Chester Ward 1 candidates prepare for election

CHESTER – The race for the Ward 1 seat on Chester City Council features two men with similar professional backgrounds but different ideas on how to improve the city.

Incumbent Dennis E. Murray, 62, a senior systems engineer at Marsh Bellofram, is running for re-election to a second four-year term on city council.

Bradley Anderson, 33, a senior Dell consultant, hopes to replace Murray on council following the June 10 municipal election.

The Ward 1 race is one of only two contested council races on next Tuesday’s ballot. The other is Ward 4.

Murray said he has not shied away from making “tough” decisions in the past four years – everything from banning golf carts from city streets in 2012 to firing a police officer in 2013.

“Sometimes those decisions have to be made, and you just do it. It’s for the best of the city,” Murray said. “You have to weigh the options.”

A native of Utah, Murray and his wife of 41 years, Stephanie, moved to Chester 22 years ago. It was a computer consulting job in Pittsburgh that brought him to this part of the country.

Murray first got involved in city affairs by joining the Chester Park Board.

“Once you get on the park board, you start to see how the city runs,” he said.

Then he and his wife started attending Chester City Council meetings, which led to his decision to run for office in 2010. Murray jokes that he won election by winning his block on California Avenue.

“This is big-time politics,” he said.

Ward 1 includes the section of town north of Carolina Avenue from Hancock County Savings Bank to First Street, as well as Fairview Road up to Locust Hill Cemetery.

Murray said he wants another four years on council because he foresees hard times ahead, and more hard decisions, for the city.

Murray said he “took a lot of flack” for supporting the golf cart ban, which caused him some sleepless nights.

“To me, it was a liability issue for the city because you can get sued,” he said. “I just thought it was going to get out of hand. That one summer, I probably saw half a dozen incidents involving kids (on golf carts).”

The next four years, Murray said, are “going to be mostly about how to survive as a city with limited funds. We’ve really got to stretch things out.”

Chester is a small city with a small commercial tax base, mostly on Carolina Avenue, he said.

“A lot of it is just managing with what you’ve got and realigning things,” he said.

Anderson said it’s important for council to provide responsible oversight for the various city departments so that taxpayer money is not wasted.

If elected, Anderson said he would prioritize “putting some accountability in place to make sure what happens in the departments is watched and maintained.”

Anderson said he has project management and budget experience in the private sector that would serve him well on council.

A Chester native, Anderson graduated from Oak Glen High School in 1999 and from West Virginia University, with a degree in managed information systems, in 2002.

Growing up in Chester, Anderson remembers having friends whose parents were on council. He likes the thought of a new, younger generation assuming leadership roles in the city.

“They took care of us, so maybe it’s our turn to take care of them,” he said.

Anderson said he’s kept his campaign informal by talking to neighbors and other people from Ward 1 as he sees them. One issue that has come up is the cleanup of unkempt properties, he said.

In addition to the city council races, voters will elect a new mayor and a new city clerk. Five people are running for mayor.

Polls will be open June 10 from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. All voting will take place in Chester Municipal Building.

Early voting is under way and will continue through Saturday. Early voting hours at city hall are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.

Election winners will take office around July 1.