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Watertown mayor not running for reelection, endorses former City Councilor Jeff Smith

Julia Botero
WRVO News File Photo

After four years as mayor and eight on the city council, Joe Butler says it's time for a break so he can focus on his family and career. Butler says he's proud of his role in maintaining the city's fiscal strength during his term while also investing in city infrastructure like roads and sidewalks - and the $10 million  Watertown won from the state in 2017 to improve its downtown.

"The revitalization of the downtown area - I think - that’s come a long way and that will continue to improve," Butler said. "That’s been a big part of why I wanted to run for mayor."

Credit Jeff Smith
Watertown mayoral candidate Jeff Smith.

Butler says the next administration will need to address the imbalance between the city's costs and revenues. That's one of the reasons he's endorsing Jeff Smith, a physician's assistant and owner of QuikMed Urgent Care in Watertown, someone he says will be fiscally conservative. Smith served three terms on the Watertown City Council and on the Jefferson County Board of Supervisors. 

Smith says he would fight against waste if elected, like refusing the state's order for Watertown to build a new courtroom. He's critical of the current council's decision to spend on projects like replacing the old Thompson Park Pool while at the same time balancing the budget with the city's reserves.

"You can’t keep going back to the fund balance because you’re going to drain those resources, we’re going to lose our bond rating, and we’re going to go back to the old days where we were borrowing for police cars," Smith said. "That is just fiscal irresponsibility."

City Councilor Cody Horbacz, who is also running for mayor, says the investments the city had made in recent years, like the Thompson Park Pool and other improvements around town such as a new playground, are signs that the city is on the rise.

Credit Cody for Watertown
City Councilor Cody Horbacz is running for mayor of Watertown.

"We've seen a ton of new investment in downtown, we’ve seen dozens of new businesses open their doors in the last 3-4 years," Horbacz said. "I want to continue that progress and I will promote initiatives that foster that growth."

If elected, Horbacz says he would advocate for more policies to stimulate the growth of small business and the creation of a new city website that's easier for the public to use.

Former city council candidate Cliff Olney and business owner Allison Crossman are also running for mayor.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.