Five enter race for mayor in Chester

CHESTER – Chester residents can look forward to a five-way mayor’s race this year.

Running for re-election is longtime incumbent Mayor Ken Morris, who faces the following challengers: Larry Forsythe, Cody Williams, Cindy Smith and Ed Schmidt.

The municipal election is scheduled to take place on June 10.

Morris, 57, who has been mayor for 14 consecutive years and had been on the fence about filing as a candidate, said he’s glad other people have entered the race.

“It’s good some people are ready to step up and help the city,” Morris said. “As long as you have the city’s best interest at heart, that’s fine.”

Morris first was elected mayor in 1992, when he defeated fellow Republican Roy Cashdollar as a write-in candidate in the November general election. Cashdollar had beat him in the partisan primary earlier that year.

Morris served a four-year term, then took four years off, returning to public office in 2000. He has been mayor ever since.

“I just decided we’ll do it one more time and get some things fixed up that have been neglected,” he said. “This is probably one of the better (city) councils we’ve had in a few years, so, hopefully, we can get some things done.”

Morris cited a street resurfacing program as one priority, and reducing officer turnover on the Chester Police Department as another.

“Just trying to get good cops to stay with us is a tough thing to do,” he said. “We’re losing police all the time because of the wages. These guys are pretty low-paid.”

Forsythe, 66, said he seeks to be an activist mayor.

“I want to be the people’s mayor, and I want to evaluate all the departments and run them as efficiently as we can and be able to get some streets paved in this town. … We need the city kept clean. Delinquent housing needs to be taken care of. We need to look at all of our spending. The city needs someone to manage it. I will be a full-time mayor, and anytime anybody needs to get ahold of me, I will be there.”

A 1965 graduate of Oak Glen High School, Forsythe pursued a management career at Weirton Steel for 38 years. Although he’s never been in public office, he believes his management background would serve him well.

Forsythe, a regular attender at Chester City Council meetings, said his priorities as mayor would be street repaving, economic development, government accountability and fiscal transparency.

“We need somebody who can lead and direct the city and the direction we need to go,” he said.

Forsythe and his wife of 47 years, Pam, are the parents of three grown children and have nine grandchildren.

Williams, 35, last ran for mayor in 2010, when he lost to Morris in a three-way race. He’s running again because he believes he can make a difference.

“I believe I have the tools and the knowledge to make Chester a better place to call home,” he said. “I’m doing it because I love this town and I care about the people.”

Williams cites his 22 years’ experience with the federal government – 14 in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves and eight in the U.S. Postal Service – as one of his biggest strengths.

Williams graduated from Beaver Local High School in 1996 and entered the Air Force in 1999. He worked as an F-16 mechanic crew chief in Phoenix and was deployed twice to Qatar – for Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom – as a member of the Air Force Reserves. His last deployment was in 2010.

Williams, whose wife, the former Kathy Parker, is from Chester, currently works as a postal carrier in the city. They bought a home in 2002, and Williams said he has grown fond of his adoptive hometown.

Delivering the mail on foot every day has taught him about the city and its people like nothing else could, he said. “I have the opportunity to get out and talk to everybody,” he said. “I see every single pothole. I see every single concern that people have.”

Smith, 52, is a Chester native who said she’s wanted to run for mayor for a long time. A graduate of Oak Glen, she works for AVI Foodsystems at East Liverpool City Hospital. She also is a union delegate and executive board member for the Service Employees International Union, Local 1199.

“I’d like to change a few things, if I can, in town. … I’m for the people of Chester (and) trying to get new things developed,” she said.

Smith said her priorities as mayor would include addressing the issue of condemned properties and repairing the alleys and back streets of Chester.

“I’m here to listen to the people because that’s what matters,” she said.

Schmidt, 64, a Pittsburgh native who has lived in Chester for seven years, said he was encouraged to run for mayor by several friends.

“I thought I could make a good mayor,” he said.

A Vietnam veteran and retired U.S. Marine, Schmidt has a background in business and has worked for the last 30 years in real estate.

Schmidt said he feels that Chester is doing a lot of things right but that it could benefit from more economic development.

“Chester’s a wonderful community. It’s not an issue of changing anything in the community. The primary concern for me right now is getting something developed in the old (Taylor, Smith & Taylor) pottery. That land’s sitting there, and it’s prime for good development,” he said.

TS&T, in the city’s Upper End, closed in 1981 and sat vacant for 30 years before its demolition and cleanup in 2012. The property is owned and being marketed by the Business Development Corporation of the Northern Panhandle.

Schmidt said the land would be perfect for a mix of residential and small business use.

“We have to look at what’s good for the community – five, 10, 15 years down the road,” he said. “We need jobs in this area.”

Other offices that will be on the June 10 ballot are the city clerk and all five city council seats.

Elaine Hyatt, administrative assistant for the Chester Police Department and clerk of Chester Municipal Court, has filed for the city clerk’s position. Incumbent City Clerk Sandra Parkins is not running for re-election.

Incumbent City Councilmen John Woodruff (Ward 2), Michael Dotson (Ward 3) and Steve Shuman (Ward 5) have all filed as candidates and will run unopposed.

Incumbent Councilmen Dennis Murray (Ward 1) and Brian Handley (Ward 4) both face challengers. Murray faces Brad Anderson, and Handley faces Edward Beaumont.

Winners in the June 10 election will take office July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.