Thursday, February 8, 2018

Richardson Wants to ‘Give Back’

“I want to give back,” says 20-year Army veteran Johnathan D. Richardson, 41, candidate for Sallisaw City Commission Ward 4.

Richardson is the son-in-law of Sallisaw Mayor Jim Hudgens, who is seeking to serve again as the city’s mayor. Both men will be on the city election ballot on Feb. 13.

Richardson repaired medical equipment in the U.S. Army and continues his career as a medical equipment salesman as a civilian.

He said his candidacy for the Ward 4 post is “my first foray into politics.” He said he believes his business and travel experience qualify him for the post, along with his master’s degree in business administration.

Richardson’s said his top three goals for the city are the growth and development of the city’s infrastructure, finding and promoting good jobs for citizens, and improving the quality of life for residents.

“Citizens need hope,” he said, “hope for jobs, entertainment, a better life. Drugs are not the answer.”

The city’s two biggest problems are with crime and the management of city funds, Richardson said. The city’s biggest successes are as the home for Carl Albert State College Sallisaw Campus, the manufacturing plants located in the city and the management of the city’s utilities.

-About the city’s proposed splash pad, Richardson said he does not have sufficient information on the project, but hopes a good decision will be made on how the grant money for that project is spent.

-About the upgrade that will be needed to the city’s water treatment plant, Richardson said, “I don’t know a lot about how to fix it. I would trust (acting) City Manager Keith Skelton’s judgement. A new city manager will have to get up to speed on that.”

Richardson said he is also concerned about the search for and the hiring of a new city manager, whose influence will be important.

“A new city manager could be pivotal,” Richardson said. 

-About incentives to attract businesses and industries to the city, Richardson said the city should try to attract those that would not compete with already established businesses, such as a movie theater.

“That would benefit other businesses,” he said. “It would be a strategic benefit.”

-About updating the city charter, Richardson said, “I have read it, and the thing I thought was interesting is it has been 10 or 15 years since some things have been amended. It should be reviewed periodically.”

-About the cost of utilities, Richardson said the city must maintain a balanced budget, but many residents are low income or are on fixed incomes and cannot afford increased utility costs. 

“We must reduce the impact on the citizens,” he said, by seeking other funding such as grants and perhaps a sales tax increase. “We have to be judicious about how costs are incurred,” he said.

-About food trucks in the city, Richardson said, “I believe in competitive free trade. As long as they meet regulations, they keep customers here. They are good for the economy."

-About helping the chamber find a better location, Richardson said, “The chamber is vital to business and the growth of the city.”

He said the chamber building may be the first structure new business and industry interests see when they visit, and that first visual impact may be the deciding factor on whether or not a business comes to the city.

“Downtown could use a facelift,” Richardson said, “and the chamber should have a stake in that.”

Richardson said he is concerned about the city employees’ pay schedule, which is under review. He said employee salaries are 1.5 percent lower than those in cities of the same size, but the benefits are 3 percent higher. He said that should be changed.

He is also concerned about the salary for the city’s police officers, which are below the percentages in other cities.

“We need to improve the quality of life at our police department, for our uniformed officers. Our police department is underfunded,” Richardson said. “We need to make sure they are trained well and paid well.”

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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