The Rapidian

Stephen Kepley, Sharon Brinks to compete for rare open mayoral seat in Kentwood

Director of Engineering Stephen Kepley and City Commissioner Sharon Brinks will compete for mayor on November 5.

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Election Day: November 5

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Stephen Kepley (left), Sharon Brinks (right)

Stephen Kepley (left), Sharon Brinks (right) /Courtesy of Stephen Kepley/Sharon Brinks

Stephen Kepley and Sharon Brinks have both had a tough road to become the two final candidates for Kentwood's mayoral elections. This is the first open mayoral race in Kentwood history. Richard Clanton is currently mayor but not running this year. He completed Richard Root's term after Root's health started to decline. Richard Root was mayor from 2002-2012 so the open mayoral seat drew a lot of attention. There were six announced candidates in the primary elections. Brinks and Kepley earned the most votes and continued in the race.

Kepley has been the Director of Engineering and Inspections for Kentwood for the last 10 years. Kepley was born and grew up in Virginia, receiving his degree in Engineering from Virginia Tech engineering school.

He wants to hear from the citizens in his district and goes door to door to hear from his constituents.

"I have knocked on thousands of doors and talked with thousands of voters," says Kepley. "Many residents and seniors are concerned about public safety in Kentwood, due to the rash of violence. Now more than ever we need to invest in public safety services, ensure that they are sustainable and enhance them where we can."

Kepley wants to focus on safe neighborhoods, jobs, infrastructure and community. He wants to encourage futher funding of city parks and hopes to encourage Kentwood Capital Corp, which would help small businesses with financing and mentorship.

"I am running for mayor because I believe this is a calling for me and that our community needs a servant leader," states Kepley. "I was hired by former Mayor Root to implement his widely popular 'open for business' strategy and I will continue that legacy if elected."

Also running is Sharon Brinks, who has been a City Commissioner at large for 16 years, has served as Mayor Pro-tem and as the city's finance chair. She wants to focus on the city's diverse population, common sense solutions to problems and rewarding officials for staying under budget.

"We have a very multicultural city here in Kentwood and I'm really interested in getting our English as a Second Language students library cards," states Brinks. "We rewarded the way the Spanish library card application read to make it clear you did not need legal documentation to get a library card. This really helps when people are learning English."

Brinks calls her style of governance "small government, smart government." Different problems have arisen such as the fire department's hoses and water main breaks that have convinced her there are simple solutions to help such problems.

"When you roll up the fire hoses, they pick up gravel and the gravel erodes the rubber and hoses are ridiculously expensive. There's a new type of hose with a fabric mesh. While it costs more, [but] it lasts much longer. I said that makes perfect, logical sense," says Brinks. "These are things that don't make a great sound byte, but they make great government."

Brinks encourages citizens to get out to polls and vote. There are about 50,000 residents in Kentwood and only 4,100 came out to vote in the primary elections.

"Everyone's out there saying fix this or fix that. Please go to the polls and state your preference," says Brinks. "I don't care who people vote for, just get out there and vote. I'd like them all to vote for me but the apathy of the voters just surprises me. There are countries where people die for the opportunity to vote."

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