FORUM: Candidates for mayor talk growth, addiction

Published 8:24 am Thursday, May 3, 2018

Candidates for Winchester mayor, incumbent Ed Burtner and local businessmen Ralph Harrison and Billy Flinchum, fielded questions about their ambitions for office and how to tackle the issues of homelessness and drug addiction at the Clark County Candidates Forum Wednesday night.

Burtner used his opening statement to urge the public to vote, calling it a precious right not to be taken for granted.

“The only promise I have ever made is that I will as hard as I can and do my best,” he said. “As a community we have faced and will continue to face many challenges that will require strong leadership and a community partnership.”

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He noted the progress made in the community since the economic downturn in 2008-09, citing that the unemployment rate has decreased from an all-time high of 12.9 percent in January 2010 to 4.2 percent in January 2018.

Burtner said between 2005 and 2017, 3,000 jobs have been created with an investment of $370 million, and that required cooperation and collaboration among the city and county.

Flinchum said he wanted to make an opening statement that he hoped wouldn’t cost him the election.

“I am a man of God,” he said.

Flinchum said while the community has issues, he believes the direction to improve on those can come from God.

“We know with certainty that we have issues in Clark County, and not just in our county but in surrounding counties,” he said. “But this affects us most, because this is where we live. I’m a lifelong resident. We have to recognize that we need help that’s greater than ourselves.”

Harrison said he is running for office to make a difference, especially for the less fortunate

“I want to do this because I want to be able to do something to help the people of Winchester,” he said. “I’m fortunate, I can do anything I want to do. I do for people and help them without wanting [in return]. That’s one of the reasons I’m running.”

In regards to accomplishments and ambitions for the office, Burtner said he couldn’t take credit for any progress made in his previous terms.

“I haven’t accomplished anything,” he said. “The mayor is really part of a team and partnership. Whatever we do requires partners.”

Flinchum said he hopes his greatest accomplishment would be to spur growth in the community.

“I don’t think anyone could say they love their town more than I love Winchester,” he said. “If I could do anything to improve or upgrade the community and welcome others to be part of our community and growth, because we are going to grow.”

He said working together and unity would be vital to that success.

Harrison also said he wanted to see growth, particularly in business and jobs.

“I would like to see our town grow,” he said. “We need to get jobs. We need factories and other business people to comer here. We need to give them an incentive to be here, because we need the tax money from those to operate our community.”

The three agreed that the issues of homelessness and drug addiction go hand-in-hand.

Burtner said he thinks the Clark County Homeless Coalition and Beacon of Hope are great examples of how the community is addressing the problem.

“(They) are the perfect example of how people come together and address a problem with government being the driving force,” he said. “They are great programs developed and derived from the people.”

Flinchum said to address the homeless situation, the drug crisis would need to be addressed as well.

“Some of this [homelessness] has been created by the drug addiction, and the drug addiction in itself has created a lot more problems for every day families in this and other communities. It’s a great big, bad problem we have. I’m not sure there’s an easy solution for that. We need to be compassionate to those with addiction.”

Harrison said tackling the drug issue would help people find and keep jobs, thus reducing homelessness.

“Again, it comes under the jobs,” he said. “The people who get addicted, they can’t work. They’re addicted. They can’t show up and can’t work when they get there. We need some form of help for them. It has to be done right here in our local hometown with us all implementing something. If you can help the addict, then they won’t be homeless because they’ll have money coming in and can rent or buy a place. It might take a little help to get them started.”

About Whitney Leggett

Whitney Leggett is managing editor of The Winchester Sun and Winchester Living magazine. To contact her, email or call 859-759-0049.

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