OSWEGO — Former city councilman Shawn Walker is seeking to resume his role representing the Port City’s fourth ward.
Walker, who served five terms spanning a decade as fourth ward councilor, stepped down at the end of 2017 due to term limits. Two years later, the longtime Republican councilor is eyeing a return to the city government as current Councilor Rob Wilmott, R-4th Ward, is running for a seat on the county Legislature.
The Port City’s fourth ward stretches from the Oswego River east to City Line Road and Kocher Road, running through the city’s eastside core, from Oneida Street south to approximately Lawrence Street, before widening on the eastern end where it runs from East Seneca Street south to East Albany Street.
Backed by the local Republican Party, Walker said the two-year hiatus wasn’t by choice and he told Wilmott at the time that he planned to return to the council after a taking a term off.
“I didn’t want to leave,” Walker told The Palladium-Times. “I enjoy it and I enjoy the people.”
Over the past two years Walker never fully stepped away from the assisting constituents with their needs, something he says is one of the most important parts of serving on the council.
“The biggest thing I think is the constituents of your district or ward — you take care of them — that’s your number one priority,” he said. “If they call you, take care of them and take care of their problems… I’m still getting phone calls and I try to help out.”
Walker previously served in leadership roles in his tenure as a councilman, including most recently serving as council president in 2016. Prior to his term expiring, Walker called Mayor Billy Barlow “probably the most productive” mayor that he worked with in his tenure on the council.
“I’ve been through three administrations and by far this was the best one I was on for two years,” Walker reiterated in a recent interview. “We had more done in those two years I was on the council than in the last eight.”
A supervisor for the Oswego County Highway Department, Walker served on the council from 2008 to 2018. He said in particular the city Department of Public Works would receive state funding through the Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) and would be forced to return some of the funding because it wasn’t spent.
“You don’t give the money back,” Walker said of the funding that can be used for road repairs and paving. “They weren’t doing paving or anything. The only thing they were doing were sidewalks.”
Walker said the county each year puts together a lengthy wish list of paving projects that exceeds what the CHIPS funding covers and maximizes the funds to pave as much as possible. Sidewalks must be maintained, but paving is an importance piece of maintaining the city’s infrastructure.
Married with two children — one who serves as a police officer in the city — Walker said his initial run for the council started with a neighborhood issue that drove him to make a bid for the office. Ultimately, Walker said the post lasted a decade because of his affection for the city he grew up in.
“I love the city,” Walker said. “I grew up in the city over on the west side and it wasn’t going in the right path, truthfully. I believe it is now.”
Stepping into the political fray after a two-year hiatus would take some adjustment, Walker said, but he’s been staying up-to-date from afar and believes governing is mostly “common sense.”
Walker said code enforcement and tackling “drug houses” in the city would continue to be some of the top priorities moving forward.
“I want this neighborhood safe for people,” Walker said, adding he’s “100 percent on board” with the city’s push in recent years to strengthen code enforcement and rework the zoning code.
Walker said cleaning up neighborhoods would be an important, and pointed out in his previous time on the council he spearheaded ward cleanups in the spring and fall for elderly homeowners who couldn’t afford to pay for such services or do it on their own.
“You like your neighborhood clean,” he said.
Walker is being challenged for the fourth ward council seat by political newcomer Diane Zeller, who is backed by the city Democratic Committee.
Election Day is Nov. 5.