By DANZA JOHNSON
SALTILLO - Three candidates are battling it out in a mayor's race that has had water quality as been the main campaign issue.
Incumbent Bill Williams, a Republican, is seeking a second term against Democrat Paul Turner and independent Russell Board in the June 2 voting.
Even though all three men have the same goal of bettering the fast-growing town in north Lee County, each has a different view on how to do it.
When Williams, 52, was elected four years ago, he was a rookie to the political game. Never having held political office, Williams said his first term was a feeling-out process, but a successful one. Retired from Renasant Bank, Williams is the full-time mayor of Saltillo.
"I've had a busy four years," said Williams. "We got a lot done for the city. We made a lot of enhancements to our parks that really needed it, as well as to our community center. We also added a lot of sports to our park and recreation department.
"I knew coming in that being mayor wasn't going to be an easy job. It was the hardest work I've ever done in my life, but it was also the most rewarding."
Even though he feels his administration has done a good job of running the town of nearly 5,000 people, Williams will be the first to say that the job is unfinished.
Water quality has been an issue for a long time in Saltillo. The town's water supply comes from three wells.
Citizens for years have complained of the brownish drinking water that often flows through their sinks and fills their washing machines. But over the past four years Williams said much has been done to clean up the water.
"We've added two certified water operators who work in the field checking the water," said Williams. "In our 2008 examination by the state health department, we scored a five for water quality. That's the highest score you can receive and the highest this town has ever received. The biggest issue when I came in was water quality and we've really worked hard to address those problems."
Board, 66, is retired from the work force. Even though he says he's not a politician, he feels he can help carry Saltillo into the future as a growing city. He's lived there for a little more than eight years, but Board said he couldn't love the town more if he had been born and raised in it.
"We need better water, better business and more things for seniors to do," said Board. "It's not just the water that needs improving but it's one of the biggest things. But people in town are very, very concerned about the quality of our water and fixing that will be a top priority. Saltillo has a lot of positive things about it, but we need to work together to keep it that way."
Turner, an employee of Kellogg Snacks, has political experience. He served on the Board of Aldermen for eight years, but said he feels he can do more for the town as mayor.
"I want to bring government back to the people," said the 51-year-old Turner. "I want to be a good public servant for the people. Like everyone else in our town, my main focus is on improving the water quality here."
Turner said that after spending more than 23 years in the grocery store business as an owner and manager, he is prepared to run a city.
"I've had to set budgets, hire personnel and do other things it takes to run a successful business," he said. "I also have been a public servant for the people as a two-term alderman, so I know how to handle city business."
All three candidates agree that upgrades to Wesson Park is also important, as well as continuing to help the area's growth.
Williams has no idea how the race will turn out, but said he's proud of the job he's done over the past four years no matter what the outcome is.
"Things are better in Saltillo now than they were four years ago," said Williams. "That's what I was elected to do, and that's what I tried my best to do. Now it's up to the people to decide."
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.