Competition among four candidates for two seats on the Fallon City Council is now in the home stretch.
Susan Smith-Savala is opposing Rachel Dahl for the Ward I seat, while James D. Richardson and Eric W. Blakey are bidding for the Ward III seat in a campaign that will be decided on Tuesday. Dahl and Richardson are incumbents seeking their second four-year terms.
Early voting concludes today at City Hall, where the Clerk Treasurer’s office will accept ballots from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
And on Tuesday, the campaign trail comes to an end at the Fallon Convention Center, where the polls will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Ward I has 1,346 registered voters and Ward III has 1,290 registered voters, according to Clerk/Treasurer Gary Cordes.
To provide some insight on their views, each of the candidates responded to four questions from the Lahontan Valley News.
What do you see as the major issues for this campaign?
Rachel Dahl: “The budget is important and we’ve made tough decisions over the past four years that were fiscally prudent. I know what kind of care goes into each decision and I’m comfortable with them. We’ve tried to be responsible and responsive to the people, to do what’s right and provide the best services we can to the citizens. I feel comfortable that we’ve been working hard to run the city in the way folks have been running it for years. Everyone at the city is really dedicated to doing their best, and I know we will continue to be diligent about providing excellent service to the citizens of Fallon.”
Susan Smith-Savala: “I’ve been out there and I’ve been talking to people and there just don’t seem to be any issues. It doesn’t have anything to do with the city, but people are so worried about jobs and about their homes, and they don’t have enough money. The other thing is jobs, jobs, jobs and more jobs. I know the city is working on that, and I know the mayor has wanted to bring in anything that will help in Fallon. I just wish, I don’t understand why the businesses don’t want to come to Fallon, because it’s such a great place to live.”
Eric Blakey: “I don’t see any issues; rather I see challenges within the city of Fallon. However, there are never-ending challenges such as the rising cost to operate as a municipality, the shrinking size of the available workforce, along with the never-ending challenge of recruiting businesses here that will intertwine well with the community. I feel new leadership is a must in order to assure all citizens of the city of Fallon that we would explore all avenues in order for the city of Fallon to maintain its good standing with all.”
James Richardson: “Balancing the city’s budget and determining spending priorities are the biggest issues facing the city. I am focused on returning staffing levels to ensure that we continue to provide quality service to the citizens of our community. Due to the nation’s economic recession, revenue shortages were experienced by the city. I refused to consider raising taxes or increasing utility rates as a means to solve the revenue shortfalls. I am optimistic the City’s economy will improve and projects that have been on hold can now move forward.”
What long-term goals do you have, say, for the next five to 10 years?
Rachel Dahl: “We have such important resources in our enterprise accounts. These are responsible investments that were made in the past and we will continue to make these to benefit the citizens of Fallon which will keep us in a good strong position in the future. If we look at other communities which are really suffering, we don’t have those kinds of problems here. As you saw recently, in cooperation with Churchill County, we were able to complete the gym in Venturacci Park. As budget funds allow we will be able to continue to improve our parks and streets. Lastly, we are at the beginning of a major project to build Convention Center Drive which will benefit many citizens in Fallon. The council is committed to that project.”
Susan Smith-Savala: “I would really like to see people become more involved in the city. I’m a proactive person, and I like to be out in the neighborhoods. I’d like to be talking to business people and I think that if you as a city council person actually come out into the neighborhoods, not just when you’re campaigning or not just when somebody calls you on the telephone, that you are out at least three times a year and actually going out and knocking on every person’s door, not just registered voters, but every single person in the ward. I think that if people see you are interested in the neighborhood, you are interested in the ward, you are interested in the city, and you’re actually coming and knocking on my door, and asking if there’s anything I can do for you, or any suggestions that you might have, then people might be a little more proactive.”
