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Unifying neighborhoods priority for District 9 candidates

Oct. 06, 2012 @ 12:35 AM

HUNTINGTON -- Uniting neighborhoods and making the city look more presentable are among the priorities for Huntington City Council's District 9 candidates.

The district includes Guyandotte, Altizer, a small portion of Highlawn between 28th and 31st streets, and the Arlington Park subdivision in the Beverly Hills area.

Democrat Rick Simmons, who is retired due to a medical condition, faces Republican Sherry Lynn McClanahan, a nurse at St. Mary's Medical Center. Simmons was unopposed in the primary, while McClanahan defeated Jeanne Crum Wray. The winner will replace Councilman Jim Insco, who cannot run again because of term limitations.

Simmons, 50, almost withdrew from the council race three weeks ago because of health problems. He remained in the race because there is too much to accomplish in his district, he said.

"A lot of the problems we've faced in my district have also brought people together, so I would continue advocating that," he said.

Simmons said he would push for the formation of a committee to improve the business district in Guyandotte, among other things.

"We have a lot of dilapidated commercial buildings in Guyandotte, so we need to form a good business district committee to start working on fixing them up or filling them," he said.

Simmons also said he supports "getting back to the basics" to improve the economic climate in the city. That means a focus on keeping the budget balanced, filling potholes, paving streets and keeping the city clean, he said.

"We've seen crime reduced in the city over the last few years, but we still have a lot of work to do in getting the place cleaned up," Simmons said. "Would you open a business in Huntington if you drove into town and hit three potholes and went by four piles of trash before you got to your destination?"

McClanahan, 52, said she would focus efforts in her district on eradicating drug activity, helping clean up Guyandotte and Altizer and strengthening neighborhood networking by setting up Facebook pages and texting systems for residents of the district and helping Altizer re-establish its neighborhood association.

"I've talked to a lot of people in Guyandotte and Altizer, and they all talk about litter that needs to be cleaned up," she said. "There are so many historical homes in Guyandotte, so cleaning up would really bring up the value of the neighborhood."

Fixing Huntington's long-term problems, whether it be its infrastructure or its tax structure, will require an improved relationship between city officials and the West Virginia Legislature, McClanahan said. That means city leaders will have to serve as legislative liaisons with state lawmakers and clearly communicate the needs of the city to them, she said.

McClanahan also said she would like to see Marshall University play a larger role in the affairs of city government. The city also could benefit from using Marshall students as interns at City Hall, she said.