Infrastructure is among issues
On Nov. 3, the citizens of Ironton will have an opportunity to elect a new mayor. This election you have four candidates campaigning for this position. My name is John David Willis; I am a lifelong resident of Ironton and current Building and Code Enforcement Official for the city of Ironton.
In the past four years, I have diligently worked to improve how our city looks. This process has included eradication of over a hundred blighted or unsafe structures in numerous neighborhoods, cleaning up of properties and demolitions. We have many more to go, but we have made a huge improvement in bettering the community.
I am a graduate of Ironton High School, Ohio University (BSS), and Marshall University (MS). I am married to Jennifer (Holtzapfel) Willis and have four sons: Cole, Clay, Chase and Carson. My work experience includes 20 years in the chemical industry (Allied Signal, Aristech/Sunoco) holding numerous positions in operations and environmental programs, project management/site superintendent for combined sewer separation projects in Ironton, Chesapeake and Proctorville and as mentioned above, building and code enforcement.
Other responsibilities with the city include: facility management, covering for the water superintendent in his absence, shadowing the street, flood and sanitation superintendent and any other request from the current mayor.
For me the position of mayor is about leadership, setting priorities and accountability. We have some difficult issues in our city: outdated infrastructure, lack of employment, a growing drug problem, a floodwall system in need of maintenance and an approximate 14 percent tax base. Our changing demographics, lack of vision and acceptance of status quo has a lot to do with our current situation.
Ironton can be a much better place but it will take all the residents of Ironton working together to make it happen. Although the city has a good workforce, it is increasingly difficult to offer all the services expected by the residents, due to the reality of a shrinking budget.
My focus will be on infrastructure (water lines, streets, etc.), public safety (police and fire), and downtown revitalization. I believe these are the key issues in preparing Ironton for economic development. I will also continue our efforts in cleaning up our city to improve our marketability.
When it comes to jobs, I believe we need to think outside the box. As much as I would like it to be, heavy industry/manufacturing is not a viable option. Now that we are in the 21st century, there are a multitude of tech and green industries on the horizon. I feel Ironton would be a great place for these types of industries.
We have one major resource that is not being used for our benefit, the Ohio River. I want to ramp up the efforts for development and growth on our riverfront. My wish is to make Ironton the standard of what small river towns can be.
Ironton has a Fire Department that a lot of communities would love to have. The department has a great staff which is very professional and committed to protecting Ironton. We also have a great Police Department. This department needs to be funded so that the officers can be properly trained for the ever-changing social climate we are experiencing in these times.
One department that I feel is overlooked a lot is the Flood Department. This department has one employee, to mow nearly 76 miles of floodwall and maintain our gates and pump stations. This is our first line of protection in the event of flooding. We are also mandated by the Corps Of Engineers to maintain, operate and execute this system on a routine suggested by the Corps.
This is a short overview of some of the things that the administration of the city of Ironton is facing. Some huge task. I hope on Nov. 3 you will elect me as your Mayor of Ironton and give me an opportunity to lead this city in a positive direction.
John David Willis
Ironton mayoral candidate