VAN BUREN (KFSM)- For a second time, Max Blake, the general manager of his family-owned construction company will face-off against incumbent Mayor Robert Freeman.
“I decided five years ago that I wanted to try and be involved with the city of Van Buren and try and figure out ways I could help grow the city, and I decided to run four years ago, and since then I decided to run for city council and [I] sit on the city council at this time,” Blake said.
Mayor Freeman is a retired army officer.
“When I came back to Van Buren, I began to serve my community because service is just a part of who I am,” he said.
Alderman Blake, a self-proclaimed political rookie has served on the city council for two years now. He says if elected, he plans to take his business experience to city government.
“I see Van Buren, and my goal is for it to grow, vitalize itself to create a vibrant town where people don’t feel like they have to leave town to enjoy [themselves],” Blake said.
The mayor is currently serving his second term and said if he wins, this will be his third and final term, wanting to finish the projects he’s started, including a new police station and senior center.
“We’ve come a long way; we’ve got a long way to go.” Mayor Freeman said. “You never stop and say, okay we’re through. There’s always something ahead, and my goal if elected over the next four years is to continue that, and at the end of the four years I want to be able to hand this off to the next person.”
“My decision [to run] was listening to the community and feeling like they’re ready for a change and trying to provide some things that’s not currently being provided,” Blake said.
If re-elected, Mayor Freeman said he’ll focus on improvements to city parks and economic development. He said he’s most proud of a 70-percent approval rate of the penny sales tax passed to help fund ongoing projects.
“Those results say a lot about the citizens of Van Buren,” he said. “I was really proud and still am proud say I was the mayor and leader at that time and want to continue that to the future.”
Blake believes a tax-base needs to be created through tourism, which he says happens by attracting commerce and having a vibrant downtown.
“It’s time for us to compete; it’s time for us to polish the city up and promote ourselves,” Blake said.
“Our downtown has struggled without a doubt, but was starting to see a turnaround. We're starting to see some investors that are there,” Mayor Freeman said. “We’ve got a great heritage; we’ve got a great history. My great-grandfather was a part of that downtown, and I want to see that continue.”
In 2010, records show freeman won by 56-percent of the votes. Both candidates say they expect this to be a close race as well on Nov. 4.