Saturday, May 25, 2002

Primary for Newport city commission

9 newcomers challenge incumbents for 4 seats

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        NEWPORT — For the first time in at least nine years, the race for the four seats on the Newport City Commission is big enough to require a primary to whittle the field.

        Incumbents Beth Fennell, Jan Knepshield and Jerry Rex Peluso face challengers Jennifer Johnson, Julia Allegrini, Tom Ferrara, Raymond Butts, Laura Roberts, Bob Barnett, Robbie Hall, Mary Ellen Curtis and Jay Millard in Tuesday's primary. The top eight advance to the November election.

        One other thing is certain — there will be at least one new commissioner. The fourth incumbent, Ken Rechtin, is running in the Campbell County District Three Democratic primary against incumbent Roland Vories.

        “There's an open seat; there are so many exciting things going on,” Ms. Fennell said. “We're definitely on a positive track now.”

        Ms. Fennell refers to Newport on the Levee as an example of what the current commission has done. But Ms. Allegrini, who ran in 1996, said the resulting tax base could do more.

        “I think the commission is in a position, with the established growth, that we have what we need to emphasize neighborhood development,” Ms. Allegrini said. “And we need economic development as a tool to build neighborhoods more broadly, build places where people can be neighbors. The city can implement better practices of citizen participation.”

        Mr. Peluso is in his 15th year on commission. He said the stronger tax base is allowing the city to address the basics of government.

        “(It) allows us to address many outstanding issues that face any aging urban community — infrastructure, curbs, sidewalks, bridges, et cetera,” Mr Peluso. “It's allowing us to address housing needs and improve housing stock.”

        Mr. Millard, owner of Oak Hill Financial Group in Bellevue, said he wants to help the city take control of development from the developers.

        “If people want to vote for the incumbents, that's fine,” Mr. Millard said. “I bring to the board experience in municipal planning, investments and insurance, which the current commission lacks. Each member has a specialty, and that's mine; I'm not afraid to make a decision, I believe I'm a leader.”


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