Candidates Night features three residents vying for mayor

Luai Ababneh, center, discusses his candidacy for mayor while Jacob Robertson, left, and incumbent Mayor Ken Tedford listen. The mayor’s forum was part of Candidates Night held May 20 at the Fallon Convention Center.

Luai Ababneh, center, discusses his candidacy for mayor while Jacob Robertson, left, and incumbent Mayor Ken Tedford listen. The mayor’s forum was part of Candidates Night held May 20 at the Fallon Convention Center.
Nevada News Group

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The Fallon Post and Lahontan Valley News are sharing articles on the candidates seeking the Churchill County Commission, Justice of the Peace and Fallon mayor.

Editor Emeritus Steve Ranson of the Lahontan Valley News reports on the mayors’ responses from Candidates Night.


Candidates Night at the Fallon Convention Center held before 200 people featured three Fallon residents who are seeking the position of mayor. The forum also was broadcast by KVLV-AM and KKTU-FM radio stations and streamed on Network1Sports. The candidates for three offices participated in a Candidates Night on Monday which was hosted by the Churchill County Republican Central Committee and hosted by The Fallon Post, Lahontan Valley News and Lahontan Valley Broadcasting Company.

Candidates for mayor include Luai Ababneh, Jacob Robertson and incumbent Ken Tedford. In a drawing prior to the questions, Robertson drew first to be followed by Ababneh and then Tedford.

The candidates first discussed their background and reasons for seeking the mayor position.

Robertson said he has spent more than two decades living in Fallon. He said many of his friends wanted to leave, but as time went by, he and others also found the city has a special charm. Robertson said many of residents his age are not involved but he wants to do his part.

“We need a fresh face and new look and see what problems the town has,” he said. “I want to do everything in my power to keep this town great.”

Tedford, who has been mayor since 1995, grew up in Fallon, attended schools here and then the University of Nevada, Reno. His parents began Tedford Tires in 1947, and they instilled in him to the need to lead and the importance of being involved.

“I take this position quite seriously,” Tedford said. “That’s why I walked door-to-door. I love this community, and I love its citizens.”

Tedford said he’s always thinking of ways to better the future needs for the residents and their children.

“People are my guiding light, and I try to keep that in mind,” he said.

Tedford said the mayor is the chief executive officer of the city and with that comes many roles. Additionally, he said he focuses on senior citizen issues as well as establishing a Mayor’s Youth Fund. Tedford said he strongly supports the military and veterans .

Ababneh was born in Saudi Arabia but grew up in Jordan. He spent a number of years as an interpreter for the U.S. Army before coming to the United States. He said being a Christian in the Muslim world was difficult.

Ababneh said he’s rolling up his sleeves and relying on the support of others in his candidacy for mayor.

“I believe Fallon is a beautiful city,” he said. “It has a small-town charm and doesn’t have big city problems.”

If elected, Ababneh vows to sit down and listen to the residents’ concerns and would close down the city offices for half a day each week for the employees to meet with the residents and help them with their concerns.

Should Fallon annex land?

Candidates were asked if they would annex more land if needed.

Tedford said he would not be in favor of annexing more land because the city’s northeast and southwest areas still have room for growth. He said the land should be developed within the city, and the council needs to follow the master plan.

Ababneh said he believes the city could expand because Naval Air Station Fallon will be adding personnel in another year or two. In order to expand, Ababneh said Fallon must look at its infrastructure.

“Development has to happen in an organized way,” he said, adding he saw was haphazard growth in Washington state did when the McChord-Lewis Joint Base encroached against Tacoma.

“Expansion within the city has to be developed wisely,” Robertson said.

He said big business will come if Fallon expands in a reasonable manner.

Quality of streets

The quality of streets in Fallon was another concern among the three candidates.

Ababneh said some streets need improvements, but the infrastructure found underneath the streets would also need improvement.

“Planning for the streets and the people living along the streets is very important,” he said.

Robertson, though, specified streets he would like to see improved.

“People are taxed for the roads, but it’s sad when people pay into the system, and they don’t see the work being done,” Robertson said.

Robertson said funds can be used wisely.

“We need transparency in local government,” he added.

As for repairing future roads, Robertson said the city must hear from the people and make decision wisely based on the input.

Tedford said the Nevada Department of Transportation repaired and improved Taylor and Maine streets and Williams Avenue, which are also federal highways through the city. Tedford added the city has pave numerous streets in the past 18 months, especially the connectors streets that run parallel and perpendicular to U.S. Highways 50 and 95.

Tedford said government money subsidizes the repaving on many streets as does 13% of the property tax which goes to the general fund.

“We will try to do the internal city streets now,” Tedford added.

Housing needs

Housing has been a concern in the area, especially with the balancing of single-family houses and multi-unit housing projects such as apartments or townhomes.

Robertson said expansion comes back to infrastructure which means good drinking water and good roadways.

“We can invite more people to move here to start their lives here,” he said.

With improved infrastructure, he said growth will occur.

Tedford said years ago, Fallon was forced to pay $20 million by the federal government to clean the water with an arsenic treatment.

That project has helped with Fallon’s growth, and Tedford said the city has a master plan with many developments either proposed or approved. He said some housing projects are in the planning stages, while some have been approved but not been built.

Ababneh said residents might be opposed to housing units, but it will also be beneficial to them. He also said infrastructure must be in place before additional housing is approved.

Ababneh stressed the need for additional housing is required because of the proposed base expansion. He reiterated he doesn’t want the lack of housing to be a blight on the Fallon area like it has affected the Tacoma, Washington, region.

Economic growth, development

The three candidates answered questions about economic growth and the roles of both the Churchill-Fallon Economic Development Association and the Churchill Entrepreneurial Development Association in attracting new business.

Tedford said both agencies are critical partners to the local economy. Former Sparks Mayor Bruce Breslow heads up CFED which is reaching out to attract domestic and global businesses to Churchill County along with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Tedford said the city entered into an agreement with CEDA in 1985. Recently, Tedford announced Amazon was planning to build a “last mile” distribution center in Fallon, which will be located in the city’s industrial park east of Harrigan Road near the dry milk plant.

Ababneh said he believes in a free market, and economic development is very important. He proposes reducing the bureaucracy with the application requirements and reducing or eliminating business fees for the first two years.

Robertson, though, said he hasn’t heard too many good things about CEDA, but he said every town has agencies dedicated to business and economic development.

Robertson said he would like to see the city be independently strong with its businesses.

Working with others

The final question asked each candidate about their vision in working with state and congressional leaders for funding of projects.

All three candidates said it’s vital to work with state and national leaders such as the governor, senators and congressman.

Ababneh focused on renegotiating with elected representatives with the amount of money coming into the city. Robertson said it’s important to maintain an open line of communication.

Tedford said the mayor must work with state and federal colleagues. He cited the importance of the mayor, for example, working with a senator while the city staff meets with their counterparts to discuss similar problems and solutions.

In closing, Ababneh asked how the city can serve its citizens. He said transparency is important, and as an example, he said the budget may be hard to understand by the residents.

Ababneh said he would also like to establish a program like a town hall where the mayor could talk to the public about a variety of topics. He cited gun safety as one.

“I’m a big proponent of the Second Amendment,” he said.

Robertson echoed the idea, saying he would like to see more community involvement. He added he would like to see city government be more transparent by having a public platform where residents can speak with their mayor and city council.

Tedford asked for the residents’ vote and reiterated the mayor is not a figurehead but a CEO.

“Fallon has no city manager. It has a mayor,” he said.

Tedford said since Fallon’s founding in 1908, the long line of mayors have governed well.


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