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Watertown mayoral candidates campaign on different experiences

Allison Crossman, Cody Horbacz, Jeff Smith
Businesswoman Allison Crossman, left, Watertown City Councilor Cody Horbacz, middle, and former City Councilor and Jefferson County Legislator Jeff Smith are running for mayor of Watertown.

Unlike in previous elections, Watertown residents will have three choices in this year's mayoral election because of an unprecedented tie between the second- and third-place finishers in this summer's primary. 

The first-place finisher in that race was Jeff Smith. This isn't his first time running for mayor. He lost a close election in 2011. But he believes he is poised to win this time around largely due to his experience. Smith spent 12 years on the city council, two in the Jefferson County Legislature, and is a local business owner.

"I will have more experience than the entire council combined," Smith said. "Resume, vision, qualifications - they matter. This is a $45 million budget the mayor oversees and if you’re hiring someone for a company, you would look at their resume."

City Councilor Cody Horbacz says his resume better suits him to take the job of mayor at this point in time. He's helped drive several initiatives in the last four years, including three new playgrounds, a new pool in Thompson Park, and investments in paving streets and fixing sidewalks.

"I have the most relevant experience of anybody running," Horbacz said. "We are making a ton of progress, we have a lot of momentum right now, and I am in the best position to continue that momentum."

Businesswoman Allison Crossman says it's her lack of experience in city government that is resonating with voters.

"People don't view me as a politician, they view me as one of them," Crossman said. "Having the business background that I do, people trust that I would be able to run the city much like a businesses, would be able to create new revenue opportunities, would be able to market our city better, and ultimately just create new opportunities for our residents."

In addition to voting for a new mayor, Watertown residents will decide on whether to adopt a new city charter. Among other changes, it calls for automatic pay raises for the mayor and city council and the creation of a new deputy city manager position that would also operate as the commissioner of public safety, overseeing the police chief and the director of the fire department. Smith, who led the charter commission, supports it. Crossman and Horbacz do not because it doesn't give voters the option to merge the mayor and city manager into one full-time position.

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.