Trio square off for Seligman mayor
Candidates aim to replace vacant Walmart building with new tenant
Voters in Seligman will have three candidates to choose from on the ballot Tuesday for the position of Seligman mayor.
Garry Thornton, Eric Freeman and Everlyn Chisholm will be running for the city's top post. Paul R. Johnson, who had filed for mayor, has withdrawn his candidacy.
Thornton, originally from Monett, lives and works in Seligman and has served as a police officer and police chief for the city, at different times, from 2011 to present. He graduated from the MSSC Police Academy in Joplin in 2010.
Thornton is married with three children. His goals are to continue the growth trend the city has experienced in recent years and help be a voice for the citizens on city council.
"I live in the community and I want to see it grow," he said. "I started working as an officer and moved my whole family here from Monett.
Thornton said he believes through serving as a patrolman and past chief of police, he has had the opportunity to get to know people in the community on a personal basis and understands their circumstances and needs.
"I've seen them at the worst, and at their best," he said. "It feels like everyone in the community is a friend."
If he is elected as mayor, Thornton said he wants to focus on growth and finding another retailer to take up residence in the building Walmart vacated.
Although Thornton has not held an office before, he emphasized that he has always been involved in community work, it runs in the family, and he would bring his community experience and passion to the table and work hard for the city. In Monett, Thornton and his father took over a Christmas dinner held for the community for the last 35 years which was started by his grandfather Linn Thornton.
Freeman, originally from Blytheville, Ark., also lives in Seligman and is married with three children.
Since moving to the city, Freeman has jumped into community work, serving as a firefighter for 18 years and holding an office as the west ward alderman for the city for two terms.
"I've always had a great interest in our community and its educational needs," he said. "Before I got on city council, I helped start the adult education and literacy program Crowder. And while on city council, we instituted the grant for the AEL program, which pays $500 a year for testing."
Freeman has an associate's degree in the arts with a science minor. He currently works as an addictions counselor.
His main focus for the city is to regenerate the revenue that was lost when Walmart closed their store.
"That was a really great asset for the community, plus the revenue that benefited the city," he said. "I want to look for some other businesses to come in, such as grocery stores or retailers. Walmart made $6 million off our city. If we can bring in industries like that [Walmart], we can employ our citizens. Sixteen people had jobs as a result of Walmart coming in."
Freeman said his background in politics and his love for the community make him the ideal man for the position of mayor.
"With my experience, I think I can benefit the city," he said.
Chisholm, who is originally from Tulsa, Okla., moved to Washburn in 1996 and Seligman in 2000. She has four children, five grandchildren, and attended business college in San Antonio, Texas.
Chisholm has worked for Walmart in Bentonville, Ark., for 18 years as a past sales analyst, manager and current sales inventory specialist.
Chisholm said she admired what previous Mayors Jerry Montgomery and Dewayne Corn did for the community, and wanted to continue their work.
"My brother-in-law, Jerry Montgomery, was the mayor for a couple of terms," she said. "I admired what he and previous Mayor Corn did for our community by cleaning it up, and I think they need someone else in office that's going to continue that legacy."
Chisholm said she feels uniquely qualified for the position because she has been in the community for many years and wants to keep children safe by giving them something productive to do.
"I've been in the community since 1996, and in Seligman since 2000, and I know a lot of people in town," she said. "I like helping, and mainly, I like to help keep kids off the street. They know my door's always open.
"I'd also like to update the park. I want everything to stay updated because the more interactive kids are with our community and entertainment they can have that's free to them, the more it keeps them from making bad choices."
Chisholm said she'd like to bring the library back and repair roads.
"There has been a tremendous amount of dropouts in the Washburn-Seligman area, and I think it's because they don't have anyone to reach out that can talk to and support them," she said. "I'd also like to update our roads. We have a lot of accidents on Highway 37. Painting would be number one, and potholes would be second, especially going to Highway 112 because we get a lot of traffic there going toward Roaring River. When it's raining, you can't tell where the lines are at. That's one of the things I've noticed residents complain about because there are so many accidents."
Chisholm said this is the first time she is aware of a woman running for the position of mayor in the city.
"I have a lot of people supporting me," she said.
Chisholm said in the wake of the Walmart closing, she would support a different store coming to town to bring jobs back, and felt that getting the community involved is the key to unlocking growth.
"We have to get our community involved," she said. "We have one park. We've gotten more people and more kids here now. I think keeping our parks bigger and our neighborhoods cleaner is important, and also making sure the city is safe."