CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin says she’s been able to accomplish a lot as the first female mayor of Charleston, but that there’s still more work to do.
“We have outstanding momentum right now,” Goodwin told MetroNews. “What I’ve done to prepare for Election Day is the same thing that we’ve done for the past four years.”
Goodwin, a Democrat, said her administration “started sprinting” as fast as they could when she was elected in 2018 to create jobs, establish a vibrant community and improve roads.
“We felt like we needed to up the game in the City of Charleston and we did that immediately,” she said. “Little did we know we were going to be hit with a global pandemic.”
As the administration continued to build and invest during the COVID-19 years, Goodwin’s challenger Lance Wolfe, a Republican, said he became more concerned about the city’s homeless population.
“I just think there are so many misplaced priorities. There are too many people that need things,” Wolfe told MetroNews. “This is not about Republican or Democratic in my way of thinking. This is about common sense.”
Homelessness has been a big issue discussed among the candidates during their campaigns.
Goodwin’s response to homelessness comes in the form of a five-year plan that involves more housing and the establishment of the CARES (Coordinated Addiction Response Effort) Team. The city office includes a homeless outreach coordinator, mental health coordinator and a quick response team coordinator.
“With our CARE team, we’re going to get people into housing, get people into recovery and treatment, get people into the care they need,” she said.
Mental health and drug addiction go hand-in-hand with homelessness, Goodwin said.
“We’re not going to have people here in the City of Charleston that are taking advantage and that are destroying property. I get that,” she said. “But that’s not what we’re seeing. Far and away, what we’re seeing are folks who have severe mental illness.”
Wolfe claims Goodwin’s CARES Team doesn’t show up every time a call is made.
“We’re about tough love and holding people accountable and responsible for their actions,” Wolfe said. “We don’t see that from this administration and that’s what we want to do.”
When asked about the success of the CARES Team, Goodwin said her plan is working.
“There are fewer unsheltered folks in the City of Charleston than in the past 10 years, but we still have a long way to go,” she said.
As of last month, 13 homicide investigations have taken place in Charleston, according to city police. Wolfe said he’s concerned about the spike in crime and wants to talk to officers about it.
“We’re going to start, if we get elected, looking at what the priorities are inside City Hall particularly with the police department and trying to refocus on what we think might change the direction,” he said.
Goodwin said her goal is to continue making Charleston a safe place to live and work. As the former state Tourism Commissioner, she has been able to attract more visitors to the city after the pandemic with the return of big events like the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta in July and the opening of the revitalized City Center at Slack Plaza earlier this year. The city also announced plans to build the $80 million Capital Sports Center at the Town Center Mall in the coming years.
Wolfe believes the Capital Sports Center is a great idea, but he said he’s skeptical about the funding.
“Let’s tell the truth to the public about what this facility is really going to cost. I don’t know whether I’m against it or for it, but you’ve got to show me some numbers,” he said. “What is the plan for us to maintain this facility?”
While Goodwin has been touting improvements in infrastructure like revamping the Kanawha riverfront, Wolfe said he thinks the focus needs to be on the people.
“We don’t need more murals on the side of brick walls. We don’t need more art downtown at this moment in time. We don’t need to take this money and put it toward those things to invite tourists. How in the world are we going to invite people back to this city, improve our economic growth, if we can’t first clean this place up?” Wolfe said.
Wolfe has also criticized Goodwin’s administration for its hiring practices relating to a current and former staff member in the Mayor’s Office. According to a WCHS-TV story, the two were paid for 40 hours a week, every week for their entire tenure, even on holidays and during vacations.
Goodwin addressed the issue on “580 Live” with Host Dave Allen on Friday.
“You can’t just make stuff up to win an election. When you are involved in a campaign, people will say and do just about anything and I think that we have seen that,” Goodwin said on the program which airs on MetroNews flagship station 580-WCHS in Charleston.
While touting her success, Goodwin said she takes pride in her workers. Specifically, her administration was able to increase police and fire salaries.
“We did all of this within a truncated administration without raising taxes and without laying anybody off during the pandemic,” she said.
Goodwin said she wants voters to know she will continue to build on her legacy, if re-elected.
“No matter who is going to be mayor, what I’ve done over my entire career is be engaged and involved and you’re going to continue to see that from me,” she said.
MetroNews will provide live, continuous coverage of the election starting at 7:06 p.m. Tuesday. Results will be posted in real time at wvmetronews.com.