Candidates share views at Marion forum

Todd Heitschmidt, current Marion City Council member and candidate for mayor, shares a light moment with Marion resident Linda Ogden following the candidate forum Sunday in the Marion Community Center.More than 40 people attended Sunday?s candidate forum at the Marion Community Center as candidates in the city of Marion squared off for mayor and city council seats.

The forum, sponsored by the Marion County Record, gave voters a chance to learn more about the candidates prior to the April 1 election. Each speaker briefly outlined his or her campaign platform.

Mayoral candidates

In the mayor?s race, incumbent Mary Olson and challengers Todd Heit?schmidt and Steve Unruh offered the following information.

Olson said she enjoys talking to anybody who would like to talk with her.

?I will listen and continue to listen,? she said.

Olson, who is the current mayor, is retired and works part-time at Barely Makin? It.

Heitschmidt, who serves on the Marion City Council, is branch president of Central National Bank in Marion.

?I am for change,? he said. ?I ran for city council (two years ago) because I saw what needed to be fixed for the future of Marion.?

In addition, Heitschmidt said he has a vision.

?Certain things aren?t acceptable to me, and that?s why I am running. We need to change the face of Marion.?

Unruh said he won?t be able to change anything without the help of citizens.

?We cannot have a government of the people, by the people and for the people if people don?t come out and work at it,? he said.

Unruh said he is a concerned citizen and wants to get people motivated and working toward a common goal.

?I think I can be a mayor,? he said. ?I may not be the best guy, and chances are I am not, but I am up here to make you aware that there are changes that need to be made.?

Council candidates

Melissa Mermis, a registered nurse at St. Luke Hospital, said she doesn?t have any experience in city government, but she wants to see Marion move forward.

?What brings me here today is my love for this city,? she said. ?I want to see it do better things than what?s been done and I want to help it grow.?

Mermis also said she wants to make ?appropriate decisions? for the people on issues that need to be done.

?I think I can do that,? she said.

Chad Adkins, Marion Middle School social studies teacher and MHS wrestling coach, said he has lived in Marion for 15 years.

?I think the potential is great here, and I enjoy working with people,? he said. ?I love government and I love history and I just look forward to putting myself to use for the people of this community.?

Adkins said he wants to move the city forward.

?I would like to see Marion continue to prosper and be a place for all citizens,? he said. ?That is my goal.?

Jerry Kline serves on the city council and said he lives in Marion.

?I am retired and I am running because I want to keep government fair and honest,? he said.

David Mayfield, former Marion city administrator for eight years, said he is running because he has some experience.

?I understand utility rates, bond issues and I have absolutely no intention of micromanaging our staff,? he said.

According to Mayfield, micromanaging is not a council member?s job, but the staff, if I am elected to the council, needs to bring me information.

?My goal is to make the best decisions for the majority of citizens, not just a few,? he said.

Mayfield said he wants to make Marion a place that is better off than when everyone came to the forum Sunday.

Duane McCarty, who is also running for one of the two open council seats, was unable to attend the forum.

Because of the weather conditions and his responsibilities with the Marion County Sheriff?s office, he was absent from the debate.

The candidates then responded to a number of questions.

? What role should city government play in economic development?

Olson said it is about involving the Chamber of Commerce.

?Our city is taking quite a bit of interest in that department,? she said.

Unruh said the city needs to be concerned about putting too much pressure on city government.

?We can?t do anything without the support of the city, and the city is working toward its economic growth,? he said.

Mayfield described economic development as a necessary evil.

?We have to have the infrastructure in place to expand on that,? he said. We have that with the industrial park and the business park. Unfortunately, we had an economic downturn and there really wasn?t any businesses to relocate or funds for new businesses to start up.?

Mermis said citizens need to look at Marion growing in the future.

?It is important and city government needs to be involved in economic development and in a collaborative effort,? she said.

Kline said need to first have an economic development director to look for grants and new businesses.

?The city has a responsibility to provide money and ground for new businesses,? he said. ?Yes, we have the industrial park, but (businesses) still need to have the ground.?

Adkins said economic development for a town the size of Marion is important.

?The city has a role and it is in getting businesses to come,? he said. ?The city has to have a plan on where to go in the future.?

In addition, he said, jobs are important and that is a big part of economic development.

Heitschmidt agreed with Mayfield about the city making a commitment with the business and industrial parks, which turned backwards on the city, but that was only part of it.

?The city also failed to make a commitment to get more jobs here and improve the tax base. We also need to get the ground out of the city?s hand and into the hands of those who can create jobs.?

? What should be the relationship between the mayor, city council and administrator?

Unruh said he thinks the mayor?s job is more of a coordinator and the city council is made up of wards with constituent to answer to.

?The mayor is supposed to find middle ground,? he said. ?Even if everyone doesn?t agree, the mayor should look for a common goal.?

Mayfield said the relationship should be based on trust.

?I truly believe that hasn?t been the case,? he said. ?I know there has been micromanaging.?

He also said he believes the council should continue to look toward goals and not just for the benefit of a few people.

Mermis said she thinks it needs to be a group effort, with the citizens in mind.

?We need to make the best decision for what this town needs for its citizens,? she said.

Kline said he believes the mayor needs to run the meetings and is the spokes?person for the city.

?The administrator brings information to us, and the council makes the decisions,? he said.

Adkins said the city council and mayor should work together with the mayor being the spokesman.

?I totally agree the city administrator and department heads should be the best for the job,? he said.

The city council should then support the decisions by the city administrator and department head.

?I don?t think the council and mayor should micromanage,? he said.

Heitschmidt said in recent history there has been mayoral elections which were all about trying to get rid of one of the candidates sitting here today.

?That is not what this is about,? he said. ?The mayor should provide leadership for the town. We hire an administrator to carry things out. I have a job and cannot micromanage the city, and if that?s the case, we don?t need a city administrator.?

Olson said everyone should work as a team, and that team incorporates the whole city.

?That is what I have been trying to do,? she said, ?which is to involve people on various community and advisory boards.

When it involves the business of the city, in that regard Olson said it should be the city administrator who keeps the council informed.

As for the future, the planning and zoning commission is looking at a five-year comprehensive plan, but it?s not easy, she said.

?People also need to get involved in budget,? she said.

For those interested in watching the candidate forum in its entirety, the program will air on Channel 20 beginning at 6 a.m. Wednesday, March 5, and every three hours throughout the day. The program will also be available online at: mctv20.com/other.

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