ZACHARY— Mayor David Amrhein hopes to win a second term in office to continue to improve the city’s infrastructure and spur economic growth for Zachary, but his opponent Randy Perkins says its time for a change in City Hall, which should include creating a more “community-inclusive” government.
Neither Amrhein nor Perkins are affiliated with a political party, but both articulate a philosophy about what they would do if elected mayor of Zachary on Nov. 4.
Amrhein, 55, stresses that infrastructure improvements are vital, including fostering a “smart growth” strategy in Zachary. He wants to promote economic development and further develop partnerships with state and parish leaders, the Zachary School System and community organizations. He said these are the kind of partnerships he said are vital to road improvements that occurred during his first term in office.
“We’ve proven we have a vision for Zachary; a forward vision,” said Amrhein, who was elected mayor in 2010 after eight years on the City Council. “We have a platform to carry the city on for the next 10 to 15 years. I’m proud of the fact that we have a great working relationship with the parish, state and school system here.”
On the other hand, Perkins, a 56-year-old retiree, is convinced he can do everything better than the first-term mayor he wants to replace: provide better leadership, better service to the community, better planning for Zachary’s future, better budget planning and better economic development. He also says he wants to see a more diverse city administration.
“I believe people deserve a choice,” said Perkins, a former Dollar General store manager. “I’m open to new ideas and a city government that’s more inclusive.”
A former businessman, Amrhein says the city saw more than $33 million in improvements to the city’s roads, water, sewer and gas systems during his first four years as mayor. He also touted that residents can now pay their utility bills online instead of at City Hall.
The city’s partnership with community groups for the construction of a new food pantry is one of the things Amrhein said he’s most proud of since taking office as well.
He hopes a second term in office will give him a chance to forge more beneficial partnerships as the city turns its attention to developing an industrial park along Plank Road.
“It’s something Zachary has needed for years,” Amrhein said. “We need to improve the retail market out here so we don’t have to go outside of Zachary to shop. That industrial park would mean more jobs too.”
Perkins, a novice to politics, also has his eye on economic development, but says the first priority needs to be fostering more diversity in City Hall. He said city leaders need to have better connections with the average citizen of Zachary.
“I believe in diversity. In 2014, we have an administration that does not reflect that diversity with women and people of color being in high-level administrative positions,” Perkins said. “And one of the number one complaints I hear is about how unfriendly the city workers are.”
Perkins also chided Amrhein on arguing with constituents during public meetings after he was criticized for never returning phone calls from residents.
“It made me quite uncomfortable,” he said. “I’m open to government that’s more inclusive. A government that welcomes people’s comments. No administration can have 100 percent approval, but you must open yourself to hearing what people have to say.”
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter @tjonesreporter.