City commissioners look forward to challenges
Published 3:53 pm Monday, November 9, 2020
Winchester’s registered voters opted for continuity in their city government last week, re-electing the same four city commissioners they’ve had for at least the past two years, and in the case of one of them, for 22 years.
Incumbents Shannon Cox, JoEllen Reed, Kitty Strode and Ramsey Flynn got the most votes of the seven candidates who ran. Those who didn’t make the top four were former Commissioner Kenny Book, Hannah Toole and Sam Williams.
The winners all expressed their gratitude to their constituents and said they were looking forward to the new term that begins in January. Many of the challenges they face will be some of the same ones they’ve been working on together.
Shannon Cox, who will be beginning his 12th term, said he was looking forward to working with Reed, Strode and Flynn.
“We make an excellent team. We work well together. We can disagree without being disagreeable,” Cox said. “We all four have the best interests of the city and the entire community at heart.”
Cox said city government needs to continue to work on Winchester’s drug problem, economic development and the “500-pound gorilla in the room,” the coronavirus pandemic, and “make sure it has as little effect as possible” on Winchester and its economy.
COVID-19 has hit local economies hard, which has affected local governments’ revenue and programs, but Cox said Winchester’s city commission has been “proactive” in trying to minimize the effects on the budget.
“While we knew we were going to take a hit, I don’t think it’s been as bad as we feared,” he said. Cox said city officials will take another look at the budget in January and consider whether further changes need to be made.
He said that in the past couple of weeks, the city commission has authorized the police and fire departments to make some new hires to try and get them back to full strength.
“We’ve not took our foot off the accelerator at all in economic development. We’ll still chase any industry out there that might be interested, and we’ll do whatever it takes to get them here,” Cox said.
Reed, who garnered the most votes, 3,906, which makes her mayor pro tem, has been in city, county and state government for 20 years. She also served on the short-lived county commission after representing the city, then went back to city government.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Winchester,” she said.
She pledged open government.
“I think all of us are trying to ensure that we are accountable … that we spend time with our constituents and we have transparency on the city commission,” she said. “I’m excited, and we’re ready to go again.”
Strode is looking forward to her sixth term.
“We have a lot of exciting things going on that we want to continue with,” such as downtown Main Street development and promoting affordable housing, she said, and she wants to tackle the drug issues.
“We are we. That’s kind of how we work together, and that’s why I think it works,” Strode said.
“We are pretty much on the same page” in terms of what should be accomplished, Flynn said.
He said the city has several projects it needs to keep working on, such as the Seventh Street extension, for which it received $1.6 million in grant money, the Fulton Road project, sidewalk repairs and Main Street improvements.
“There are a lot of projects that we still have on the list, and we’re going to keep plugging along at them and working on them as the city commission and keep moving forward,” he said.
He said the commission also will be working on ordinances to “clean up our city,” address the problems of homelessness and drug addiction and the shortage of manpower in EMS.
“Those are problems we need to be working on every day,” he said.
Flynn said he was glad to be back for a second term.