EDITORIAL: Want to make a difference in Powell? Run for a City Council position

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Voters will elect four leaders to the Powell City Council this year: The mayor and three council members. The problem is that as of Wednesday, no one has filed for one of the open seats.

Mayor John Wetzel is seeking to serve two more years in the post, to finish out the term of the late Mayor Don Hillman; a longtime councilman, Wetzel was appointed to the position last year after Hillman’s death. In Ward 2, Scott Mangold is running for a four-year term. Mangold previously served as mayor, then was appointed to Ward 2 to fill Wetzel’s vacated seat last year.

On Wednesday, two candidates filed for Ward 3: Tim Sapp will seek re-election, while newcomer Tawnya Peterson is seeking her first term on the council.

No one had stepped up to run for the Ward 1 seat as of Wednesday afternoon, and time is running out. The candidate filing period ends at 5 p.m. Friday.

If no candidates file for the open position by the deadline, then Powell voters will have to write in names on their August ballots. The two people who receive the most write-in votes — assuming they get three or more votes — could then advance to the general election in November.

We hope it doesn’t reach that point. While we have seen write-in candidates go on to become successful elected officials on local boards, now is the best time for prospective council members to declare their intentions. Further, voters are better served when they have a choice. Unfortunately, we have seen multiple years when most Powell City Council races are uncontested.

When there’s only one candidate — or worse yet, no candidates — voters can feel like it doesn’t matter if they show up on Election Day.

Each vote does matter, especially in local races. In the 2014 election, the Powell City Council Ward 3 race came down to just 18 votes.

While statewide or national offices usually get the limelight — and the more attractive salaries — local public officials do the hard work that often matters most in our community.

City Council members make decisions that directly affect local residents, such as as making it illegal to hold and talk on a cell phone while driving. The City Council also determines how much you pay for garbage, where you can park an RV and whether a new subdivision or dog park can be built by your home.

During its upcoming meeting on Monday evening, the City Council will decide whether to submit an application for a grant of up to $3 million to fund a publicly owned conference center to a planned hotel. The state money — through a Wyoming Business Council grant — would be used toward a 10,000 square foot conference center with a commercial kitchen.

The grant application is just one of the many important decisions that Powell City Council leaders must make during their meetings.

We appreciate those who have spent years serving the community as public servants. As some longtime officials at the local and state levels decide it’s time to pass the torch, we hope new leaders will be ready to take on the challenge.

In the months leading up to August’s election, we’ll certainly encourage voters to show up at the polls. But before then, let’s ensure they have a choice in whom they elect.

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