FREEPORT (WIFR) -- The city of Freeport is getting a change in power this spring and the three official candidates for mayor made their cases before voters on Tuesday night.
Neighbors in Freeport say they're all ears to hear what mayoral candidates Jon Staben, Kathy Knodle, and former mayor Jim Gitz will do to turn their city around.
"Freeport is a great place to live and no one wants to see their hometown or the place they've lived for so long getting tired looking and deteriorating," says lifelong resident Shanna Winnekins.
The Pretzel City has a double digit unemployment rate, making jobs a priority for the three mayoral hopefuls.
“We have to focus on stopping the bleeding and job retention. 80 percent of jobs are created out of what we already have. That means this is not about finding someone else to come here as much as it is about protecting what we have and growing it,” says Citizen’s Party candidate Jim Gitz.
“"We have to build strong relationships with the businesses that are here. They need to know that you want them to stay, that you want them to win,” says Independent Kathy Knodle.
"Here's a document that tells you what you need to do, who you need to talk to, who are the realtors that can provide you with the land packages, what's the infrastructure, and then bottom line says how can the mayor help you make that happen. That's what the mayor would have to do that's what I'd have to do,” says People’s Party candidate Jon Staben.
Candidates say they want to fix up Freeport roads, but when it comes to fixing up the Carnegie Library and the old city hall, they're split
"I think it makes a lot more sense to use our existing buildings for public services and public expense then renting space from private people while we moth ball the public facilities we have," says Gitz.
"I'm going to have town hall meetings and we're going to show you all the different options you have, even building a brand new building, what that would cost. We're going to have to get public consensus on this because this is too big for just a mayor and council," says Knodle.
"If we can find a qualified developer who comes in and says ‘I can restore that building, I can make it new again’, sell it to them for a dollar. It’s there, it makes Freeport look good," says Staben.
Gitz and Knodle want to do more to improve and expand the bike paths in Freeport, especially the Jane Addams Trail. Staben says city money shouldn't be invested into recreation but instead into downtown businesses.
Andrew Crutchfield and Marianne Garvens are running as write-in candidates for the April 9th election. They weren't invited to participate in Tuesday’s forum.