Doug Erskin sworn in as Morenci mayor 11.14

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

For the first time since August 1993, Russ Sutherland wasn’t sitting at the head table in Morenci City Hall as a member of city government.

City voters went for a change in the Nov. 6 general election, favoring mayoral challenger Doug Erskin by a wide margin, 263-109. Erskin took over as mayor at Monday night’s meeting.

Only about 25 percent of the electorate turned out to choose a mayor and city council members.

Incumbent council member Leasa Slocum led in the council race with 226 votes. Incumbent Dick Hewitt and newcomer Art Erbskorn tied with 221 votes.

Unsuccessful council candidates were Carl VanDeWalker with 143 votes, Jeff Lantz with 129 and Wes Clark with 97.

“Time for a change” wasn’t a slogan that Erskin came up with, he said following the election, although he did see it on yard signs that some residents created.

Erskin said he worked with Sutherland for several years on the city planning commission and he doesn’t think their views differ that much on a lot of issues.

Maybe voters were just after “new blood,” he said, but he also believes residents are looking for a say in the way the city is run.

“I really think people want to get more involved,” Erskin said. “I think they want to have a part in the changes they want.”

Erskin attended a council meeting in September seeking more enforcement of property maintenance problems in his neighborhood, but he said following the election that portions of the International Property Maintenance Code might be too harsh for a small town.

“They’re really good guidelines, and some that you have to comply with, but there should be some leeway on other issues,” he said.

Erskin said he’ll be looking for ideas rather than demands, and for more friendly ways to create change.

In the past Erskin spoke of achieving better communication between city hall and the town’s citizens and looking for a way to get students to be more involved.

Erskin said his decision to run for mayor wasn’t a frivolous one and he’s looking forward to the challenge.

“I thought about it for a long time and I hope I do a really good job,” he said. “We’ve got a really good council and I hope some positive changes can be made in the next two years. I’m really excited about it.”

SUTHERLAND ERA—Sutherland was first elected to council in August 1993 when the city was recovering from recall elections and frustrations continued over torn-up streets from the sewer separation project.

He was elected to serve as mayor in August 1997 and was at the helm during other challenges such as the closure of Morenci Area Hospital, the creation of an ALS ambulance service and cash shortfalls.

While Sutherland served as mayor, the city moved forward on many projects including the establishment of a wellhead protection plan, refurbishing the Haulette building for manufacturing space, acquiring a building for a new city hall, construction of a new library, devising a sidewalk repair plan, creation of an industrial park, park improvements, Main Street rebuilding project, the Mill Street rebuilding project and creation of the rental inspection plan.

  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.grieders
    ONE-TWO PUNCH—Morenci’s Griffin Grieder saved his best for last, running his fastest time ever in the 110-meter high hurdles at the state finals Saturday in Grand Rapids to finish first in the state in Div. IV. His brother Luke, a junior (right), claimed the state runner-up spot. Bulldog junior Bailee Dominique placed seventh in the 100-meter dash.
  • Front.sidewalk
    MORENCI senior class president Mikayla Price leads the way Sunday afternoon from the Church of the Nazarene to the United Methodist Church for the baccalaureate ceremony. Later in the day, 39 members of the senior class received diplomas in the high school gymnasium.
  • Front.F.school
    PROGRESS continues on the agriculture classroom addition at Fayette High School. The project will add 2,900 square feet of space and include an overhead door that would allow equipment to be driven inside. The building should be ready for the start of school in August. Work on ball fields and a running track is also underway.
  • Front.teacher Leading
    PRESCHOOL MUSIC—Fayette band director Jeffrey Dunford spends the last half hour of the day leading the full-day preschool class in musical activities. Additional photos are on page 7 of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.poles
    MOVING EAST—Utility workers continue their slow progress east along U.S. 20 south of Morenci. New electrical poles are put in place before wiring is moved into place.
  • Face Paint
    FUN NIGHT FUN—Savanna Miles sits patiently while Abbie White works on a face paint design Friday during the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Gracie Snead watches the progress after having spent time in the chair. Abbie was one of several volunteer painters, each creating their own unique look. Additional photos are on the back page of this week’s Observer.

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