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Council candidates gather, campaign at first forum

7-13 n_CandidateForumRepublic.JPG: Madison City Council candidates at the July 9 forum were David Chisgar, from left, Maura Wroblewski, Steve Smith, Teddy Powell, Greg Shaw, Brad Johnson, Tommy Overcash, Kathryn Norman, Gerald Clark and John Seifert. RECORD PHOTOS/GREGG L. PARKER
Madison City Council candidates at the July 9 forum were David Chisgar, from left, Maura Wroblewski, Steve Smith, Teddy Powell, Greg Shaw, Brad Johnson, Tommy Overcash, Kathryn Norman, Gerald Clark and John Seifert. RECORD PHOTOS/GREGG L. PARKER

MADISON – Eleven of 15 candidates running for Madison City Council spoke at a candidate forum on July 9, sponsored by Tennessee Valley Republican Club.

District 1 Councilman Tim Holcombe is not seeking re-election.

*Who: David Chisgar, District 1
*Family: Married to Matti; two children
*Job: Engineer, Redstone Arsenal
*Residency: 10 years
Chisgar is running “to make sure the city is a great place to live, work and play. Madison’s infrastructure must be fixed. We need more sidewalks, greenways, parks and playgrounds.”

In support of Madison City Schools (MCS), Chisgar said the tax dispute with “Limestone County is hurting. We have to get that fixed.”

Madison needs to be a city friendly to business. A promoter should “go to retail conventions and sell the city … to bring in more business to help with schools, roads and other needs,” Chisgar said.

*Who: James Ross, District 1
*Family: Married to Ashley; three children
*Job: TMC Design Corporation
Didn’t attend forum.

*Who: Maura Wroblewski, District 1
*Family: Married to Ron; two children
*Job: Hogan Family YMCA, part time
* Residency: 17 years

Wroblewski ranks road improvements as Madison’s top priority with emphasis on Balch, Browns Ferry and Gillespie roads. The Balch/Gillespie intersection needs a traffic light, not a roundabout, she said.

“Madison needs a retail development coordinator and staff to drive an increase in retail establishments, with a priority to fill vacant storefronts,” Wroblewski said. “We need to be on the national stage.”

Wroblewski has a plan for a no-kill, foster-driven animal shelter, funded by private donations.

“The crown jewel of Madison is our school system. It is past time for Limestone County to release those tax dollars, which Madison City/Limestone County residents pay, back to Madison City Schools … ” Wroblewski said.

*Who: Steve Smith, District 2 Incumbent
*Family: Married to Mickie; two children
*Job: Owner, transportation brokerage/logistics company
*Residency: 22 years
“I’m proud of what the council has accomplished in the last four years,” Smith said. He’s the only incumbent without opposition.

“Our budget is working for us better than it has in the past,” Smith said. He cited $15 million in road improvements. “The city, for the first time, has money dedicated to capital purchases, neighborhood repaving and road maintenance.”

City policy updates have returned “power” to City Hall department heads that they need in daily operations. “Every four years, department heads can face a new leader (mayor),” Smith said.

*Who: D. J. Klein, District 3 Incumbent
*Family: Married
*Job: Small-business owner
*Residency: 18 years
Didn’t attend forum.

*Who: Teddy Powell, District 3
*Family: Married; three children
*Job: Department of Defense
*Residency: 12 years
Powell discussed his experience as budget analyst for Department of Defense (DOD) and an entreprenuer in buying/selling businesses. He has worked with bonds and for municipal government in Hueytown. He described himself as “thrifty.”

“Communication needs to improve within City Hall,” Powell said.

Revitalization is important for District 3, which contains Madison’s only historic section. “I have a vested interest because my wife and I restored a historic home,” he said. Powell also believes the city needs a conference center.

“People often use the expression, ‘It is what it is.’ However, I believe, ‘It will be what we make it,'” Powell said.

District 4 incumbent Councilman Mike Potter is not seeking re-election.

*Who: Brad Johnson, District 4
*Family: Married to Emily; three children
*Job: Small-business owner
*Residency: Most of his life
Johnson started selling insurance at 19 and now owns AllState agencies in Athens and Madison.

“We lack communication (in City Hall). We need to explain what we’re doing, fully disclose financials and be completely transparent. You’ll know exactly how I came to each decision,” Johnson said. “We need change. People are fed up.”

