Among the trio hoping for the vacant spot on the Williamston City Council, they all have one key aspect in common: They’ve been residents of the town for decades.
They won’t hear back from the city council until the Feb. 26 meeting — when the council makes its final decision — so they’re on standby. Otherwise, the three know how the minuscule details of Williamston well; fine-tuned over the course of their tenure residing within the town.
Stephen Bartig’s a fourth-generation resident. He estimated his great-grandfather moved to the city from Canada during the 1950s. Since then, Bartig, along with his parents and grandparents, have all graduated from Williamston High School.
“I am the fourth generation of my family to live in this town,” Bartig said. “And the idea that my community has given me so much, I’ve always wanted to give back to my community. The ability to serve my community is what I think could be the greatest way to contribute to my community for future generations.”
From another city council hopeful, Paula Curtis has resided within Williamston for the past 55 years; 35 of those with the fire department. During her interview with the city council, she stressed she wanted to “help” the community if she were to be appointed.
And it’s that helping spirit of Williamston she said she holds dearly — and a significant reason as to why she’s running for the spot.
“Usually everybody knows everybody, and everybody seems to help everybody,” Curtis said. “And when there’s some kind of a disaster or anything bad, like when a tornado went through, everybody just helped everybody get things put back together and get going again and make sure everybody was taken care of.”
Relative to the other two, Daniel Rhines has been with the Williamston community since 1996.
While he has settled down within the town with his family, he said he wants to include some “common sense” during the decision-making process, should he be selected.
“For myself, I see a chance to serve my city, to fill a need,” Rhines said. “I’ve always been very service-oriented and I enjoy doing that. I guess that’s what I gain from it. What the city would gain, they would gain a hopefully good a council person.”
As the three await to see who will be joining the city council ranks, Mayor Tammy Gilroy said she hopes the other two are interested in other avenues of local politics: board positions.
“We have board seats available on several of our city boards,” Gilroy said. “I would love to see, the ones who may not get the opportunity to serve on council, if they would be willing to step forward to fill those vacancies.”
For the candidates who lack an abundance of experience in local politics, Gilroy said it’s a solid starting point.
“That’s a great way to learn about a municipality,” Gilroy said. “If you’ve never served in that capacity before. So I will be reaching out to those other applicants to see if they’d be interested in filling other city board seats.”
In terms of the day-to-day duties of being a council member, Gilroy said she also appoints different council members to those different boards.
“That way, those council members can go work with those boards-men and tell council what those boards are working on,” Gilroy said.
At least for now, Bartig said he’s not quite 100 percent sure what to expect if he were to be selected. Though he did say he’s leaned on some pointers from a few past and current members.
“I’ve talked to a couple that were or are on city council, and they say it’s very rewarding,” Bartig said. “Lot of homework to do, read up on stuff. And when people, when they talk to you about problems, they’re very passionate about it. They want to you to understand their passion.”
For Curtis, she described the job as a “thankless” one, honing in on the public perception of the council’s responsibilities.
“There’s no hidden agenda,” Curtis said. “It’s just to be there and listen to everybody’s comments and concerns about what’s going on in the city. And try to help make the best decision for the city, not for any one person or one group in particular. Just what’s best for the city of Williamston.”
While Rhines does bring some local politics experience being on the jubilee committee, he said he hopes to bring a fresh voice to the crowd.
“It’s a small town, everybody cares about everybody,” Rhines said. “Everybody tries to work together and make it a great place to live. It’s kind of a cohesive deal. When you know everybody, you try to look out for everybody’s best interest.”