By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
Photos by Lisa Bicknell
From left to right: Sharon Snowden, candidate for mayor of Ravenna, Joe Crawford, co-moderator of the candidate forum; Estine Tipton, incumbent candidate for mayor of Ravenna, and Lindsey Rogers, co-moderator of the forum.
The first of the fall political candidate forums was held on Monday night at the Estill County High School.
Both candidates for Ravenna mayor (Sharon Snowden and Estine Tipton) participated in the forum, as well as four candidates for the cities of Irvine and Ravenna council seats.
Valerie Henderson Flinchum was the only one of the candidates for Ravenna city council to participate.
Ernest Lee Farmer, Derrick Muncie and Janice Bush were the three Irvine mayoral candidates who took part in the forum.
Valerie Flinchum was the first candidate to introduce herself. She said she has never lived anywhere else but Estill County, 41 of those years in Ravenna.
Flinchum expressed her view that elected officials are “servants…obligated to spend wisely, and efficiently…” She also said she is a proponent of transparency in government, and she would like to see the city send out a statement once or twice a year with the city’s financial report.
Flinchum said the year 2020 will mark 100 years since Ravenna was incorporated. She would like to see a commemorative event coordinated with sister city Ravenna, Italy.
Ernest Lee Farmer introduced himself as former mayor of Irvine for eight years, and prior to that, a city council member for two years.
He said that when he was mayor of Irvine, he told the city that they shouldn’t make a habit of borrowing money to run the city. After his first year as mayor, he said, the city did not borrow money to operate the city for seven years.
“We learned how to live within our means,” he said.
Farmer was also proud that a $1 million facility was built at a cost of only $250,000 to the city, and an $11 million water treatment plant at a cost of less than five million to the city, with the help of grants.
“I love the people here, and can’t think of anywhere I’d rather raise a family,” Farmer said.
Derrick Muncie said he feels that his four years in the Air Force and four years in the Air Force Reserves, as well as many years of public service with the fire department qualify him to serve as councilman for the city of Irvine.
He wants to be available and approachable to the public and to the city’s workers, and not just show up on meeting nights.
One of his goals as mayor would be to improve employee retention and benefits, and find out why businesses are leaving the city and if there is a way to keep them, by possibly offering tax breaks. He too says he is in favor of a more open and transparent government.
Janice Bush related to the audience how she left Estill County to teach fifth grade in Lebanon, Ohio. She married Eugene Bush while in Ohio, and they both “quit two good jobs with benefits” to return to Estill County.
“There is nothing like coming home,” she said. After retiring from 30 years of teaching, she decided “maybe I can help Estill County.”
“I hate to cook and sew…,” she said, “…but I’m real nosy.” She said that she has made it her business to find out what’s going on in her community.
Bush says the “saddest thing to every happen in Estill County” is the drug epidemic.
Incumbent Ravenna mayor Estine Tipton said she has lived in Ravenna all her life, and she has served as mayor since 2013. Prior to that, she served on the council for several years.
Her main goals as mayor are to serve others, to treat employees as assets and not liabilities, and to treat every citizen with respect.
“My record speaks for itself,” she said. Tipton said she is really excited about the Steam Engine museum coming to Ravenna. Some things she is currently working on as mayor is improving streets and addressing the abandoned properties issue.
“I make mistakes, but you learn from your mistakes,” she said.
Sharon Snowden, also a candidate for Ravenna mayor, remembers traveling through Estill County to visit her grandparents and reading the graffiti on the tunnel outside of Ravenna. She has served four years on the council and is owner of Ravenna Drug Store. She named other successful businesses she has owned, and she said she keeps her real estate license current.
Snowden sees the city of Ravenna’s main problem is its “financial deficit” of around $25,000.
Ways to reverse that deficit, she says, are to bring in more revenue, pay out less, or a combination of the two. She also said she thinks that the city council meetings are currently too short, and said “there is nothing we can accomplish,” in such a short amount of time.
Each of the candidates were then given the opportunity to say how they think city governments should respond to the opioid crisis. Estine Tipton said it is important to instill in children to never start taking drugs in the first place.
Sharon Snowden said that early education in the home and in schools is important, as well as having open arms and hearts and helping the programs that are coming into the area to help.
The candidates were asked their thoughts on economic development.
Ernest Farmer said it is important to shop at home and eat at home as much as possible to support local businesses.
Derrick Muncie echoed those thoughts, and he spoke of several events now happening in town. The problem is getting people to come out to do those activities, he said.
When the candidates were asked about the biggest complaints they hear about their city, most of them agreed that the condition of the streets and abandoned properties are the issues people complain about most.
Sharon Snowden said that a lack of police presence in town is what she hears complaints about, and she said people want assurance that they are there.
“What are the biggest challenges facing your city?”
That was one of the last questions asked of the candidates on Monday night.
Estine Tipton said she wants to see Ravenna be a beautiful city, but said that getting everybody on board is a challenge.
Sharon Snowden said that getting the city’s financial house in order is the biggest challenge.
Valerie Flinchum said that knowing the Kentucky Revised Statutes and the Ravenna by-laws is important. “There’s not a lot of gray there,” she said.
Ernest Farmer also said that getting finances back in order is important because income is limited.
Derrick Muncie said the biggest challenge is surviving. He said that most things coming to the city is through grants.
Janice Bush said that finding ways to increase revenue is a challenge, but the city of Irvine is currently going after property owners who are 8 to 10 years behind on paying their taxes.
The forum was broadcast on local radio stations and Facebook, and can be viewed again on Facebook on the Estill Action Group page and the Estill County Public Library Page.
The forum was moderated by Lindsey Rogers with the Estill Action Group, Joe Crawford with the Estill Development Alliance, and Kelby Rose. Rose is a senior at Powell County High School.