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The Clinton Herald Editorial Board met last week with seven candidates who want to fill the four seats up for grabs at the Nov. 5 city/school board elections.

Among those candidates are Mark Vulich and Scott Maddasion for mayor, Cody Seeley and Gregg Obren for At-large councilman, Lynn McGraw and Cyara Peterson for Ward 2, and Paul Gassman in Ward 4. Rhonda Kearns, who is challenging Gassman for his seat, declined our invitation.

When our sessions were completed, editorial board members individually scored the candidates. Those with the highest scores have been chosen to receive our endorsement.

We know that a voter has a lot to decide when going to the ballot box, and makes choices based on a lot reasons – party, viewpoint, issues, hopeful outcomes, and promises, among them. Our endorsements are not a substitute for any of those, but more as a way to add one more dimension to the selection process. We talked to the candidates, listened to and evaluated their responses and, from that, are sharing with our readers what we learned.

Tomorrow’s editorial will hit on the mayoral and at-large races while today’s takes a closer look at Ward 2 and Ward 4’s races.

In Ward 2, incumbent Lynn McGraw – who says jobs and housing should be the city’s main focuses – is facing challenger Cyara Peterson, a strong advocate for creating unity and leading residents as they work to clean up their neighborhoods, shore up deteriorating houses, and rid abandoned homes of a subculture of break ins, thefts and drug use.

McGraw brings long-term finance experience as a certified public accountant and business owner. She also has served as a treasurer for numerous community organizations. She has shown she has what it takes help the council in fiscal planning and spending, underscoring the Finance Committee’s success in getting Clinton’s $100 million sewer separation project to the point where we have the funding available to cover the debt. Solid waste bills also have declined $2 per month per household during her time on the council.

She has a keen knowledge of the interior workings of city government, no doubt because of her time as a business owner and volunteer with organizations combined with her time on the council.

Her goals are to bring in more housing for people who want to work here, but have not found a place to live that suit their needs. Creating more jobs through business recruitment also is a major focus.

Peterson, while new to city government, brings an enthusiastic approach that is hard to beat. She is a member of the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Committee and is known for patrolling her neighborhood on her bicycle to visit with neighbors, all the while addressing their concerns and sharing information along the way.

She gives a voice to those living in neighborhoods with homes that are so rundown that she describes them as falling apart. Abandoned homes bring in a subculture, she says, of squatters and thefts that people commit to survive.

That threatens the safety and property values of everyone living there and has led her to create messaging groups to share information and watch out for each other. She also encourages camera use throughout neighborhoods and having residents work with police to relay information about any crime they see.

This is a grassroots level of commitment and education that helps all of Clinton, and one we’d like to see happen throughout all of the city’s wards.

This race is too close to call. Either of these candidates would bring a unique voice to the table that would help usher Clinton toward its future.

In Ward 4, we met with Paul Gassman, a long-time city councilman who also has served in an at-large seat. A business owner whose father also was on the city council, Gassman brings a legacy of knowledge to city service. He knows where Clinton has been, what it is, and wants to shape what it will be. It means he also has seen the outcome of previous decisions and can apply that knowledge to future planning.

The background he brings to the city council and his commitment to the city make him the candidate we wish to see reelected to represent Ward 4.

Tomorrow: The Clinton Herald’s endorsement for the mayoral and at-large races.