Campaign signs can be found all over Merced as voters prepare to head to the polls on November 5. Many of them belong to Mayor Stan Thurston, who's running for a second term. Thurston is the co-owner of an aviation services company and says he's already achieved many of the goals he set for his first two years, including cutting developer fees by more than 50 percent.
"There are six new businesses that have come in. Three are in the process of expanding. We've had no more fire and police layoffs. We've balanced the budget," incumbent mayor Stan Thurston said.
Thurston says the city is now facing a new challenge of paying millions of dollars more to the California public employee's retirement system over a five year period starting in 2015. So he wants to find creative ways to provide services at a lower cost.
"I've been advocating putting together a citizens based committee to address everything on the table type discussion and give the council advice on what the citizens think we need to do to be more cost effective and innovative with our services," Hurston said.
Current Mayor Pro Tem, Noah Lor, is challenging Thurston for his job. He's a clinician with the Merced county department of mental health and has served on the council since 2007. Lor says his priority is economic development.
"Now is the time we really need someone who can say yes to business, yes to jobs and really advocate for Merced," Lor said.
One of Lor's goals is to bring a grocery store to South Merced, something Thurston also supports. And Lor says he would be the first Hmong mayor in the country.
"It's certainly very special, but my main concern is for Merced, and I want Merced to really start moving forward," Lor said.
Along with the two mayoral candidates, eight residents will be listed on the ballot for three city council spots. They are: Alex Gallardo Junior, Monica Villa, Jana Mowrer, Michael Belluomini, Kevin Blake, Chris Ramirez, Peter Padilla, and Josh Pedrozo.
Voters will also have another choice to make on their ballots. They are being asked to consider changing Merced elections to even numbered years. Officials say that would allow the city to share costs with other districts that also hold elections on even years.