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Candidates in Elmira’s mayoral race see 2 different cities

Incumbent Republican Mayor Dan Mandell and Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Hassell.
Photos courtesy of City of Elmira website and Jim Hassell for Mayor of Elmira campaign website.
Incumbent Republican Mayor Dan Mandell and Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Hassell.

This year's general election is just days away and voters in the city of Elmira will decide if they want to reelect the city’s mayor. Incumbent Republican Mayor Dan Mandell is facing a challenge from Democratic candidate Jim Hassell.

Mandell is retired from the Chemung County Sheriff’s Office, but continues to work there part-time while serving as the city’s top official. He is running for a third term to represent the city.

“With all the progress that we made since I was elected in 2016, I want to continue to see the city grow and the revitalization of our city,” Mandell said. “So, that’s why I’m running again. I gave it some hard thought and if I didn’t feel I was making any type of gains, I would have stepped back and not run. But we’ve made a lot of positive, major improvements in the city. And I want to continue leading that ship in that direction.”

Mandell touted a $7.1 million surplus for the city. He said the city raised its bond rating from a C to an A-. And he highlighted improved community policing, downtown and neighborhood revitalization, investment in the city’s parks and $5,000 small-home grants for residents.

Another big achievement according to Mandell is the opening of the city’s first medical school, the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, in 2020.

Mandell's challenger, retired educator Jim Hassell, said he is running because the current administration has failed to meet the needs of the city’s residents.

“There are so many issues that we have not faced,” said Hassel. “And among those are neglect of our infrastructure, neglect of our parks, our history, our failure to take care of historic buildings, our failure to develop community, and the many issues that are connected with that, such as the loss of population," Hassell said. "For years now our population has declined. We lose a huge portion of our young people every year to greener pastures. And our poverty rate is more than double the state's average. These are things that are not being addressed by our current administration and they're desperate, they're crises for us.”

If elected, Hassell said he wants to address affordable housing, homelessness, mental health and addiction rates. He is also looking at historic preservation, local entrepreneurship and improving the quality of life. Hassell said more downtown revitalization efforts are needed.

He is also skeptical about the day-to-day management of the current city manager, who he said, is “not accountable to the voters.” The city manager position is appointed by the city council.

Hassell also said the position “adds to the secrecy of our government policies and our government actions.” He said he thinks Elmira residents want to see that position eliminated.

Hassell said he has no plans to work outside of the mayoral duties should he be elected.

Currently, the mayor's salary is $11,600 per year.

Early voting polls are open until Nov. 5. The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 7.