Kim Ecklund acknowledged there’s a lot to be done as she transitions from the Jamestown City Council and her full-time finance job to running the county’s largest city.
Ecklund, who defeated incumbent Mayor Eddie Sundquist in this month’s General Election, outlined some of her early plans Monday during a sit-down meeting with U.S. Rep. Nick Langworthy.
Her first priority is “getting our financial house in order and making sure we’ve done all of the things that we need to legally do and we can move forward.”
With years of financial experience, both on the City Council and from her job at Bush Industries, she noted that Jamestown just recently closed out 2022 with the help of Joe Bellitto, former city comptroller. With the assistance of American Rescue Plan Act funds, the city finished last year with a surplus of more than $900,000
“From our fund balance we’re sitting well,” Ecklund told Langworthy, R-23. “It was the day-to-day things that were problematic and not getting done. Joe (Bellitto) was only supposed to be 12 hours a week, and he ended up working at least 20 or more. He has agreed to stay through the transition to help me as long as needed.”
A public hearing on the city’s 2024 budget proposal was held Monday evening; a vote on the budget is scheduled for Nov. 27.
Ecklund, a Republican, met with Langworthy for about a half-hour at his downtown Jamestown office on East Second Street.
She confirmed that a number of people have been added to her transition team after winning the mayor’s race. They include Bellitto; Rick Sotir, former city corporation counsel; Randy Holcomb, an assessor and the current mayor of Lakewood; and Steve Maggio, who Ecklund said “comes from a very strong labor background.”
She said the team will help “provide insight and detail” as they have “done those jobs before.”
“It’s building on what our community strengths are to help us move forward,” she said.
Langworthy and Ecklund discussed a range of topics, including local workforce needs, vacant buildings and state mandates on municipal governments, among others. In office since January of this year, Langworthy also strongly encouraged cooperation and working with representatives from the local level to lawmakers in Albany.
Speaking of her election victory, Langworthy alluded to Ecklund’s “proven track record as a member of the council.” He said she also has the knowledge and relationships to lead the city.
“I’m very excited for Kim and the opportunities that this gives Jamestown,” he said. “There’s a real optimism that I saw growing around her candidacy as the race unfolded.”
With her win, Ecklund will become the second woman, and first Republican woman, ever elected mayor of Jamestown.
“I think it is historic,” Langworthy added. “It is something to be optimistic about. It is a great example to young women that you can do any job you want. You can be the boss of this whole city. I’m excited to work with Kim.”
Ecklund stressed that she has not made any decisions on potential employment hires. She said she has a lot to do before officially becoming mayor.
“I’m trying to retire from my 34-year private sector job on top of finishing a budget this week to vote on next week,” she said. “Regardless, that has to be done. Then, just honestly, trying to develop a transition team and develop an administration to go forward.”
Asked what has stood out since winning the election, Ecklund responded, “If you ask me today, it’s the homeless situation. If you asked me last week, it’s the possibility of a (skilled nursing facility) downsizing.”
She added, “I think it varies on the day or the week, but at the end of the day we can’t take care of any of those things, and I can’t address some of those things, until after the first of the year. But it also comes back to the bottom line, too; we have to make sure we’re fiscally sound to move forward to do those things to attack the housing and the demolition, all of that stuff.”