Contest for mayor could come down to a few votes

KINGMAN – Kingman city voters will soon choose between the status quo leadership of incumbent Mayor Lester Byram or a change in perspective offered by challenger Monica Gates.

Early voting has been under way for a week as the candidates gear up campaigns for the May 18 runoff election.

Early voting could change how they campaign.

Twenty five percent of the 4,446 ballots cast in the March 9 primary were cast prior to the election date.

Neither candidate received a majority in the closely contested primary.

Byram led with 2,024 votes (40.6 percent) and Gates had 1,882 (40.2 percent).

Frank McVey received 647.

Gates and McVey decided not to run for re-election to the City Council so that they could run for mayor.

During his primary campaign, Byram emphasized his leadership through eight years as Kingman's top elected official.

He emphasized the many leadership posts he holds in state organizations and his ability to bring grants to the city because of his service on those committees.

Byram said Kingman has remained on solid financial footing during his tenure and has paid for most projects as they were completed.

"These are exciting times in Kingman," he said.

"We need to build the infrastructure to keep ahead of growth and build the park and recreation facilities for an increased population."

Gates said she chose to run for mayor rather than a second term on the council because she thinks the city is rapidly falling behind the rapid growth now occurring.

"We are already behind the curve in preparing for the future of the city," she said.

"Sometimes a change of people is necessary to make changes in the system.

Sometimes it takes a different set of eyes to see how things are changing."

Gates said the policies that made Kingman successful with 5 percent growth during the past 25 years are no longer the best formula for current growth.

"We are already out of balance between growth and infrastructure," Gates said.

"We need leadership that looks at what Kingman can do and not find reasons why something cannot be done."

Byram and Gates agree on the need for infrastructure investment.

Where they differ is how to manage the growth and pay for additional infrastructure and services.

Byram said residents will get what they are willing to pay for, much as has been done in the past.

Gates said the city budget must be analyzed so every dollar is spent in the best way.

She said the City Council must set specific priorities.

"When the policy makers agree on specific projects, ways are found to finance them," she said.

Neither candidate supports another vote by residents on a primary property tax to fund city services, road projects or other infrastructure.

They agree that residents have spoken and that other means of funding need to be found.