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This is one of a series of guest columns from candidates in contested races in the June 9 West Virginia Primary Election.

It’s time the citizens and taxpayers of Huntington finally have a mayor with their best interest at heart. I have been intensely involved in the government of Huntington for the past 40 years, first as a founding member of the Huntington City Charter Board and then a city councilman for four years. I know what it takes to get Huntington on the road to recovery. We deserve a safe and prosperous city. When elected, I intend to bring law and order back to Huntington and enforce current city ordinances. We can’t continue to turn a blind eye to the blight that has consumed Huntington.

The current administration boasts of a $9 million carryover in the current budget. I intend to reduce burdensome taxes and fees. We need to look at sourcing revenue from places other than the taxpayers’ pocket. The natural resources Huntington possesses (natural gas, hydroelectric power, etc.) need to be developed. As a river city we need to utilize the river as one of our prized resources. A more controversial proposal is the possible legalization of marijuana both medically and recreationally. This issue has proved to be a massive revenue source in other states and should at least be examined.

Huntington needs to be preserved. Our heritage, historic sites and landmarks such as the Memorial Field House are disappearing brick by brick. Unless we make some real changes, future generations will have no idea of the greatness Huntington once had. One of my near and dear promises will be the construction of an Olympic swimming pool for all the citizens of Huntington. The second largest city in WV deserves this recreation that was taken away in 2004.

We need to repair, refurbish and rebuild the city’s crumbling infrastructure, from the roads to the sewers and the total elimination of the substandard dwellings. These structures are a danger to the citizens and employees of Huntington. I plan to maintain all catch basins to ensure they are clean and free of debris to prevent the occurrences of flooding in the streets, viaducts and residential sections of Four Pole creek.

Having a police department that is fully staffed is critical to the safety of the city. I would implement a city-run police academy to train our police at home to expeditiously fill our ranks and prevent lapses in staffing. I would propose the return of foot patrols in any high crime area. The pestilence of criminals from out of state has brought this city to near destruction. Next, I would focus on the fire department. I will take a fresh look and examine what changes need to be made. Possibly cross training of the police and fire departments to give us 200-plus officers of both departments. The misuse of equipment will not be tolerated. Maintenance of the equipment will be of the utmost importance so that it can respond to emergencies for the safety of the citizens. Also, I would select a new fire chief that is more interested in Huntington than Hollywood.

Yearly, we lose a reservoir of college graduates from our hometown university. Unfortunately, these graduates must leave the state in order to find employment. Huntington needs their help. We need to entice businesses with high-paying jobs to the city. Another idea I would like to see come to fruition is the building of a shopping complex within city limits, unlike the Huntington Mall.

We need to reclaim Huntington and make it the jewel city again. I am the man to do it!

Tom McCallister is a Republican candidate for mayor of the city of Huntington.

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