Owensboro’s new group of City Commissioners has been officially sworn in and is ready to hit the ground running this month. Owensboro Times recently talked to each one about what their goals for the commission are for the next two years.
Larry Magliner — the new mayor pro tem — and Jeff Sanford both retained their seats, and they’ll be joined by former commissioner Bob Glenn and newcomer Mark Castlen.
Magliner said he hoped to continue a successful pattern with the newly elected commissioners and alongside Mayor Tom Watson, who won his re-election bid.
“(The last commission) worked well together and I believe we made decisions that we felt were best for Owensboro, especially with the pandemic relief,” Maglinger said. “I welcome Mark and Bob to the commission to keep Owensboro safe, financially strong and moving forward.”
Sanford, who had served with former commissioners Pam Smith-Wright and Larry Conder for a number of years, commended the two for being “great commissioners,” adding that he felt the previous City Commission had been on a roll before the COVID-19 pandemic struck.
“Pam and I have a great friendship going back to the revitalization of Owensboro. That put us in a position for growth,” he said. “Now we have major companies with impressive payrolls, such as Big Rivers, relocating to downtown Owensboro. It took vision from a lot of community leaders to get the momentum we needed to get us to this level.”
The new commission, Sanford believes, will hit the ground running.
“We have the Northwest Revitalization program ready to go that will enhance the downtown and English Park area,” he said. “As soon as we get back to some normalcy, hopefully by spring and summer, the growth in this area will be evident. We are a growing and inviting community with more opportunities on the way.”
Castlen said one issue he plans to address is making Owensboro a more inclusive, diverse city for the thousands of people who live here.
“One issue that needs to be addressed is, I feel like our minority groups feel ignored,” Castlen said. “The Black community, the Hispanic community, the Burmese community — all of them. At Friday After 5, we have rock, bluegrass and country music. We’re having this party for the city, but it’s like telling Blacks and Hispanics, ‘You’re not invited.’”
Castlen spent months reaching out to numerous people during the election season and participated in meetings of the local organization named Black Lives Matter to get a better idea of what minority communities wanted and needed from local leaders. Castlen said he wasn’t even aware of the growing Burmese population in Owensboro until he started campaigning and talking to people.
“You don’t just learn a new language overnight,” he said of the struggles facing immigrants who seek refuge in Owensboro. “We need to be kinder and more proactive in helping these minority groups grow and feel welcomed.”
Another of Castlen’s ideas includes a city-wide pickleball tournament that utilizes all of the city’s parks, helping different neighborhoods interact with one another.
“I feel like when you bring communities together like that, people feel appreciated. It cuts down on things like gun violence,” he said. “People will start caring more about each other by getting to know each other. I hope the other commissioners and mayor get as excited about it as the people I talk to.”
Glenn, who served two prior terms as a City Commissioner before being elected in 2020, listed 13 issues he’d like to see addressed over the next two years. Some of those include addressing violent crime, better communication regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, growing Owensboro’s economy, supporting small business, and assisting those at risk of being evicted.
In addressing the violence that has affected Owensboro, Glenn said more programs — such as those offered by the H.L. Neblett Community Center’s Western Academy, Girls Inc. and The Boys and Girls Club — needed to be created.
“We also need to work with the Owensboro Police Department and Daviess County Sheriff’s Office to develop programs that help address the sources of violent crime, such as drugs, poverty and lack of education,” Glenn said.
As for the COVID-19 pandemic, Glenn said he felt the City’s hiring of a communications coordinator would help but that local leaders needed to alert citizens as to what more they could do to curb the growth of infection.
“Citizens need to understand the risks associated with broadening levels of infection caused by travel and large social events,” he said. “The City must lead in this area.”
Those who are at risk of being evicted or losing their homes need more help from the City too, Glenn said.
“We must find a way to extend the no eviction moratorium and assist landlords as well from financial ruin,” he said. “Similarly, we must get OMU to work collaboratively to avoid arbitrary shut off of utilities to families that are running behind on paying their bills.”