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New Bern mayoral candidates discuss issues important to them

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NEW BERN, N.C. -

One city, two candidates for mayor, only 24 days till the election. Aldermen Sabrina Bengel and Dana Outlaw are competing to lead the city of New Bern.

Bengel, 57, has been alderman for four years. She's a registered Republican. Outlaw, 59, has been alderman for eight years. He's a registered Democrat.

9 On Your Side sat down with both mayoral candidates to find out what issues are most important to them. The following are five questions, followed by each candidate's response.

What would be your top priority as mayor?

Bengel: "It is the 500 pound gorilla in the room. And that is the electric rates. That seems to be the #1 topic our citizens want to talk about."

Outlaw: "I have been from the beginning and continue to be concerned with the financial stability of our city…I am continually asked about why electric, water, and sewer rates are as high as they are."

How would you lower high utility bills in New Bern?

Outlaw: "I'd like to see a realistic goal of reducing the water and sewer rates by 10%. I think that's a reasonable thing we can do. It would be shifting around some expensing that's being done to these funds."

Bengel: "I will promise that I will work hard in looking at expanding our growth so that we can have a larger tax base, to have more users on our system to spread that debt out."

How would you attract more businesses to New Bern?

Bengel: "We've taken one step in that direction in that we've hired a community and economic developer. His name is Clarence Hulse…I will put the weight of my office behind him."

Outlaw: "My immediate concern is to get the consumers and equitable rate structure. My long term, along with branding campaigns, and economic development of the county, and other types of things that the city can do to lure and attract business to New Bern."

How would you bring more jobs to New Bern?

Bengel: "I will work with the board of aldermen in putting policies in place that will help attract small businesses."

Outlaw: "The main way to attract jobs to New Bern is to have a good community college we have. A lot of fiber optics and Internet type of Broadbands and things."

Why should the voter pick you over the other candidate?

Bengel: "It's my experience, you know, 20 years of actively working in this community."

Outlaw: "If you want somebody that's going to sit down and do the tough things and look at these tough issues…then they're going to vote for me."

Both candidates have agreed to a debate. It's scheduled for October 29 at Orringer Hall on the campus of Craven Community College. No time has been set yet, said Kevin Roberts, president of the New Bern Area Chamber of Commerce.

The election is Nov. 5.

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