes says.
Estes and candidate and city council member Eric Woods are both business owners, who say their business knowledge will come in handy. Woods runs Frankfort’s IGA grocery store.
“I think I have a good grasp on how to continue my work with the public, and I am very understanding on what it takes to be fiscally responsible,” Woods says.
Woods has served on the city council since 2007. He says he wants to boost Frankfort’s economic development—to attract new residents and business owners—while still addressing the needs of those who already have roots in the area.
“We always talk about wanting the new businesses and all of that, but I’ll tell you—one of my big initiatives will be to—let’s also make sure we’re maintaining what we have,” Woods says.
All of the candidates praise outgoing Mayor McBarnes, but there are a few points up for debate. Judy Sheets applauds the city projects currently underway—such as the ongoing construction of downtown’s Prairie Creek Park and the new aquatic center. But after they’re done, she says, it’s time to take stock.
“I would like to see us at some point maybe take a step back,” Sheets says. “Look where we are, where we want to go, what do we want for Frankfort.”
Estes agrees projects in mid-stream should be finalized.
“And at my age, I am not interested whatsoever of having another term,” Estes says. “If I can finish what we’ve got started, and do it right, I’ll feel like I’ve done my job. I really will.”
He does want to expand some existing initiatives — such as a program that helps senior citizens remain in their homes longer.
“I would not say I would change the direction of this city one bit,” Woods says. “I of course am my own person; will not do it in exactly the same way the mayor has.”
Woods focuses praise on the current revitalization plans; he says the “vast majority” are in line with his thinking. He also wants to loop in a larger circle of decision makers.
“I think it’s important that the city administration works with the county and chamber of commerce, economic development director for the county, to make sure that we are putting out the right story,” Woods says.
All three candidates will have three minutes to convince the caucus members Saturday, and then the Republican precinct chairs will vote by secret ballot. All three are lifelong Frankfort residents, and all three make the point that the people deciding their fate know who they are.