Watertown city council

Sarah Harris / NCPR

The city of Watertown is considering changing the way it runs its government. Right now, Watertown has a powerful city manager who oversees departments and runs day-to-day affairs. But that person isn't elected - they're appointed by the city council, which includes the mayor.

When Ryan Henry-Wilkinson ran for and won a city council seat last fall, he campaigned on this idea: that voters should choose the most powerful city official.

"If we trust the voters to elect us," Henry-Wilkinson said, "why can’t we trust the voters to elect an executive officer directly?"

Friends of Mark Walczyk

Watertown City Councilor Mark Walczyk is running to challenge long-time Assemblywoman Addie Jenne (D-Theresa) in the 116th Assembly District, which is located in the North Country.

Republican Mark Walczyk was elected to the Watertown City Council back in 2015. But the 32-year-old has plenty of government experience, having served as a legislative director and most recently district director for State Sen. Patty Ritchie (R-Heuvelton), who represents Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Watertown is applying for a federal grant to help pay for new firefighters, but officials are divided on whether it will ultimately save the city money.

Watertown Fire Chief Dale Herman will file the application on behalf of the city, hoping to bring on four new firefighters with the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant. It would be the first time the fire department has hired since 2012.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Watertown is forming a commission to review its city charter. The goal is to determine if the city would be better served by a different form of government.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Watertown is in the early stages of crafting its budget and the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap is yet again a major part of the discussion.

City manager Sharon Addison says Watertown will exceed the cap in the next budget when they factor in the cost of giving all city employees the standard annual two percent raise. The city broke the cap last year. The announcement comes as the council prepares to take on big projects like renovating the Thompson Park pool.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Several seats on Watertown's city council are up for grabs this election, but the outcome of the vote could have more of an impact on the city's mayor.

City council candidate Ryan Henry-Wilkinson says after years of legal battles between the city and its firefighter union, he's campaigning on restoring public trust in city government. Henry-Wilkinson hopes to help accomplish that by changing Watertown's form of government to a strong mayor system replacing the city manager by making the mayor a full-time position.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Watertown leaders are pressing forward with their goal to transform the city's downtown area despite losing out on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) competition last year. Plattsburgh ultimately captured the $10 million grant in the North Country region. But Watertown officials say that's not stalling the city's momentum.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

The Watertown City Council is considering a new law that would require landlords to register their rental properties with the city. Homes would then be subject to inspection every three years. Councilman Steve Jennings says the measure will help improve the city’s housing, but landlords say the measure goes too far.

Julia Botero / WRVO News

 

There are more than 150 abandoned homes in Watertown.  A report put out by the city assessor finds homes in the city can be empty for months, even years, before the bank takes them over.

Vacant homes have become such a problem in Watertown, the city council has had trouble wrapping their head around what to do.

Brian Phelps, the city assessor, visited hundreds of empty homes and poured over stacks of paperwork to figure out why these homes were abandoned.

 “As many vacant homes as there are, are as many individual stories.”

Julia Botero / WRVO News

In Watertown, two candidates are challenging incumbent Jeff Graham to be the city’s next mayor. Thursday’s primary will narrow the race down to two candidates who’ll go on to compete in the November election.

What Councilman Stephen Jennings lacks in political experience, he says he makes up in vision. Jennings has served on the city council for two years. He went to school in Albany but has lived in Watertown for 20 years working with the city’s public health department.

The race for mayor in Watertown heats up

Jun 16, 2015
Julia Botero / WRVO News

The race for mayor in Watertown is heating up. Three candidates have thrown their hat in the ring to run against incumbent Jeff Graham in November's election. 

Stephen Jennings, Joseph  Butler and Mayor Jeffrey Graham work together on a weekly basis. Both Jennings and Butler are city council members.  Both believe the city needs a new leader at the top.

“There is no vision to me. That is my great frustration and I feel that the things I envision are not going to be enacted in this current council. I think we need a change,” Jennings said.