STEVENSVILLE — Stevensville is in the final days of a mayoral race which could serve as a referendum on the town's recent political turmoil but both candidates are certainly hoping for a future without the fighting.
One year after surviving a vociferous recall campaign, Mayor Brandon Dewey is asking voters to keep him in Town Hall.
"Our government is, well, it's still fragile, you know, we're stable now. You don't see the same drama and you know backbiting and infighting, that you maybe saw here six months to a year ago. "Now we can move back into getting that day-to-day work done. We're not spending time trying to strategize, you know, in fights and plays against fellow politicians. We're just here to get the work done. "We answer the questions as directly as we can and make sure everybody and these you know just taken care of and that you know we work through the process we have before us." - Mayor Brandon Dewey
But challenger Steve Gibson wants to give people more of a voice, even when they disagree. Having served for a few months on the council after one upheaval in 2019 he's a believer in having Town Council playing a larger role, a rub point between Dewey and his opponents.
"The Council has a major role. You know the mayor manages the budget. The mayor makes recommendations, but when it comes down to it, it's a Council decision and I think sometimes in the past that's where the clash has come." - Steve Gibson
While Gibson's signs are frequently posted with Dewey's opponents, he tells me he's not running in a "bloc". Yet management style is the obvious undercurrent in the race.
"Our reserves have grown upwards of $900,000 from the day I took office to now, so we're certainly not going bankrupt," Dewey pointed out. "Contrary to the popular belief or the accusations."
"Sometimes people would come to public hearings. I think you might have been at a couple. And they wouldn't answer any questions. I mean, get back to them," Gibson said. "Give it to the appropriate department head. Listen and answer their questions. And I think that will relieve a lot of the tensions."
Both candidates believe growth is a challenge for Stevensville leadership, following the controversial approval of the Burnt Fork Estates projectearlier this year.
"There's going to be growth, but it needs to be responsible growth And there's a lot of money available right now because of COVID, the Recovery Act," Gibson told MTN News. "And we need to access that money in order that we don't put the tax burden on the citizens of Stevensville. And I don't believe we have to."
"That's going to be a long haul thing where some of the work we do today, and over the even the next four years — if I'm re-elected, isn't going to be realized, probably for a while," Dewey said. "Still, we're a little bit behind the ball. But our folks are up to the task to address what we can now and get us into a better position than we've been before."
Stevensville's politics are always polarized. Still, there are probably voters out there who haven't made up their minds as to who that next mayor should be. MTN News asked both candidates what they would like to say to those people.
"No one in my administration really has a tenure of longer than five years and so that's something to consider. As that the institutional memory for this organization right now sets with me and maybe a couple of other people," Dewey said. "And so this election is going to decide whether that institutional memory stays in town hall or if it's different direction they go in."
"I don't look at this as a career. It's a four-year term. I think if you look at my background, my experience, my ability to get along with both sides, even when I was in the legislature, and even when I was on the Council. I would hope you would judge that, but again, I just want to encourage everybody to vote," Gibson said.