WATERFORD -- This small city in eastern Stanislaus County will start 2013 with a new downtown, a new government building and, possibly, a new City Council.
Aaron Norseen is the lone challenger for the two seats held by incumbents Mike Van Winkle and Jose Aldaco.
Van Winkle, who was elected to the council in 2008, said he is proud of its part in the downtown beautification project, which includes new streets, curbs and benches, landscaping and a dedicated City Hall.
He is confident the revitalization will bring new businesses downtown, where the vacancy rate is 30 percent. The city has offered loans paid for by a federal community development block grant to new businesses that can create jobs and set up shop in Waterford.
Van Winkle said he wants to fill vacancies, but wants new growth to be slow so the city can maintain its small-town feel.
"If you let it grow too fast, we would be in financial trouble like other cities," he said
Van Winkle said he has been fiscally conservative and points out that the city put aside money for years to pay for the construction of City Hall.
The city has been saving since the late 1990s to open the $1.3 million building with no debt.
City staff has been operating for years out of a portable building on E Street, but will celebrate the grand opening of the new City Hall at a highly visible location on Highway 132 in January, at which time the two winning candidates are to have been sworn in.
More visible role
Norseen hopes he will be one. The first-time candidate is a law enforcement officer for the state of California who grew up and went to school in Waterford.
He said the current council lacks visibility in the community.
"A lot of people don't know who the city councilmen are in Waterford or even who the mayor is," he said. "There needs to be more involvement from the council."
Norseen mentioned a Memorial Day event in which his father and other veterans from Waterford were honored with their names on a plaque.
He said only Mayor Charlie Goeken attended.
Norseen said he wants to encourage residents to attend council meetings and offer input. If elected, he would visit business owners to get their ideas about how to better the city and how to attract new business.
Norseen said public safety is another concern he wants to address.
"We definitely need to focus on whether we are getting the amount of deputies we are paying for, and look at the crime rate and determine if that is enough," he said.
The city contracts with the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department for the services of six or seven deputies, and a shared lieutenant and police chief, according to City Manager Tim Ogden.
Public safety is a priority for Aldaco, an incumbent, but he says he wouldn't necessarily address it by hiring more deputies.
He wants to hold workshops in the city to inform residents on how to protect themselves and avoid becoming victims.
Aldaco is the assistant superintendent of educational services at the Waterford Unified School District. He said his job puts him in a good position to reach out to parents to educate them on ways to prevent their children from engaging in alcohol and drug use.
He wants to promote continued and new partnerships between the city and the school district. For example, Waterford High School students use city land along the Tuolumne River to do soil testing.
Aldaco is the only Latino councilman in a city that he points out is largely Latino.
Goeken is running unopposed for mayor.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2366.