Auburn candidate forum

Incumbent Auburn city councilman Bill Ackworth (right) answers a question from moderator Power Evans (middle) as he and challenger Taylor Sisk listen during a candidate forum held Oct. 19 at the Auburn Public Library. Incumbent councilman Robert Vogel III did not attend the forum. 

Two of the three candidates running for two open seats on the Auburn City Council answered questions and met with residents in a public forum last week at the Auburn Public Library.

Incumbent Bill Ackworth is currently in his second term on the city council and previously served on the zoning board for about eight years prior to serving on the council. Challenger Taylor Sisk is a business owner from Lula and said he decided to start his roots in Auburn with his wife over a year ago. Sisk has no political background, however decided to run for council so, he said, he can “be a voice to represent the people of Auburn.”

The Oct. 19 discussion was moderated by Power Evans, who asked each candidate five questions before allowing the audience to ask their own questions. Citizen questions brought up concerns about the city’s future comprehensive plan, connectivity throughout the city for pedestrians, the candidate’s views on education and their future plans in politics.

The first question from Evans was why each candidate is running for council.

“I believe strongly that government is for the people, by the people and of the people,” Sisk said. “I feel like when somebody is up here, they should be representing the people and I really feel as if I can provide that role. I really had a strong conviction I was juggling between running and not running, and I felt the Lord calling me to step in and hopefully be able to represent the city of Auburn to the best of my ability. I feel like I can be a fantastic representation of the people and I strive for that.”

“I just love the job,” Ackworth responded. “I like working with the people. When it comes to the city council, you're not an individual, you're a group, a team. So, I enjoy the interaction and enjoy representing the people.”

The second question: What are the issues you think are most important to the city?

Ackworth’s answer was roads and traffic.

“We’re in a position where all of the roads are not our responsibility. We have to rely on the state and the county for a lot of road improvements,” he said. “So unfortunately, we’re just in that position (where) we’re going to have to grow or else we’re not going to be able to alleviate the issues that come with growth related to the traffic. It’s going to have to be a joint effort between the state, the county and the city.”

According to Sisk, the three issues he hears the most among the public are growth, resources and taxes.

“You're ultimately looking at doubling the population of Auburn, so they're concerned about the infrastructure, along with resources and clean water is a big issue,” Sisk said. “But I absolutely think that there's a way that we can we can combat all of that.

“We’re going to need enough police force to accommodate all of this growth, and I think if we could have a millage rate rollback in order to accommodate and kind of fight back against our residents having to take the blow, and another way to help fight the taxes would be add a little bit of commercial property in town.”

The third question: Do you think our Main Street is healthy and successful? If not, what would you do to change?

“I think it's healthy and successful and I think we have proof of that because we're building the new city hall,” Sisk said. “You know, I definitely think Main Street could use some renovations to keep it up and going and my biggest fear is that after city hall gets moved, I'm worried that Main Street is going to become dilapidated and left behind. So, with our growth and success I really hope that we're able to keep improving Main Street.”

“I personally don't really see any need to try and change the way it is, at the moment,” Ackworth said. “There's many other issues that are important than that particular one.”

The fourth question: What is your view on annexation?

Said Sisk: “The folks I've talked to seem to like it but, of course, I've also talked to folks that absolutely can't stand it and don't want to be part of it. So, I think hearing the public and finding out their opinion on it and ultimately just representing however they feel is how we should approach the issue.”

Said Ackworth: “I believe with the growth within the city, there will be more annexation in the future. We have some areas where people would like to be annexed in a city, but before that can happen the people before them have to be willing to annex their property. So, It's not always up to the property owner themselves because you have somebody else who's standing in the way. So in other words, we cannot sell any property that is not already part of the city.”

The fifth and final question: What is your favorite thing about Auburn?

“I was born and raised in a small town and I lived in small towns pretty much all my life,” Ackworth said. “Where I moved from in Florida was a small town as well. So that is basically what I liked most about this particular area.”

“I absolutely adore the trains again (after) growing up in Lula,” Sisk said. “At my great grandmother's house, getting to watch it go by was always a big deal. Having that small town feel I think is ultimately what led us to move here because it's still a tight woven community.

“While it seems some cities and towns break away from that and you lose that small town feel, I think Auburn is able to maintain that and that's what makes it so wonderful.”

Incumbent councilman Robert Vogel III is also up for re-election but did not attend the forum. The top two vote-getters in the Nov. 2 election will be elected. There won’t be a runoff.

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