Candidates line up for Newport City Council seatsCandidates include incumbents Bill Sumner and Tom Ingemann, and challengers Dan Flood and Katy McElwee-Stevens
Newport City Council member Tom Ingemann has been a part of a lot of planning for the city’s future. Now, he wants to stick around and see the results.
Ingemann, in his second non-consecutive term on the Newport City Council — he also served in the 1990s — is seeking another four years from voters this November, saying he wants to help the city follow a roadmap for redevelopment that has been pieced together over the past decade.
“Things are happening. Things are starting to move,” said Ingemann, a deputy fire chief on the Newport Fire Department. “I don’t want to go back into history. We’ve got the ball rolling and we’d like to keep it rolling.”
Newport has improved during his years as a council member, Ingemann said, citing construction that is set to begin on a transit center on the city’s north side next year — and the commercial development city and Washington County officials believe will follow — an improved bond rating and a smattering of development activity along the city’s main commercial thoroughfare, Hastings Avenue.
Ingemann also says he believes the city’s relationship with its business community has improved significantly.
“Now, we’re listening. [Business owners] didn’t have that before,” he said. “When the business community is happy, they talk to each other, and to other people and the general population. The sense I get is people are happy with what’s going on.”
The plain-spoken Ingemann brushed aside complaints about divisiveness on the Newport City Council and between the council and some residents, saying opponents of the council have exaggerated the issue.
“Some people still hold grudges and no matter what you do you can’t satisfy them,” he said. “So, I’m not even going to worry about it. I do what I think is best for the city. I do not have a personal agenda.”
McElwee-Stevens: time to end ‘soap opera’
Katy McElwee-Stevens said she doesn’t think Newport’s City Council is working for its citizens anymore. And, that has to change for the city to move forward with a coherent long-term vision, she says.
McElwee-Stevens, a longtime Newport planning commissioner and former District 833 School Board member, is seeking a seat on the City Council to help repair a relationship between the city’s government and its residents that she said has been damaged by its current leadership.
She joins former planning commissioner Dan Flood and incumbent council members Tom Ingemann and Bill Sumner in seeking one of two seats up for grabs in November.
Mayor Tim Geraghty is also seeking re-election; council member Steven Gallagher is challenging him for the seat.
“My biggest concern is to serve the people, to put the trust back, and to empower the citizens of Newport to want to be a part of the city and to want to make it better,” McElwee-Stevens said last week.
Long divided into separate small-town political camps, McElwee-Stevens says she believes the tone of Newport’s city government is driving people away from becoming more involved in the city. And while blow-ups on the council aren’t nearly as common as they were shortly after Geraghty, Sumner and Ingemann were elected in 2008, she says the council’s standing with its citizens has already been hurt by what she called a “soap opera.”
“Even if they try to make it better, that’s already in everybody’s head,” McElwee-Stevens said. “People are embarrassed by it. The damage has already been done and I think they reaffirmed it” when the council rejected a proposed finance advisory commission that would have offered additional oversight and advice to the city on budgetary issues.
She praised that proposal, which was voted down by split council earlier this year, as “a great idea” that Newport should have pursued.
“I think we should be utilizing volunteers who come forward,” McElwee-Stevens said. “I think Newport has an amazing amount of talent here.”