Three seats up for grabs on Amherst Town Council in the Nov. 3 election will have four candidates vying for them, including three with current and past experience on council.
Vice Mayor Rachel Carton and Councilman Kenneth Bunch are seeking reelection while Sharon W. Turner, who briefly served on council in 2019 for several months to fill a vacancy and R.A. “Tony” Robertson also filed to run. The filing deadline was June 9.
Carton has served since January 2017 and is seeking a third term while Bunch, who joined council in March 2017 to fill a vacant seat, is seeking a third term as well. Councilwoman Sarah Ogden, who joined in January 2019, said after much consideration she opted not to run for a second term.
“Serving as a member of the Amherst Town Council has been a rewarding experience in which I have learned a tremendous amount about what it takes to keep our beautiful little town functioning,” Ogden said in an email. “It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the people of the Town of Amherst, and I thank them for entrusting me with the responsibility. There are great things happening in the Town and I encourage her residents to get involved.”
The three elected this November will serve fours years, rather than two, following a change to staggered, four-year terms approved in 2018 and already in effect for the mayor and two other council seats.
Turner, an Amherst native and a manager at Hill Hardware Corp. in Amherst, was appointed as interim member in Aug. 2019 to fill a vacant seat following the expulsion of Councilwoman Janice Wheaton, who later won the seat back in a special election Turner did not run for.
“My hope was to bridge the division and bring unity to the community,” she said of serving in the interim capacity last year. “I learned so much during my time on council; many citizens shared with me their stories and ideas. It is true; we love this quaint small town.”
She said Amherst is an unprecedented season facing many challenges from the coronavirus and residents and local officials want the town to prosper.
“It is important that we work together as a community to create and establish the vision for the future,” Turner said in an email. “If elected by the citizens my hope is to work together to shape the Town to be the best it can be. I truly believe that best is yet to come.”
Robertson, an Amherst native and a mobile logistics coordinator for Neilsen, a global company, said his family has deep roots in the town. His parents owned and operated the former Amherst Pharmacy drugstore for 51 years.
He said his hope is to bring a fresh set of eyes and ears to council and help ensure the Amherst grows while maintaining its small town charm.
“I would consider it an honor and a privilege to serve the town and become a little more involved in the community,” Robertson said.
Carton said she would like to continue moving projects forward such as the development of the town’s first park next to Amherst County High School, easily accessible housing for senior residents, a town playground and connectivity of bike trails. She also emphasized important ongoing work on water and sewer infrastructure, including a slip-lining project for utility lines and ongoing upgrades to the town’s water treatment plant.
“Our local businesses are of importance to me,” Carton said. “I would love to see our current businesses come back from COVID-19 and thrive. I also feel the town has a lot to offer for new businesses and would like to be apart of supporting new business owners coming into the town limits. I would be honored if the town voters allowed me the opportunity to serve the town again as a council member.”
Bunch said he feels the council has accomplished much to be proud of in the past four years, including the hiring of Town Manager Sara Carter and Police Chief Bobby Shiflett and the recent opening of a new town police station.
“I feel like the Town staff as a whole is running like a well-oiled machine, and I am proud of all they do,” Bunch said in an email.
Bunch touted improvements to the water treatment plant, the town tightening water quality requirements and well as town police working toward achieving state accreditation, which would be a significant accomplishment for a small department.
“This is the type of behind-the-scene improvement that no one sees, but impacts every citizen in a positive way,” Bunch said, adding the water treatment plant upgrades prepares the town for future growth. “I hear citizens say that they want growth and businesses to come to the Town, and this is where it starts. In order to be attractive to businesses and families, we have to have the reliable services that they are looking for.”
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.