Incumbent Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison is seeking his fourth consecutive full term in office because he has some unfinished business and some unmet long term goals he wants to complete before leaving office.
Harrison has an easel in his office that has three categories on it, including now, soon and future.
“I put on there some ideas. The future ideas I have been working on for several years now. They are attainable,” he said.
Harrison said that he doesn’t want to release information on these future projects now because they involve other people he is trying to partner with.
“I still need some time to work on it, even though we have been working for seven years on one particular idea,” Harrison said.
Harrison is facing opposition in the Nov. 6 General Election from retired doctor Bernard Moses.
Harrison said that jobs are one of the biggest issues he sees in the race, but not in the sense that some people might think.
While you will commonly see “help wanted” and “now hiring signs” around Williamsburg seeking people to work, Harrison said the kind of jobs that he wants to recruit are ones that can keep our young people here with careers after they graduate.
Harrison said that improving the area’s work force also involves what he considers to be the second most important issue in the race, which is tackling the drug problem. He said the issue of jobs and the drug problem go hand in hand.
“We have an image problem that we can’t fulfill jobs. When businesses come into town, the first question they ask is can you fill these positions?” Harrison said.
For instance, when Senture considered coming to Williamsburg, the first question the company asked city leaders was whether there would be enough applicants to fill 500 positions.
Harrison said when local leaders answered yes, Senture then asked for proof. This lead to a three-night job fair to recruit the 500 perspective applicants.
“We got over that and now they are here, but we had to show we could fill those positions,” Harrison added. “We have to get our people trained on how to show up for work and how to go to work so we can increase our job participation rate so we can also recruit those type of jobs that people are wanting.”
He said that infrastructure, some of which is over 70 years old, would probably be the third biggest issue in the race, and it is something every city in Kentucky is dealing with.
He noted that the town does win some awards for its infrastructure, such as annual awards for the cleanliness of city’s drinking water.
“Regarding infrastructure we do have some sewer issues. We are attacking them. We have been attacking them for 14 years now. The amount of money we have spent on infrastructure would surprise everyone,” Harrison said.
For instance, Harrison noted a $6 million upgrade to the water treatment plant during his term as mayor that moved the raw water intake upstream from where the sewer plant discharged its waste water into the river.
Qualifications for job
Harrison was first elected mayor during a special election in 2004 to fill the unexpired term of Bill Nighbert, and since that time he has been elected to three full terms as mayor.
Harrison said that he feels his experience serving as mayor makes him well qualified for the job.
If he were running for the mayor’s position for the first time, Harrison said he would probably answer the question of what qualifies him for the job with the answer that it is his love for the town.
“I don’t think you could do this unless you really love the town you are in. If you are out just trying to find what is wrong with the town, then you are in it for the wrong reasons,” he said.
Harrison said he wants to emphasize the things that are positive about Williamsburg, and also try to fix things that aren’t positive about the town.
“I think the biggest thing is the knowledge I have built up over the last 14 years, and the people I have met both in state government and governments of other cities, and the opportunities I have had to serve makes me very qualified,” Harrison said.
Serving the community
How can the city better serve the needs of the community?
Harrison said he thinks the city serves the needs of the community well, but that it could always be done better, and that the city needs to continue working with the schools, recruit more business, and build more parks and places of entertainment.
“We need more things for people to do, especially our young people,” Harrison said.
He noted that a disc golf park is being built at Briar Creek Park. In addition, the city is also working to add a dog park.
Creating more jobs
Harrison said he thinks more jobs will get created if the town will educate its workforce and train them on what it takes to be a good worker.
“We also need to continue to make this the safe city that we are. We have won the award as one of the top 15 safest cities in the state,” he said. “We need to continue the cleanliness of the community, and give it the look and events that make people want to be here.”
Harrison said that efforts are underway to revitalize downtown with several groups coming together to work with the city.
Harrison noted that University of the Cumberlands President Dr. Larry Cockrum called him before the university decided to purchase the old Faulkner & Taylor Furniture building late last year.
UC plans to turn the upstairs portion of the building into apartments for graduate students, and hopes to place retail stores and a restaurant in the street level portion of the building.
“Dr. Cockrum is recruiting retail. I am out recruiting retail. We already have a restaurant that has agreed to come. Things are already moving in downtown. They are working on the apartments now,” Harrison said.
“Every class that I have gone to on how to revitalize downtowns, the first thing they said is increase foot traffic. When you have apartments downtown you already have your foot traffic.”
Harrison said the city has several groups working to revitalize the area ranging from Why Whitley, which is made up largely of younger people, to the architecture review committee, which is composed largely of older residents, who are working towards the creation of a historic district.
“Within two years you are going to see a different Williamsburg. I don’t know what it is going to be like, but I am working with each group and with all of their ideas. Revitalization is going to happen.”
Harrison added that regardless of who you support, he encourages everyone to get out and vote on Election Day.