- Published on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 14:00
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Mike Ham has a goal to lower taxes for citizens if he’s elected mayor — and he has laid out a plan to work towards that goal. His plan includes promoting tourism and new business to grow new revenue, eliminating the need for more citizen taxes.
Mike Ham is on the ballot for mayor of Colonial Beach. Current mayor, Fred Rummage is retiring. Stephen Kennedy is also running for mayor as a write-in candidate.
Ham understands that the mayor is just one of seven votes in the council, but believes the role of the mayor consists of keeping the council focused and meetings orderly, ensuring that all full time, weekend and summer residents have an opportunity to express their concerns and to understand what is happening in Colonial Beach, whether in a meeting or on the street. Ham also believes the mayor’s role includes marketing the town, tourism and businesses.
Councilman Mike Ham was originally appointed to Colonial Beach Council in April, 2011 to replace Stephen Kennedy who resigned for personal reasons. Ham ran unopposed in November, 2011 to fill out the remainder of Kennedy’s term which will expire in 2014.
Since he has been on council, Ham has been appointed as chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee and successfully lobbied to avoid a two-cent tax hike on real property taxes for Colonial Beach residents, while Westmoreland County pushed through their two-cent real property tax.
Ham also successfully pushed hard to reduce the water and sewer increase from the proposed $30 a month to only $10 a month.
“That was a hard decision because we do have some severe water and sewer infrastructure problems that we’re trying to address,” Ham said in an interview last week. But Ham feels the town can accomplish those repairs with only a $10 a month increase.
Throughout his tenure, Ham said he has worked hard to continuously listen to the concerns of residents and businesses owners and help citizens understand town finances and where money is being used.
Ham is proud of the clean opinion on the town’s recent audit report, which he credits the town staff for. “I helped them stay focused on it and we worked with the auditors and ironed out all the problems they had in the past.” Ham said that this is quite a monumental task for Colonial Beach, given the audit history in the last decade.
Ham has been an active participant in the revitalization grant committee efforts and regularly attends both school board and planning commission meetings.
Recently, Ham attended a Westmoreland Supervisors meeting, where it was announced that is was rare to see a Colonial Beach council member. Ham plans to continue to attend supervisors meetings regularly.
For the future, Ham is focused on promoting tourism and marketing the town to make Colonial Beach a destination rather than a stop over. To help accomplish this, Ham said he will continue to support the council and staff’s efforts to revamp the town’s website. The goal is to help promote the town’s tourism industry as well as use it as a tool to keep citizens more informed on town issues by including down-loadable agendas, proposed resolutions and ordinances.
Ham is committed to fighting any effort to raise taxes and will fight to get some taxes lowered, such as personal property tax.
“We are among the highest in the state of Virginia for personal property tax. Combining the Westmoreland County and the Colonial Beach personal property tax. The town’s rate is three times what most towns are,” Ham said, adding, “if other sources of revenue could be found through new businesses and tourism, the goal of lowering personal property tax would be attainable.”
Ham addressed the debate over supporting our own school system or allowing the county to take over our schools. “Just to clarify, we can’t just give the school to Westmoreland County. It would take a change to the town’s charter. It would have to go through Virginia’s state legislature and Westmoreland County would have to agree to it.”
Ham feels the school system has made a lot of improvements over the past several years. He hopes that will continue. “They have gained financial accountability after all the problems they went through back in 2006 to 2008. They have gotten their finances straightened out and they were part of the clean audit opinion,” Ham said.
Ham would like to improve the town’s image and get it away from being anti-business, pushing a more business friendly attitude among staff members.
“We have taken some great steps towards doing that. The current council has begun to get involved with any new business that comes into town.
“We have asked staff members, if they are contacted by a business, to obtain the businesses name, phone number and a point of contact and to provide this information to at least one council member.” Ham plans to supports creating a policy to ensure this is done.
If elected as mayor, Ham plans to restore seating for the School Superintendent and the County Supervisor and place them back on the agenda, attend supervisors meetings and regularly meet with Westmoreland County Administrator Norm Rasavi, remove time limit restrictions on public comments while moving them to the top of the agenda and give presentations before public hearings or passing resolutions or ordinances.
When asked, “What do you want to accomplish with the budget?” Ham said, “Put together a comparison and history of the budget to enable the town council to analyze what is working and what isn’t.”
“My ambition is to ensure that we are doing everything as efficiently as we can, bring in more revenue by increasing the number of businesses and increasing tourism. That’s where you can start looking into decreasing taxes. Every dollar we bring in from outside is a dollar we don’t have to produce internally.”
Streets and roads
The council has already been diligently working to figure out what to do with the roads in the Meadows subdivision. We have awarded the contract on Meadow Avenue. We’ve paved Santa Maria.
At the very least I would like to see all of them tarred and chipped to at least get the dust down. Ham believes the town can get this done over the next two to three years.
Ham brings to the table over 40 years experience in accounting and finance management. He retired from the Army Audit Agency in 2008 after over 30 years as an auditor and program manager. His last five years he served as a resource manager responsible for properly executing an annual budget of more than $80 million and was responsible for oversight of 28 field offices in the U.S., Germany and Korea. In addition, Ham worked as a Humane Resource Manager for all functions relating to more than 700 employees.
In closing, Ham said, “I think we have a great future and based on who is running for council, I think we will have a group that is honestly looking at improving Colonial Beach and listening to the people.
Note: The candidates forum for Mayor will be held Wednesday, October 24 at 7 p.m. at the town meeting room on Washington Ave., next to the library.