NORTH CANTON Voters in North Canton will decide Nov. 7 if they want to keep current Mayor David Held or elect a new face, Scott Kelly.
Both Held, who hasn't been challenged since 2011, and Kelly, a Plain Township fire inspector and reserve deputy with the Stark County Sheriff's Office, have different visions for the city moving forward.
Held has been in office since 2005, but prior to being mayor he served as city administrator where he gained a lot of knowledge about all the city departments.
"I love serving the people of North Canton," Held said.
Held said the people in North Canton are what make the city such a great place to live.
Kelly said he is running because he is not happy with the direction of the city. He is a lifelong resident of North Canton and worked for the city for 16-years.
"I want to see positive changes in the city," Kelly said.
Kelly wants to make North Canton a destination for people to visit.
When the Hoover Company left in 2007, the city lost 2,400 jobs, which was a huge blow to the city’s income tax base.
"When these jobs left that is when the city faced the biggest challenge it has ever faced," Held said. "We want to bring the jobs back up to the level they were."
While a developer is working to revive the Hoover building and the city has added 1,100 jobs between 12 new companies, Held expects in the next five years to double that number, getting the amount of jobs in the Hoover building back to what it was.
"Since 2010, we have seen a 29 percent increase in income tax collection," Held said. "We are moving in the right direction."
Held said the developer ran into a delay with the Hoover project, but he is confident about residents seeing residential units and retail to the building in 2018.
Kelly doesn’t agree with Held and believes a new developer may need to be brought in to finish the Hoover project.
Kelly also has concerns with economic development in general and wants to bring more business to the city. He is disappointed the Venue at Belden was built in Plain Township.
"Why couldn’t we have got that in North Canton," Kelly said. "We have a lot of empty strip malls and store fronts."
Kelly wants to work with business owners and property owners to bring more business to the city.
"The days of bringing a big plant are over," Kelly said.
He said he has a plan for the old Brown Mackie College building and he said the way to grow business is through small business and some small factory jobs.
Held said the city hopes to bring in two medical facilities to the city in 2018.
"North Canton is like the comeback city," Held said.
Held said the city has done whatever it could to cut waste in the city and run the city as effectively as possible. In 2005, the city had 116 full-time employees, now it has 92. He said the city was able to do this without making cuts to police, fire and EMS. Held said the city has been training its full-time firefighters to be fire medics.
"People that live here have expectations of service," Held said.
Held said he has worked to keep the city's income tax at 1.5 percent, adding that North Canton has a lot to offer because it is clean and safe.
Held also noted the city has brought in $30 million in grants over the past 12 years.
Safety services are something Held said his administration has strived to keep strong as the city has two to five officers on duty at all times.
"We have the greatest coverage per square miles of anyone in Stark County," Held said.
Kelly said he wants to make the city more resident-friendly when it comes to the permit process. He said it cost him $300 to pull a permit to build a deck on his house.
"The process I went through was unreal," Kelly said.
Other areas Kelly wants to improve on is adding curb and gutter and sidewalks to neighborhoods.
Kelly said there have been "some lies going around" that he is going to make cuts to the police and fire departments.
"I want to increase officers and add more firefighters," Kelly said.
Kelly said he also has concerns with the street department, which had 12 employees in 1999, but now has only four maintaining 90 miles of road. He plans to increase that number to eight if he is elected.
Held said he would always love to hire new employees, but said the city has to live within its budget.
Held said he believes the school levy is overreaching.
"Some people in the community are not going to be able to afford it," Held said. "We have to go back and determine the most cost effective solution."
Held said he loves the schools and he has six children that went through the school system. He said he has had multiple discussions with the superintendent.
"If you have a great schools, you have a great community," Held said.
Kelly, however, said he will support Issue 44 as he has a daughter in the school system.
"I think we need to be competitive with Jackson," Kelly said. "The school district is our biggest employer."
He said a failed levy could result in losing teachers, which would mean a loss in income for the city.
Kelly said Issue 44 will bring new school buildings and also open up some acreage within in the city that could be developed. He said the construction workers for the new buildings would also have to pay income tax.
"How can you go wrong with this project coming into the city," Kelly said.