Eric Blakey: “My short- and long-term goals are as follows: Short-term goals — citizen satisfaction, employee satisfaction, law enforcement training and equipment, fire-rescue training and equipment, infrastructure within the city; long term goals — bring new business to the city of Fallon in an effort to create jobs, support the existing city of Fallon beautification efforts, create a common economic development program between the city of Fallon and Churchill County, reduce our energy footprint, promote tourism.” James Richardson: “Personally, I would like to see new home construction completed on our many vacant lots in the city. These vacant lots have created a dust problem for many of our citizens and I understand this is troubling for them. As a councilman in Ward III, I voted in favor of the Dairy Farmers of America milk plant facility in the New River Business Park. I would like to see the milk plant as the facilitator of new jobs and growth in our community.”
What are your views on the new Highway 95 Corridor Regional Development Authority which the city has entered into, as opposed to Churchill County’s alignment with the Northern Nevada Development Authority?
Rachel Dahl: “The county is working with NNDA and we are working with the Highway 95 Corridor group so this community benefits from being part of two separate economic development efforts. This is what the governor asked for, that communities pull together in his restructuring of economic development and it has been exciting partnering with the other communities to do the Highway 95 economic development venture. Both Mineral and Pershing counties have been amazing to work with; I look forward to a lot of success coming out of that group.”
Susan Smith-Savala: “I think it’s great. I don’t think people know a lot about it; I think we should promote it even more and I think we should be more active in it. You really have to go after things, especially in this economy. You have to let people know who you are and what you have to offer, and come talk to us and let us see if we can accommodate you and if you’re a good fit for us.”
Eric Blakey: “Due to geographic location of Fallon both the city of Fallon and Churchill County should combine their efforts to develop one common economic development agenda.”
James Richardson: “Economic development is extremely important to any community. It makes sense for Fallon to join other similar rural communities in economic development. Rural communities have different economic development goals and needs in comparison with urban communities. Churchill County has joined economic development associations with larger, more urban communities. I believe we can combine our resources to better serve all of our economic interests.”
What makes you the most qualified candidate?
Rachel Dahl: “My education, my experience and my natural desire to serve and work with people make me the best qualified to be on the City Council. Growing up here and participating in government service at several levels since I was in high school has given me an interest and a perspective that you can’t get any other way. The relationships I’ve built, my ability to make things happen, my participation at the state and national level are all for the benefit of Fallon. We have an amazing community here and I care about it and the people who live here. It has been an honor serving them, and will be an honor to continue to serve them.”
Susan Smith-Savala: “City Council may only be a part-time job, but for me, it would be my only job. I could find something to do every single day, whether it’s walk down the street and go into a business and ask them how they’re doing and ask them if there’s anything you can do to help them, I believe that’s your job, especially in a town this small. If you call me, I’m going to return your call within 48 hours, unless I’m out of town or unless I have an emergency, because that’s my job. I want to be involved with things from the ground up. I love to see things come from an idea to fruition. I love to be involved and I will be helpful in any way I can to anyone.”
Eric Blakey: “I encourage you along with family and friends to vote for the candidate that you feel will represent your needs as a citizen of the city of Fallon. I am a local businessman that has continued to grow my business during these economic hard times since opening in 2007. I am involved with the community in many different ways, from supporting several youth organizations with sponsorship, a current 10-year member of the Fallon-Churchill Fire Department, a current two-year member as a reserve deputy sheriff for Churchill County and currently serving my fourth term as president of the Churchill County Youth Softball Association. I am the father of two active children that are involved within the community. Should you choose to elect me as the next city councilman of Ward III, I will guarantee you professional representation, honesty, commitment, fairness, integrity, leadership and fiscal responsibility.”
James Richardson: “In my first term as councilman, I voted for ordinances and projects that contributed to the betterment of our community. I understand the hardships many of us have faced in the past four years, and I remained committed in protecting our citizens from any further financial burdens from the city. I am very active in the community with youth sports and I serve on many community boards and committees. I am a Churchill County High School graduate and I have lived in Fallon for more than 28 years. I have been married to my lovely wife, Tami, for 18 years and we have two active boys. I would be honored to serve the community as City Councilman, Ward III for a second term.”