2017-07-13 / Front Page

Aspiring Burton City Council members express their concerns

810-452-2645 • tterry@mihomepaper.com

Raymond Freiberger Raymond Freiberger BURTON — Candidates for the four-year term of city council, for which three seats will be open this year, have diverse backgrounds, and though they say they share some of the same priorities, their top concerns in regards to the city also vary. There are seven candidates for city council residents will be able to vote on in the primary August 8, including two current council members.

Raymond Freiberger, a veteran and retired IRS agent, said if he is elected his number one priority will be the budget. He said his next highest priority would be the roads.

Freiberger said people should vote for him because of his experience.

“My wife and I have had over 20 businesses over the years, with one selling cat products internationally and making $150,000-$200,000 a year within four years. You have to run the city like a business. We need to think of other businesses and think outside the box.”

Rick Fuhst Rick Fuhst Rick Fuhst, an office manager of a heating and air conditioning company, said, if elected, his main focus would be to get the budget back in line so the city is not taken over by an emergency manager.

Fuhst said when budget transfers are made he understands why, but based off their questions he concludes council members don’t understand.

He said roads are in bad shape, but the city can’t go into debt paying for the roads because it would never recover.

“I have a good understanding of the operation of the city,” Fuhst said.

Councilman Dennis O’Keefe, retired first vice president of JPMorgan Chase, said road conditions, blight and the demolition program will continue to be priorities, if reelected.

“In my successful banking career, I was a manager and leader of more than four hundred staff members,” he said. “I have a great understanding of financial issues, which is greatly needed in the city of Burton. My 40 years of community involvement has given me a great understanding of people. I would hope within my six years as a councilman I have earned the residents’ trust.”

Dennis O’Keefe Dennis O’Keefe Trevor Rodgers, a material handler at Flint Assembly Truck and Bus, said many Burton residents were not aware Mayor Paula Zelenko proposed her budget at the millage it had been at for about 20 years last year and the council lowered the budget, and did the same thing this year. Rodgers said he is concerned about roads.

“I want to advocate for the residents so they are aware of what’s going on in city government, whether that involves going to their doorsteps or meeting them at the grocery store,” Rodgers said.

Trevor Rodgers Trevor Rodgers Councilman Vaughn Smith, a retired media sales manager, said a top priority he will have, if re-elected, would be keeping Burton as an affordable place to live.

Smith said he spoke with several residents who all said as taxes continue to increase it’s getting harder to remain in Burton.

He also said he prioritizes continuing to work on the city’s legacy issues, and keeping the roads in as good a state as possible.

“I feel it would also be very difficult for someone new coming in to understand the city’s issues,” Smith said.

Danny Wells, an assembler at the body shop at GM Truck and Bus Assembly, said his main priority as a councilperson, if elected, would be to get control of the budget and get administration in check utilizing the system of checks and balances.

Wells said he talks to residents, and believes once unbelievably high water bills are under control and taxes cease to increase the rest will take care of itself.

Vaughn Smith Vaughn Smith “The residents know me in and out,” he said. “They deserve someone who will listen to them and fight for them.”

Brandon Verdier, inventory specialist at Staples, said he believes the most important thing he would do if elected is change city council and administration’s way of doing things in such a way it would mobilize the city of Burton so it was not just a few people who attend council meetings being represented.

He also said he would advocate for decriminalizing of cannabis at the city level, and that he would like the police department to reanalyze their priorities.

Something needs to change,” he said. “I want to hear everybody’s ideas for change.”

Wells has served previously on the council and has run unsuccessfully for mayor.

Brandon Verdier Brandon Verdier

Danny Wells 
Photo by Wyld Pear Photography Danny Wells Photo by Wyld Pear Photography

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