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Independence to Choose Between Incumbent, Challenger for Mayor

Kenton County's second largest city, with a population of nearly 28,000, Independence will elect a mayor on Tuesday.

Incumbent Chris Reinersman faces challenger Joe Ulloa.

RCN's Carrie Crotzer posed questions to the candidates.

Joe Ulloa

What is your motivation to be a Mayor?

I just want to be able to bring new ideas to the city and help the city be more transparent with citizens.

What  qualifies you over other candidates to be Mayor?

I’m just an average Joe, no pun intended. Sometimes I don’t think the mayor and council listen to the city, so as an average citizen I just decided to raise my hand, step forward and hope the ideas I have will work for the city also.

What issues in your community do you want to focus on as Mayor?

I’d like to focus on attracting small businesses to our town, small conveniences, and bring some kind of industry that will support the businesses, because most of the people in Independence leave for work and [it] becomes a ghost town. We need to create some kind of industry in the city and I think if I could somehow attract a small hospital, it’d be centrally located, so the people that work outside of Independence could still utilize the business.

I think sidewalks are important also. A lot of people in the city want to move around the city and be more active with parks and sidewalks.

How do you plan to engage with community members?

I would make sure to use the city website to inform the citizens of things that come up, any ordinance that might come up and try to get more citizens involved. I’ll change my campaign page where people can watch and post things going on. I don’t think that citizens pay enough attention to local politics, and I’m guilty of that too, most of us don’t pay attention and things get passed and we don’t even know about that.

How do you plan to address budgetary concerns as state pension costs are set to increase yearly?

I don’t know unless I make office and would be able to look at it. I think that the city just got into a 401k program, which can help alleviate that pension fund because it’s really hard for cities and small businesses to maintain such a small thing anymore. Without really getting in there it’s hard to give an answer. But I think a 401k plan where we can help people save for retirement I think that’d be idea.

Any other comments?

I believe my time in the military gives me experience on how to help manage people and be more efficient… And it’s really cool how many people I’ve met in the city, even if I don’t make it, it’s cool how many people I’ve gotten to meet.

Chris Reinersman

What is your motivation to be a Mayor?

I love the direction that Independence is going in. We’ve had a lot of growth, but we have a long way to go and what attracted me to the position was being able to guide that growth and make sure we turn out to be that good in suburban development rather than the bad and the ugly.

What qualifies you over other candidates to be Mayor?

In this case, certainly experience, and that’s in a variety of ways. My commercial real estate experience is really helpful, particularly for a growth area… In addition, that four years on city council, as a Mayor you get a greater understanding for how government and budgets work.

What issues in your community do you want to focus on as Mayor?

My big thing is not focusing on what’s going to work for today, but what’s going to work for the next 50-100 years. Being a bedroom community, our tax base is very lopsided. Our budget is almost 50 percent property tax base… so trying to attract new businesses so that we can offset that. We’ve been successful at that, you know you can’t just dial up the business you want and have them show up, you have to lay some groundwork.

How do you plan to engage with community members?

I’ve really focused in the last few years on boosting our social media presence, mainly with Facebook. Which sounds kind of trivial, but keeping people informed, letting them know what’s going on that goes a long way to make you feel like a neighbor in a small town.

I also redid our city newsletter that comes out three times a year. I contracted with someone who’s active in the city and is a freelance reporter so she oversees our newsletter and worked with a local printing company, who places ads to offset our cost. We create our own content by reaching out the the fire department and others and we’ve found that it’s very widely read.

How do you plan to address budgetary concerns as state pension costs are set to increase yearly?

[Reinersman was part of a group of local officials who frequently went to Frankfort to push for the phase-in program the state eventually opted for, meaning cities will see a gradual increase to their yearly pension contributions.]

The big push for KLC, which I’m 110 percent for, the reality of it is county retirement system is the best funded in there, and what we’re seeing is the retirement board, because we’re healthy, we seem to be having unrealistic expectations. So hopefully we won’t be hit by these budget busters. But if we are we’ll take a look at what can we do, what do we need to cut. A tax increase is a last resort.You can’t just slash everything to the bone and see a serious lapse in services, critical services we absolutely have to maintain.

Any other comments?

I think I covered it all!