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Editorial: Williams has experience, skills and vision to lead city

Oct. 17, 2012 @ 11:43 PM

Huntington has many challenges and great potential.

A 50-year population slide and tough economic trends have left the city with crumbling infrastructure, struggles in many neighborhoods, long-term financial hurdles and limited resources to address those problems. But there also are wonderful assets, from Marshall University and a growing medical community to riverfront views and a resurgent community spirit.

The next mayor of Huntington needs the experience and skills to deal with those challenges and the vision to put the city on a path to growth.

We think Steve Williams is the man for the job and the right choice for voters this fall.

As a City Councilman and chairman of the council finance committee, he has repeatedly shown critical leadership on city budget issues, scrutinizing calls for higher fees and taxes and finding better solutions. With pension costs projected to claim about 25 percent of city revenues for the foreseeable future, that close financial eye will be crucial to avoiding the budget surprises that have plagued city government in the past.

Williams also brings a range of other political and government experience, including serving three terms in the West Virginia House of Delegates and working as Huntington's city manager and director of economic development in the 1980s. He is open to changes in city government to ensure professional leadership and efficiency.

Even more importantly, Williams offers years of business experience as an investment broker, and with that real world perspective, he understands that Huntington needs to build its business base and attract new residents.

To do that, Williams has outlined strategies to improve the city's housing stock and neighborhoods and coordinate those efforts with commercial development. He also wants to explore free Wi-Fi areas in the city to attract people and investment and to streamline the city's business licensing and permitting to help entrepreneurs get their new projects going.

To his credit, incumbent Mayor Kim Wolfe has made progress over the past four years in reducing the city's crime rate and stabilizing skyrocketing pension costs. But too often his response to ongoing financial problems has just been new taxes or fees.

Williams has demonstrated he will push city government to work smarter and more efficiently, and we feel he has the vision to help Huntington grow and prosper.

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