12 candidates seek Vienna City Council seats

Two running for City Recorder

VIENNA — Vienna City Council could see some new faces in 2021 with 12 people vying for a place on council and two for the recorder position.

Randy Rapp is running unopposed for another term as mayor. There is no May primary election in Vienna, just the November general election.

With incumbent council member Roger Conley running for House of Delegates, District 10, at least one chair will hold a new face for the five city council seats.

Aside from Conley, all present council members are running for re-election.

* Roger Bibbee, 64, is a lifelong Vienna resident. He served in the Vienna Volunteer Fire Department, retiring as deputy fire chief in 2002 with 27 and a half years of service.

“I have been on council for 19 years and I want to continue serving our city and helping it grow,” said Bibbee.

Bibbee is also a retired security officer from Camden Clark Medical Center.

“People want a good police and fire department in their area, and I want to help those departments continue to provide and grow in our city,” said Bibbee, “The City of Vienna must provide the best equipment and training possible to our firefighters and police officers not only to keep them safe while doing their jobs but provide the best protection possible to the citizens of Vienna.”

* Mike Elam, 51, who works at Stonerise Healthcare, has served as a city councilman for the last three years.

Elam said that he has gained a lot of knowledge of how government works and doesn’t work over this time.

“Vienna is where I was raised with great memories and I’m making great memories with my own family now,” he said.

Elam says the reason he is seeking re-election is that he feels the city spends too much money on unbudgeted things.

“We have always talked about a five and 10 year plan but have never seen one developed. We need to start addressing the underlying needs that we know are there and have a good solid plan to execute them,” he said.

Elam said that one of the things he hears when first starting in a new nursing home is something he also heard when he first became a city councilman.

“I would suggest to make a change and many responses were, ‘why are you doing that, we had always done it the old way before.’ We keep doing things over and over the same way even if it’s not the most effective way. Change is needed in Vienna,” he said.

Elam added that in the past few years the city has been making significant progress in changing, but that there is still work to be done and he would like to be a part of and help the city with upcoming accomplishments.

* Jim Leach, 59, a Wood County native with 20 years legal experience, earned a master’s degree in energy law from WVU in 2015, is CEO of Business Systems, a 50-year-old Vienna business, and is a general/electrical contractor developing real estate in Vienna.

“In the past three years I have served on council, we have made strides to improving this already great city,” said Leach.

Part of these improvements include the almost fully completed remediation of the Johns Manville site.

“One of the larger projects I am looking forward to if re-elected is continuing to be a part of the next chapter of the Johns Manville site,” he said.

* Bruce Rogers, 73, is a retired math and science teacher from Jackson Junior High, where he taught for 29 years, and a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

“I have been on council since 1985 and in that time I have seen a lot of good things,” said Rogers.

Rogers said that he hopes to be re-elected so that he can not only see the good, but continue to be a part of it.

Some familiar faces running for council are:

* Tom Azinger, 84, is a former member of the Vienna City Council, serving two terms, and has lived in Vienna for 40 years. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and has worked in real estate.

Aside from serving on council, he was a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates from 1994-2014, where he served on committees for government organization, veterans, banking, insurance, small business and seniors and was appointed to finish out Frank Deem’s term following his death in 2018.

Azinger said he is running because he believes there is still much room for Vienna to move forward.

“We need to continue supporting our first responders and work hard to help our city have the resources to fight the present drug issues,” said Azinger.

* Steve Black, 64, is Vienna Parks Director. Black previously served 19 years as the Vienna Finance Director.

“I know the system and a lot about how Vienna operates,” said Black.

Black said that if he was given the opportunity to represent Vienna he would “work hard to do what is best for the city”.

* Harry Helmick, 72, has lived in Vienna for more than 40 years. Six years ago he retired from the insurance industry after over 40 years that covered up to 5 states including the whole state of West Virginia. During this time he held many positions: Agent, Manager, General Agent and Regional Manager.

“I’ve been making sensible decisions for the future of my clients, as I will for the residents of Vienna,” he said. “During these years I held numerous management positions and for 15 years I owned and operated Helmick Insurance Agency.”

If elected, Helmick said he wants to hear from the residents and push for what is best for all.

“I think it’s time to bring respect and civility back into politics. I will never tear someone down to build myself up,” he said.

There are also a handful of new people running for a spot on council:

* Kelly Sassi Kraft, 53, works as a registered technician at a local pharmacy and at bath and body works in the mall.

“People are unhappy and there is a change this city needs to see,” she said.

Kraft said she would like to be a part of that change.

“I have lived here my whole life, and I raised my kids here. I want our future generations to continue having a great city,” she said.

* Alice Goodwin, 56, a secretary, says that she interacts daily with a diverse group of individuals from varied social and economic backgrounds.

“As a result, I have compassion; listen to concerns and help provide solutions,” she said.

Goodwin said that her strong suits include budgeting, planning, implementing short and long-term goals, multi-tasking and collectively working with others.

“As an honorary member and past president of the Vienna Fire Department Auxiliary, running for Vienna City Council is my way of utilizing my experience and previous community service for the good of our citizens,” she said. “There is no better place to live than in Vienna and I want to be an integral part of its growth and bright future.”

* Henry Sasyn, 55, has been employed in the chemical industry since 1988 and have held various management positions with the same employer during several mergers and acquisitions while living in the U.S. and overseas.

Sasyn said if elected he wants to: eliminate the “at large” city council seat; establish five wards/districts thus ensuring that Vienna is equally represented and not just by a few individuals in the “good ole boys club”; expand the Vienna City limits by seeking interest and approval from North Hills, Boaz, etc. to be incorporated into the City of Vienna, which he says is the only manner in which the City of Vienna can obtain the necessary land for future growth/expansion; address the City of Vienna’s aging infrastructure instead of “kicking the can” down the road year after year; give the residents of Vienna a reason to want to stay in Vienna, when they retire and establish term limits on city council members.

* Kim Williams, 52, is owner of Jewelry Buyer in Vienna.

“I grew up in Vienna and I have witnessed its tremendous growth over the years,” Williams said.

Williams said that Vienna faces both challenges and opportunities that will impact the city’s future.

Williams said that if elected, “I would use my experience as a small business owner and Vienna native to help our city continue to be a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”

* Voters should note that the late Lawrence Wilson’s name could be on the ballot if the family does not request its removal or the city doesn’t file a motion. If he were to be elected, a vacancy would exist and the new city council would name a replacement after taking office in January 2021.

There are two people running for the seat of City Recorder.

* Cathy Smith, 66, has held the seat of council or recorder since 2001. She is the administrative office manger of the police department.

“This is a passion I have had for years,” she said.

Smith said she has had and hopes to be given again the opportunity to continue enjoying participating and being part of city’s growth.

* Melissa Elam, 42, is the Volunteer Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity.

“I ask questions from a citizen’s viewpoint and can bring a fresh perspective, and everyday wisdom to the business of the city,” Melissa Elam said.

Melissa Elam said she knows how important the role of recorder is, as it documents council business, it is one of seven votes and the City Recorder is also on the Budget and Finance Committee.

“I believe it is important to prioritize issues that impact the largest number of people such as infrastructure,” she said.

“Twelve years ago, I began to feel led into government leadership,” she said. “I trusted God’s timing as I raised our children and held various leadership positions in the community, such as Upward Basketball Director, PTO President, and Financial Peace University Coordinator.”

Incumbent Mayor Randy Rapp, 65, is running unopposed. He has been mayor for eight years and prior to that he was a business owner for 25 years.

Madeline Scarborough can be reached at mscarborough@newsandsentinel.com