KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The election of Kalamazoo’s next mayor is quickly approaching with four candidates listed on the November ballot.
David Anderson, Dr. David Benac, Esteven Juarez and Corey Smith are vying for the position. Current Mayor Bobby Hopewell is not running for reelection after holding the seat since 2007.
In Kalamazoo, the mayor serves as a voting member of the city commission.
News 8 sat down with three of the candidates and asked each one the same questions. Corey Smith declined to be interviewed.
You can view the complete interviews below.
The candidates all said they feeling strongly about the city and believe they could make a substantial difference as mayor.
Benac, a history professor at Western Michigan University, says he is running to create a bridge between “two Kalamazoos.”
“We’re looking at about 30% of the city is in poverty about 60% of the city is classified as working poor and in my opinion that is just unacceptable,” Benac said.
David Anderson is running because he feels his experience with managing budgets, building relationships in the community and collaborating would be valuable.
“The approach is critically important because you need to be a person who can bring people together, can reach across boundaries and divisions,” Anderson said.
Juarez said he wants to prevent the voices of residents in some city neighborhoods from being ignored.
“(To) create a Kalamazoo that everybody can thrive in. Everybody has the opportunity and the resources they need to be successful,” Juarez said.
All the candidates would bring a unique background of experience.
“I served as a president of a neighborhood association for 15 years,” Anderson said. “After that, I ran for the city commission. I’ve been on the city commission for 14 years now so I’ve had a lot of experience.”
“I’ve been working in these communities for a long time so I’m the senior pastor of a church in the Edison neighborhood, I’m the director of outreach at Urban Alliance,” Juarez said.
Benac said he would be able to help move the city into the future.
“What we have to do is find somebody who can put forward a coherent vision of what a better community looks like,” Benac said.
The three candidates are optimistic about the city’s future.
“Where I think we can be in five to 10 years is we can be a regional leader in a lot of different ways. We can be a regional leader in supporting organized labor because organized labor works for all of the workers in the community and makes it so we have better paying jobs,” Benac said. “We can be a regional leader in environmental sustainability and yes that means part of it is for climate change.”
“I see the city being a place where people want to live,” Anderson said. “I saw 10 years ago, even eight years ago, young people not necessarily wanting to be in Kalamazoo. Now I see people wanting to live in Kalamazoo, wanting to buy houses in Kalamazoo.”
Juarez said he sees a Kalamazoo where more people have opportunities to achieve economic success.
“Our idea of throwing money at things is not always the answer. We have to cast a vision that influences people to disregard the differences that we have and create a culture that is actually welcoming,” Juarez said.
Election Day is Nov. 5. You can find your polling place and check out a sample ballot online at the Michigan Secretary of State’s Voter Information Center.