COQUILLE — The two candidates vying to replace outgoing Mayor Matt Rowe differ in what aspects of the community they’re involved in and the places they work, but what they share is a common goal for the city.
Kathryn Simonetti is heavily involved in both city and county committees, while Lee Taft is passionate about youth, seniors and veterans in the area. Both talk about ways to make more people want to come to Coquille.
Taft has lived in the Coquille community for the past 10 years. He said he considered running for mayor four years ago, but found out he lived outside city limits. After he moved into the city, he decided to run for the 2016 election.
Taft is a sales manager at Bicoastal Media and said the marketing experience could help him in the job as mayor.
"Knowing marketing, I feel I have the opportunity to brand our city," he said.
Taft said he wants to see people come to the area for more than just the Gay 90s and Denny’s Pizza.
He said there are a lot of opportunities out there to bring people in and he thinks the community will jump on board once changes start happening, but he adds that it’s not something that can be done overnight.
"There are a lot of people with the same idea, but for some reason they haven’t acted on them," Taft said.
He said the only way the community is going to be successful is with a major face-lift, so more businesses would be attracted to the area. That plan includes fixing and painting existing buildings, as well as making better signage.
Taft said he has a variety of people who support him. He said he’s very involved with youth, veterans and seniors in the community and would like to see a space for them for programs and events.
"I’d like to see the community center utilized more, so there can be a youth program," Taft said. He said the center could also be used to honor veterans and seniors at a yearly dinner.
Ultimately, Taft said what the city needs is action.
"You can only talk for so long until people are saying, ‘Why are you going to spend money without doing anything,’" Taft said.
Underneath Simonetti’s desk sits the 2016-2017 City of Coquille budget, which she’s been studying to see where money is projected to be spent for the next year. Simonetti has been working with the city and county for the past two and a half years. For her, running for mayor seemed like a natural progression.
She said when she first joined the Coquille Chamber of Commerce as president it was in dire straits.
"It was running in the negative and we had maybe a handful of members and they didn’t do anything," Simonetti said. "My first year as president I took it from working at a $2,000 a year deficit into a positive of $9,000 a year."
She has her hand in many ongoing projects around the city, but she doesn’t want to make any lofty campaign promises she can’t fulfill.
"People will go in and say, ‘If I’m mayor this is what I’m going to do,’" Simonetti said. "First off you have to understand the duties of the mayor. A mayor executes, city council legislates."
She said if she is elected mayor, she’s going to look at what projects have already been started first. Simonetti said the city has a lot of projects on the table right now and funding is the biggest problem.
"Because if you elect me on the basis that your street is going to be repaired, I’m lying right from the beginning," Simonetti said. "That’s what you want to hear, that your street is going to be fixed. But is it the truth? I’m not in a position right now to tell you, because I haven’t seen what the city has been working on now."
Simonetti is currently working on getting state Highway 42 turned into a scenic byway. As president of Parks and Recreation for the city, she was able to secure a grant to revitalize several parks in the area. Because of her involvement in both the city and county, Simonetti thinks she’s the best fit for the job.
"I think I can be advantageous for both sides, because I’ll be representing the city which I already represent in two forms and I’ll be representing the county in three forms," Simonetti said. "It’s like the perfect weave."