Ludington voters decide the next mayor Tuesday

November 4, 2013

wally_taranko_ryan_coxLUDINGTON — On Tuesday voters in the City of Ludington will decide who their next mayor is going to be. After 12 years, Mayor John Henderson has reached the limit of terms he can be in office. This opened up an August primary race between four candidates. During that election, voters narrowed their choices for the November general election to Wally Taranko and Ryan Cox.

Politically, there isn’t much difference between the two. Both want to see the momentum of Mayor Henderson continued. They both speak praises of events such as Friday Nigh Live and the New Year’s Eve ball drop. They also talk about the need to keep revitalizing downtown. Both also agree that downtown is more than just Ludington Avenue, but also areas such as South James Street and South Rath Avenue.

The difference between the two really comes down to experience and age.

Cox, 31, grew up in Sherman Township and graduated in 2001 from Mason County Central High School. He spent most of his youth in his parent’s business, Cox’s Sales and Service of Scottville, where he continues to help manage the business. For the past six years he has been a social studies and survival skills teacher at O.J. Dejong Middle School in Ludington. Prior to that, he was a regional peer for Home Depot. He and his wife, Tracy, were recently chairs of the United Way fundraising campaign.

Taranko, 70, has lived in Ludington since he was 12-years-old. He is a 1961 graduate of Ludington High School. After serving in the Navy, he returned to Ludington and became a police officer for the next 32 years, including 12 years as chief. Following his retirement, he became the Mason County Emergency Manager for five years then served as the executive director of the West Shore Chapter of American Red Cross. He continues to volunteer for Red Cross. He has been a Ludington city councilor for four years.

“I want to further open and expand services for citizens,” Cox said. “I want to see long term growth by bringing jobs into the area, not just the city of Ludington but the surrounding area. We need to start with infrastructure improvements. When you have broken down streets and sidewalks, I don’t think people are as willing to move into the city. We also need to start advertising our city.”

Taranko said his strengths are his ability to be a coordinator and a collaborator.

“I want to build on the foundation that my predecessor has started. We have build a great foundation here and I want to continue that. I realize the mayor himself has no power. We have a city manager/council form of government. But, as mayor I would be able to collaborate and facilitate with private investors, health care, manufacturers and retail. We need those people to work together and I can be the spokesman for the city and make sure this process is where we want it to go.”

Cox sees his business experience and his youth as his strengths.

“I grew up in my family’s business, plus I have 10 years experience working for a multi-million dollar retailer. I can relate better to entrepreneurs. That’s part of being mayor, you have to sell your city.

“I’m also able to look 20 years down the road and know what I want to see and where I want the city to go. This is where I want my kids to grow up. I think there’s more of an investment when it’s your own. I’m willing to be a three term mayor. I don’t know that’s the same on the other side.”

Taranko said his experience with city and county government gives him an advantage over Cox. He believes those experiences can help get more younger adults involved in city government.

“My goal is to make sure some young people who grow up here are able to stay here and have good jobs here.”

Of the many things Taranko and Cox have in common, it’s clear they both love Ludington and Mason County.

“My wife and I chose to live in Ludington and stay in this area because it just feels like home,” Cox said.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m.



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