Johnson met with MCS Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler about improving relationships between school leaders and council.

Roads receive insufficient funding, Johnson said. He met with city engineer Gary Chynoweth and learned “$1.1 million is all Gary can expect each year for roads. He said we need $3 million.”

*Who: Greg Shaw, District 4
*Family: Married to Kimberly; two children
*Job: Owner, Southern Scape
*Residency: Lifetime

Madison natives, Shaw and his wife are Bob Jones High School alumni. He opened Southern Scape landscaping on Palmer Road 19 years ago.

“I’m running because Mike Potter reached out. I want to step up and be a community leader,” Shaw said. “Madison is a wonderful city but lacks leadership in smart growth. Where are we going to be in 20 years? 50 years?”

Shaw has served on MCS committees and pledges to “work hand in hand with the school board.”

Madison must have a conducive “condition for development of retail and commercial businesses.” Shaw specifically cited hotel taxes generating city revenue.

*Who: Tommy Overcash, District 5 Incumbent
*Family: Married to Debbie; three children, six grandchildren
*Job: Willbrook/NASA on SLS
*Residency: 31 years
Overcash said, “I feel like experience counts more than ever. My experience is invaluable.”

While on council, Overcash has served on many committees, currently with human resources, natural gas board and Madison Public Library. “I’ve been involved on basically all major developemnts in the past 20 years. Target used to be a cotton field … and has revitalized” the U.S. 72 corridor.

Overcash also cited progress on “Town Madison and Intergraph property, involving about 500 acres for a live-, work- and play-development.

For quality-of-life enhancements, Overcash said he and numerous citizens worked to open Madison Hospital, complete County Line Road interchange, fund James Clemens High School with half-cent sales tax for bonds and use those excess funds to renovate Bob Jones.

*Who: Dan Shanahan, District 5
*Family: Married to Mindy; two sons
*Job: The Boeing Company
*Residency: Six years
Didn’t attend the forum.

*Who: Gerald Clark, District 6 Incumbent
*Family: Married to Tina; two children
*Job: Goodwyn, Mills and Caywood
Clark discussed his five-point plan that he introduced in his 2012 campaign. For “customer service,” he uses the “24-hour rule. If you call or email, I’ll respond within 24 hours.” For “financial accountability, I exposed Fieldhouse LLC and voted against tax sales increase in 2013.”

To “improve city policies and procedures,” Clark said council has reversed the perception that “Madison was a difficult place to do business.” He has promoted easier interaction between individuals and government.

For “business recruitment,” Clark works to “increase tax base, not government.”

*Who: Kathryn ‘Kat’ Norman, District 6
*Family: Married to Lynn; three children
*Job: Retired
*Residency: 15 years
Norman is retired and “and can spend all time as needed with council and board committees.”

“I really would like to see several things come to fruition The rec center needs a new set of eyes,” Norman said. An animal shelter and “community gardening” for fresh produce should be on a city “want list.”

Resident should support MCS. Norman’s family moved to Madison because “we knew Bob Jones was going to be equal to Huntsville High School.” Concerning the Limestone County tax dispute, she has talked with several people and “the city (of Madison) can’t do anything until the litigation is resolved,” Norman said.

District 7 incumbent Councilwoman Ronica Ondocsin is not seeking re-election.

*Who: John Seifert, District 7
*Family: Married to Heather; one child
*Job: Defense contractor
*Residency: 12 years
Seifert learned in childhood “to be part of a solution rather than complaining about problems. I wanted to run to help citizens in District 7 and Madison as a whole.”

To improve education funding, Seifert will help resolve the tax dispute with Limestone County and “put pressure on folks who need to do the right thing.”

Parks and recreation need upgrades, specifically deficiencies at Palmer Park, Seifert said. “I want economic development with smart city growth.”

For public safety, “I will make sure first responders have the right leadership in place. We’ve all got to work together,” Seifert said.

*Who: Lena Sledge, District 7
*Family: Married to Michael; five children
*Job: actress, filmmaker
*Residency: 21 years
Didn’t attend forum.

* Who: Tommy Whitten, District 7
* Family: Married to Paula; one child, two grandchildren
* Job: District Technology Coordinator, Madison County Schools.
* Residency: 32 years.
Didn’t attend forum.

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