Escalon City Council hopefuls – including two incumbents and two challengers – turned out for the Sept. 19 forum hosted by the Escalon Chamber of Commerce.
One candidate was a no show but the four that did take seats on the panel had the opportunity to outline their reasons for running and then also handled a variety of questions posed.
Challengers Peter Krumeich and Will Smith joined incumbents Ed Alves and Robert Swift on the panel, while challenger Richard Percey did not attend. Chamber representative Pat Brown welcomed those attending – a few dozen residents turned out for the event – and briefly went over the ground rules. Miss Escalon Madison Matsunami was there to ask the questions of the candidates and some members of her court assisted with providing the timing, as each candidate was on a time limit to answer the questions.
“I know that we all want to see the best Escalon possible,” said Peter Krumeich, taking to the podium to stand while he gave his opening statement. “I want to invest in the future of Escalon.”
A 2005 Escalon High graduate and a 2010 graduate of Fresno State, he returned to Escalon a few years ago and opened the local Snap Fitness in 2015 and also helps run Pizza Plus, a family business in town. He also has spent the last year attending council meetings on a regular basis to learn more about how the council works, has had meetings with city officials and said he feels he has prepared well to fill the post.
“I believe the best days of Escalon are ahead of us,” Krumeich said.
Will Smith, who ran for the council two years ago, said he wanted to try again, as he still has an interest in moving the city forward, but with a plan.
“I’m a 20-year resident and have a small consultant business here in town,” Smith said. “I want to run to make sure it (Escalon) stays with controlled growth.”
Incumbent Ed Alves said though he has spent several years on the panel, he still is anxious to guide the city.
“My job is to listen and respond, make sure we have a consensus,” he said of acting on residents’ behalf. “We have limited resources but a great community.”
Fellow incumbent Robert Swift said he recently marked 25 years of owning a small business in Escalon and doesn’t feel like he has finished his work on the council.
“Everybody loves the small town way of life but we do have challenges,” he said, adding that part of the council’s role is helping to preserve the small town feel yet keep the town sustainable.
Following their opening remarks, each candidate had the chance to respond to prepared questions. One was provided in advance, the others were asked of the candidates for the first time on Wednesday night.
Topics ranged from what they see the role of the council being to how to encourage more businesses to come to town.
“You’re elected to represent the people but also to lead,” Krumeich said of how he would view his role on the council. “We set direction and policy for the town.”
As far as encouraging more business, Smith said he would advocate a review of existing policies to see if there were some ways the city could offer incentives to businesses to settle in the community.
On the topic of marijuana grows and how to handle that within the community, Alves said “It’s going to be a scary ride” and personal beliefs don’t factor in, as the city will have to abide by the laws governing the recreational use of marijuana.
One question dealt with how the city could get accurate, timely information out to residents, especially in light of the misinformation often shared on social media sites.
“Good news travels fast, innuendo travels faster,” noted Swift, who said he would make use of the city’s website for providing information and also suggested residents police themselves and correct information they know to be false.
Another question dealt with how the city and the Chamber of Commerce can work together for the benefit of the city and another dealt with providing infrastructure and addressing aging systems that the community is outgrowing.
All candidates also had the chance for a brief closing statement, as the Chamber kept the forum to its allotted one-hour time frame.
“I’m very happy to be here and I have enjoyed this process,” Krumeich said, adding that he wants to see Escalon “not just survive, but thrive.”
Smith said he was “honored to be here” and pledged honesty and transparency if elected to the council.
Alves urged those attending to be vocal, attend council meetings and let the council know how they feel about issues.
“Escalon depends on Escalon,” Alves said.
Swift echoed the suggestion from Alves, encouraging participation.
“What’s going to continue to make Escalon a great town, is being participatory … get involved and be involved,” Swift said.
Brown thanked all the candidates that attended, noting they did an “excellent job” and shared some good ideas. The forum adjourned for refreshments, with attendees then getting the chance to visit informally with the candidates.
There are three available four-year terms on the City Council and the top three vote getters in the November election will win the posts.