By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY – Businessman Bill Robertson is challenging Mayor Tim Kent for New Albany’s top post in the May 7 Democratic primary.
No Republican or independent candidates are running, so that election will decide the race.
Kent emphasizes progress that the city has seen during his first two terms and the promise of more to come.
“I’ve got a lot of things started that I’d like to see finished,” he said. “We’re going to see more jobs and more diversified jobs.”
The city is currently negotiating with two industries – one Toyota-related and one not – about locating here, he said.
“We feel like with Toyota doing a body-style change next year, we’ve got an excellent chance of landing some new suppliers,” Kent said. “We have an excellent site in Martintown Industrial Park.”
Kent said that early in his tenure he helped shore up sagging support for the Tanglefoot Trail, which he thinks will be a major boost to tourism.
“When I first came into office, it was about to go down,” he said. “The railbanking was about to run out, and once it ever got out of railbanking, I knew we’d never get it back.”
Other progress Kent points to includes the current program of water line cleaning and replacement and some cleanup of long-abandoned houses.
“Cleaning up the city is a slow process, but we’ve made some progress,” he said. “We’ve condemned some houses now and have torn down some. The process takes a lot longer than I thought, but it’s good that it gives owners a chance to save their property if they’re willing.”
Robertson says his candidacy is not a protest against Kent.
“I’m running for the position of mayor, not against the incumbent,” he said. “He’s a friend of mine. I just have a different approach.”
Robertson was a GM executive and a financial adviser before returning to New Albany to take over his family’s hardware store. After running Hamilton Hardware for 20 years, he remains a financial consultant.
His background in administration, finance and marketing, Robertson said, can help open new sources of funding for needs from tourism promotion to flood control and street improvements.
“There are opportunities for us to take advantage of grant monies that we’re not pursuing,” he said. “I think we should be more aggressive in pursuing that type of thing.”
Robertson said he’ll offer business experience, contacts and determination if elected.
“I learned tenacity and aggressiveness in going for a goal,” he said. “The management techniques I learned can benefit the citizens of New Albany.”
He also said he’d push to cap the mayor’s salary during any agiven term.
“I would like the Stennis Institute to give me an average of what comparable size towns make,” Robertson said. “I don’t know anybody (in the private sector) that’s getting cost-of-living raises every year.”