Two council incumbents, a former mayor, both the current and former treasurer, a community volunteer and two others have met the final deadline for three city council positions available in the November election, the Oakdale City Clerk’s Office announced on Friday, Aug. 10. Two of the seats are full four-year posts and one is only a two-year period to fill out the term of Jason Howard, who resigned his seat last April due to outside-the-area job interests.
Because no incumbent filed for the treasurer or city clerk, the file dates for those titles are extended until 5 p.m. today, Aug. 15.
The vacant two-year seat is being pursued by former Mayor and Councilman Farrell Jackson, former Treasurer Mike Murray, and Insurance Professional Cher Bairos.
Murray, who resigned as treasurer last April amidst fallout with Finance Director Albert Avila when he was asked to sign back-dated treasurer reports, had previously stated he no longer had aspirations for city offices.
“After a long and thoughtful consideration and at the encouragement of many of those who supported me in the past, I decided to run for city council,” said Murray. “I did this because I still want to make a difference in my city. I learned a lot from what happened a few months ago and I would state that I am a bit wiser, more cautious and not so naive about trusting those folks in the bureaucracy of the city to actually do the jobs they are paid to do.”
Jackson said his incentive to run for the two-year seat was also encouraged by citizens in the community upset with where the city was headed and the direction he could take it.
“I’m running because Oakdale is my community and I can’t stand seeing it fall apart,” Jackson said, adding that he had a plethora of ideas for improvement. “It’s not about me at all. I’ll use my experience for the residents of our great city.”
“I still have some work to do,” said Councilman Tom Dunlop on his re-election pursuit for the full-term position. “We’ve just started to work on budget reform and realignment.”
Councilman Katherine Morgan also plans to run for re-election to her council seat.
Current Treasurer J.R. McCarty, Businessman Donald Petersen, and City Volunteer Ramona Howard are challenging the two officeholders.
“I’m convinced the city is facing tough times over the next few years,” said Petersen. “I have years of experience with running a successful private business with a balanced budget during rough financial times.”
McCarty said he is not a politician and wanted to become involved because as a lifelong resident he cares about the community.
When contacted for comment, City Volunteer Ramona Howard declined to make a statement and referred The Leader to her website and Facebook campaign page.
On the site, Howard states, “Oakdale is in the midst of change and I feel that my ability to question the topics, prioritize the needs and to come up with creative solutions to get things done will be of benefit to our community. I am running because I feel I can do a good job for Oakdale and all the people who live here.”
Howard’s candidacy has not been without controversy and she was recently criticized for campaigning and raising funds even before filing city papers for office.
“I never thought about campaigning until I had all my papers filed,” said Jackson about his past runs. “The general rule of thumb is you shouldn’t physically start campaigning and distribute literature until the filing period ends.”
Oakdale resident Kevin Fox said he had a concern with Howard posting her election and campaign information on the oakdalecity website.
In July 2011, members of the Oakdale Citizens Action Group presented to the city council a website that would augment the city’s website. The site – oakdalecity.com – was defined by group member Howard as “a one-stop shop providing all Oakdale has to offer at a single location.”
On the site Howard had her campaign information along with a PayPal link to contribute to her election treasury and a list of scheduled appearances.
“If this is a ‘city-approved’ website, shouldn’t it be available to other candidates?” Fox asked. “Involving the city for the site and then using it to promote your election wasn’t the best idea.”
The site is not financed by the city.
“It’s a bit deceiving,” said Jackson, who also questioned the fairness if opponents had to go through Howard as the webmaster to also post. “The city supporting her could be read into it.”
When asked about the site usage, Howard responded in an email, “…I think you are barking up the wrong tree. Take a look at who owns, manages and promotes oakdalecity.com. Others will certainly try to steer you in a direction that is incorrect.”
Councilwoman Morgan did not return calls for comment on her candidacy and contact information for Bairos was not available by press time.