HAMPTON -- Both candidates running for Hampton village board president in the April 9 election said they want to ensure a strong future for the riverfront community but differ in how to accomplish that goal.
Incumbent Mayor Kevin Irby and challenger Skip McLaughlin are both independent candidates running in the election on Tuesday. Mayor Irby is a lieutenant with the Moline Fire Department. Mr. McLaughlin is a Marine Corps veteran.
Mayor Irby said the strength he brings to office arises from his history and involvement in the community and village government.
Mayor Irby was raised in Hampton, worked six and a half years as the village fire chief, then served as a trustee. He was elected mayor four years ago.
Mayor Irby said his varied involvement gave him a good overview of the direction he'd like the village to take in the future. He wants procedures put in place to ensure Hampton has savings for infrastructure projects. "What the village boards have done in the past, with the budget being so tight and trying to keep the tax levy down, we haven't done a good job in setting aside funding for the future," he said.
"There has to be long-term savings for roads, water mains and sewer lines," he said, adding Hampton could use the benefits gained from its tax-increment-financing districts to help fund such projects.
Mr. McLaughlin said Hampton residents are afraid to be honest and straight forward. "They are the reason I got into this. Everyone comes to me because I speak out and tell the truth, and they are scared to," he said.
The strength Mr. McLaughlin will bring to office is honesty, he said.
For years, Mr. McLaughlin has questioned the board about access to a riverfront wharf claimed by the Safe Harbor condominium association and is unhappy the village does not believe it is public land.
"Unless someone stops it, (the board) will give this town away," he said.
Mr. McLaughlin grew up in Hampton and said he remembers when doors stayed unlocked and he could walk down the street at night and not worry. "Not now. The rich are trying to buy the place out. If you don't have money in this town, the board won't even listen to you," he said.
Mr. McLaughlin said he believes the streets and alleys in the older part of town are not as good as those in the newer developments and some residents get preferential treatment.
Mayor Irby said the board is responsive to the concerns of all residents. "Regardless of your personal feelings, the board has to base its decisions on the betterment of the whole," he said.
As to the the issue of the ownership of the wharf, the board and village listened to Mr. McLaughlin's concerns during meetings and had the village attorney investigate the issue, Mayor Irby said. The end result was that the village board decided the condo association does own the wharf and that people could be arrested for trespassing if they used it without permission.
"You have to look into it," he said about concerns Hampton residents bring forward. "I have to be able to go to sleep at night and be able to say 'I did the right thing,'" Mayor Irby said.
Mr. McLaughlin said he has a history of volunteering and giving back to the Hampton community -- from holding a fish fry to benefit the fire department, helping Toys for Tots or assisting with a resident's medical bills.
"My problem is, I care too much and get too involved. I do not back up," Mr. McLaughlin said.
Hampton voters also will elect three trustees from among five candidates -- Sam Colburn, Kevin Hamilton, Tony Earl, James Garrison and Richard Vershaw.
NAME: Kevin Irby AGE: 51 ADDRESS: Hampton OCCUPATION: Lieutenant with the City of Moline Fire Department FAMILY: Wife and 3 kids EDUCATION: Some college POLITICAL PARTY: Independent OFFICE SOUGHT: Hampton village board president PRIOR OFFICES: Village president and village trustee WHY RUNNING: I am the incumbent and feel there are more issues to address and would like to try another term to address them. KEY ISSUE: Over the last several years, a lot has been happening with Hampton regarding growth. With that, the village infrastructure needs to have some attention given to it. We need to set in place a program that addresses the future needs as time goes on instead of waiting until something is in urgent need of repair.
NAME: Skip McLaughlin AGE: 60 ADDRESS: Hampton OCCUPATION: Retired FAMILY: Wife, Peggy EDUCATION: High school, Marines POLITICAL PARTY: Independent OFFICE SOUGHT: Hampton village board president PRIOR OFFICE: None WHY RUNNING: Hampton is our home, and I agree with those who think the leadership has been going down the wrong path. For too long. I'm going to turn it around. KEY ISSUES: In this town, money is the only thing that they listen to. It doesn't matter if you're right. Money talks, and the facts don't matter. They refuse to stop giving away public land to the highest bidder and ignore what the people say. COMMENT: I've always tried to give back to this town. More than what I've taken. By doing benefits for the fire department or Toys for Tots or for people with medical bills, hog roasts or fish fries. All of this is free. We do not get a dime. Take pride in your town. Don't lie and sell it to the highest bidder. I volunteered to fight for my country. Now I want to fight for my town while there's some town left.