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  • Barbara Payne

  • Curt Campion

  • Michael Hodge

  • Kelly Keagy

  • Mike E. McCune

5 strive for 2 Galt council positions

Published: Sunday, Sep. 23, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B

The two winners in the Galt City Council race will need to juggle new and old, country and city, east and west – all while landing businesses, keeping crime under control, pulling jobs out of a hat and encouraging moderate residential development.

At least five residents of the tiny Sacramento County border town think they're up to the task.

Mayor Barbara Payne, who's wrapping up her second consecutive four-year term, is asking for a third term, but will have to shake off newcomers Curt Campion, Michael Hodge, Kelly Keagy and Mike E. McCune.

Two seats are up for grabs in the Nov. 6 election. Payne's and council member Randy Shelton's terms end in November, but Shelton is not seeking re-election.

Galt was sucker-punched by the recession and the housing market crash, after a building boom of housing stock for workers in Stockton, Lodi and Sacramento. The town, 20 miles south of Sacramento, is still suffering from a 17.9 percent unemployment rate, new housing subdivisions that remain ghost towns and neighborhoods dotted with foreclosed homes.

While all candidates want to see more local businesses and employment, they differ slightly on what kinds suit Galt's personality.

Payne, a 20-year resident and a retired gift shop owner, wants to continue promoting Galt on a regional level, integrate farming and urban life, and stimulate some commercial activity in the town.

"With a population of 24,000, we don't quite have the numbers to attract shops or restaurants, so we need some growth," said the council-appointed mayor. Many residents drive out of town for work or shopping, "which shrinks our sales tax revenues and affects the kinds of services we can offer."

Payne supports making Galt a "food hub," with a farmers market-style shop and county-approved industrial kitchen for processing and packaging food for commercial sale.

Payne, who is on the board of directors of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, pledged to continue promoting Galt in regional planning.

She is proud of the city's significant drop in crime in the last four years, and a well-appointed commuter bus that takes Galt residents to nearby cities for work.

Campion brings a career of city employment and experience as a City Council member in Paradise to his bid. He moved to Galt in 1985 as its planning director, and also served as its assistant city manager and community development director before retiring last year.

He values Galt's "rich agricultural roots" but views the city as an urban pocket surrounded by farmland. He believes true economic development will flow from sprucing up the city's commercial core.

"Economic development is more than new businesses and jobs, there has to be something to draw new businesses," Campion said. "We have to have the infrastructure to support it, the streets, water, sewer, landscaping and facade improvement."

As a city employee, he wrote the grant to revitalize a key commercial area along C Street. He wants to reduce building fees, which he says are artificially high based on growth projections from Galt's homebuilding heyday, and hold banks accountable for keeping vacant homes looking decent.

Campion also wants to explore annexation of Liberty High School into the city limits, and start talks with the Cosumnes Community Services District on getting better emergency medical services to the west side of Highway 99, where there is no fire station and trains delay traffic.

This is Hodge's first candidacy for public office, but he already has worked with the City Council to retrofit seven railroad crossings as "quiet zones." Currently, trains must blow their horns three times at each crossing, which has kept Hodge up at night. The city, with encouragement from Hodge, will spend a half-million dollars on extending crossing arms and installing medians, curtailing middle-of-the-night shrieks from trains.

A retired small-businessman and four-year Galt resident, Hodge wants to work with the local chamber of commerce and city officials to attract new businesses and restaurants. He says the city missed opportunities to hook new projects, including a Walmart Supercenter and an Ace Hardware regional distribution center.

"There are no businesses to speak of, and basically no tax base," Hodge said. "The council's been really close-minded about growth."

Hodge is also committed to building more Highway 99 crossings, including bike trails and overpasses, to bridge the east and west sides of the city, which he says are "like two pockets in the same city."

McCune, a nine-year resident and longtime Herald Fire Department volunteer, said he wants to seek grants for Galt's redevelopment and bring new companies to the city.

In his role as regional appointee of the Sacramento County Human Services Coordinating Council, he's made valuable capital connections, McCune said.

"I want to look for any programs that apply to Galt getting revenues," he said. He also is committed to annexing Liberty High, and to making parks more wheelchair-accessible.

McCune hopes a reduction in developer permit fees will spark a return of younger people to Galt. "Many young families that moved here got in over their head and had to leave," he said.

Keagy, who works for a building materials distributor in Galt, said more jobs are needed for people who want to work in the city. She ran unsuccessfully against Payne in 2008.

Keagy is feeling positive about growth recently, with the opening of several restaurants and the recent application for the city's first single-family residential building permit since 2009.

"There's hardly any homes for sale, so it's great to see that," Keagy said.

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