ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
The 75 or so people who turned out for a candidates forum Sunday afternoon at the Marion Senior Center heard more agreement than differences from the eight men who are running for the four seats available on Marion’s first five-person city council.
The city will be moving from a three-person commission structure to a four-member-council-plus-mayor structure with the upcoming April 4 local election.
The top eight vote-getters from among the 12 men who filed for the Feb. 28 primary election were on hand Sunday to answer questions and make their case for the general election in three weeks.
The candidates sat behind one long table in alphabetical order: Stacey Collett, Jim Crofoot, Jim Davis, Max Hayen, Bill Holdeman, Gerald “Jerry” Kline, Darvin Markley and Gene Winkler.
Moderator Greg Bowers, between opening and closing statements from each candidate, asked eight predetermined questions during the two-hour meeting, then opened the floor to participants. Each candidate was given an opportunity to make a timed response to each question.
For the most part, what listeners discovered is that the candidates believe Marion needs more jobs, businesses and housing, better streets, water and electrical service, and passage of the April 4 bond issue that would put the city in partnership with the school district for a new indoor swimming pool, gymnasium and arts center.
They also heard the candidates support the involvement of city staff in the three community festivals-Chingawassa Days, Art in the Park and Old Setters Day-but also their desire for careful spending and a more public-friendly access to council meetings.
When asked for specific ways the city could encourage economic development and pay for infrastucture improvements, the candidates agreed that, beyond the recent hiring of an economic development director, they were not yet aware of many solutions beyond hard work and exploring possible funding sources at the state and federal levels.
By the end of the session, each candidates had numerous opportunities to suggest emphases and priorities they’d bring to city government:
— Stacey Collett: Contrary to the rumor mill, he said he’s not after anyone’s job. He called for “innovative thinking” in addressing city issues and for residents and leaders to focus on the positive aspects of community life rather than the negatives.
— Jim Crofoot: As an incumbent commissioner for 15 years, he said city government has accomplished helpful and fiscally responsible things during his 15 years in office, including the hiring a city administrator and economic-development director, establishing a capital-outlay plan to preserve funds and acquiring a $500,000 grant to reduce the cost of water-plant upgrades.
— Jim Davis: He expressed concern about ongoing expenses the city may incur for the proposed swimming pool. He wants to see more suitable jobs for Marion students after they earn a college degree.
— Max Hayen: He said the county is shortchanging Marion on the amount of money it spends on city streets that become county-maintained exit roads.
— Bill Holdeman: He voiced support for USD 408 superintendent Lee Leiker and felt it was important to support the pool plan in order to keep him in the area.
— Jerry Kline: He emphasized the need to increase civic pride in the community.
— Darvin Markley: He emphasized conservative fiscal management and the value of elected leaders managing the town. He also supported moving council meetings from 4 p.m. to the evenings so more working residents could attend.
— Gene Winkler: He cited his long involvement in civic activities, including the ambulance crew, hospital board, Chingawassa Days, Marion Advancement Committee, Marion Country Club board as well as owning and operating a private business.
The forum was sponsored by the Marion County Record.