City council candidate profile: Rose 'Sugar' Henderson
Rose “Sugar” Henderson says that Bethel needs a strong city council to get the city to a place where it’s running like a “nicely oiled machine.” She thinks that the city where she grew up is getting there.
“I love Bethel,” Henderson said. “I feel I can play an important part in helping our town grow and function.”
Henderson is running to serve a second term on Bethel’s city council. She’s one of four candidates running for four open seats, and is the only incumbent in the race.
She said that she saw the first term as a learning period. Now, she’s figured out the scope of the council’s power and how the body works. In her second term, she hopes to help improve the relationship between the community and the police. She said that growing up, the police force was smaller and closer to the people it served. She said that officers knew where everyone lived, for example. She wants the current force to have that same kind of relationship with the community.
“I think it's important to get them more familiarized and more personable with the people of Bethel, and I don't feel they are quite there yet,” Henderson said.
Some officers don’t live in Bethel full time. Instead, they fly in to work for two weeks at a time.
Henderson said that the council could allocate funds to the force to get officers out in the community more so that kids could see them as “friends versus being afraid of them.”
Newly sworn-in police chief Leonard Hicks has said that he plans to make community policing a priority.
In addition to policing, Henderson also would like to fund more staff for the fire department and hire more workers to grade the roads. She’d also like to improve the city’s parks.
“If we have nothing for the kids to do or anywhere for them to go to play, then they get into mischief,” Henderson said.
She’s hoping a new era in city sales tax collection will help move some of these goals forward. The city’s finance director has been more aggressive about collecting unpaid sales taxes from local businesses. The finance director estimates that Bethel is leaving millions of dollars on the table by not collecting all of those taxes.
“It's a matter of making sure we collect our city sales tax and get that on an even keel there, and running smoothly so that we know what kind of funding we're going to have in years to come,” Henderson said.
She’s not in favor of a proposal on the city council’s agenda this week that would create an amnesty program for certain business owners who owe fees on unpaid sales tax revenue.
Henderson wants to continue listening to her constituents. She said that she’s taken every single phone call she’s gotten since she started on the council two years ago.
“I do address every issue that is brought to my attention,” Henderson said. “I don't put it on the back burner. I don't wait until the next council meeting. I get an answer as quickly as I can.”
She said that during a second term, she’ll keep picking up the phone.