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Newcomer heats up Seminole race

As the city election draws near, it is shaping up as a race based on personalities.

It's a question of whether people are satisfied with the three incumbents or want to put a new face on the City Council to join the four members elected last year.

Seminole voters on Tuesday will choose three council members from four candidates. Three are incumbents.

The election won't necessarily mean sweeping change because two of the incumbents will be re-elected. But on a council that frequently votes 4-3, even one new member could change the dynamics and shift the dominant faction.

The wild card is William A. "Bill" Davis Jr., the city's former building director. He has never run for office, but said he decided to enter the race after David Williams, who succeeded him as the building official, was fired late last year.

Davis, 53, who also was fired by Mayor Holland Mangum, said he knows the "back-door" politics of City Hall and promises to stop it, along with lowering taxes and increasing efficiency.

Davis said he has no big objections to the three incumbents. His campaign is aimed more at the mayor, who said he fired Davis for his bombastic attitude and poor work.

"Something has got to be done to control him," Davis said in an interview last week. "People are fed up."

Davis is short on specifics, except to say that he sees the city going down the tubes.

Some of the specifics he listed in his campaign brochure _ the city's ability to control the fire district budget and an insurance tax for fire pensions _ are incorrect.

In another matter, the city overextended itself with the library and recreation center it bought two years ago, he said, and needs to curb spending until its debt is paid off.

And, Davis said, he thinks he can be a settling influence on a bickering council. He acknowledges that he has had temper problems, but he said he has learned to control it.

The three incumbents _ Jim Dunn, Bob Matthews and Dottie Reeder _ are far less critical of Seminole's state of affairs.

Council president Dunn, 43, has the longest tenure on the panel.

He says the city has come a long way in the past few years, having experienced growing pains. Some of the turmoil in the City Council in the past year can be attributed to that growth, said Dunn, who has been criticized for not taking a firmer hand in controlling council meetings.

"I won't take credit or the blame," he said.

The library and recreation center were positive steps for the future, he said, and are heavily used by area residents, not just those within the city limits.

"We don't have enough money to establish all the programs people want at this point," Dunn said. One of his primary goals, Dunn said, would be to see a city-operated day care center at the recreation center.

He would like to see the city continue to grow through annexation, Dunn said. But the city first is going to have to regain the public's trust.

"Harmony," he said, "is going to have to come from individual council members."

Matthews, 49, is completing his second council term.

He, too, admits that the city had some rocky times in the past couple of years. But finances are back on track and things are looking up, he said.

Matthews is proposing several ideas for his new term: broadcasting council meetings on cable television, improving the library's collection, especially in reference books, planting trees and improving the city soccer fields.

One of the City Council's biggest problems, he said, is its public image. "We need to give each other member of council the recognition of being as important as we are and let everyone have their say and then take a vote," he said. "We need to be able to work together as a team."

Reeder, 45, has been a council member for five years. She is perhaps the most active member, heading city committees on parks and recreation, the library, the quarterly newsletter and the Pow Wow Festival.

All those things are ways to reach out to the community and draw people together, she said, something she wants to see continue.

"It's being demonstrated that our community wants once again to be united and to work on common goals," she said.