More than 40 Mount Sterling residents came to the Mt. Sterling Community Center Tuesday night for a “Meet the Candidates” style town hall meeting in preparation for the Nov. 7 general election. The event, sponsored by the center and the Mt. Sterling Chamber of Commerce, was co-organized by councilwoman Rebecca Burns and director of the Mt. Sterling Public Library, Christopher Siscoe, who also served as moderator for the event.
Attendees heard each candidate speak about his or her background and qualifications, as well as intentions if elected. They were also instructed to write questions that Siscoe fielded and that each candidate would then answer in turn.
Of the three Mt. Sterling area offices appearing on November’s ballot, the office of mayor generated the most interest, with questions relating to the mayor taking up the majority of the meeting. The three candidates running for the position of mayor are: Billy Martin, Diane Spradlin, and Dusty Parker.
Billy Martin is a lifelong resident of Mount Sterling and former village councilman. He is running on a platform of transparency and accountability, and he said he wants residents to know that while accountability would start with him, it does not end with the mayor or just the village administration and council. It also lies with the county offices and agencies, and he intends to make them aware.
“There is Madison County Jobs and Family Services. There is Madison County Chamber of Commerce — not just London. There are the Madison County Commissioners that are supposed to be helping us. There is the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and they will be held accountable, too.
“I will remind them that sometimes that redheaded stepchild from down in the southern Madison County will be asking for help,” Martin added. He also stated the importance of looking forward and not back.
Dusty Parker wants to bring solid leadership, trust and accountability to the mayor’s office. He said he wants to be accessible to the public at community forums and through e-mail. Parker also wishes to encourage collaboration with village administration, county and state agencies, and welcomes input from multi-generational lifelong residents and newcomers as well.
“I think it is imperative that we retain the historic perspective of long-time village residents while harnessing the energy of our younger residents,” he said. “Mount Sterling has been and continues to be a most desirable place to live, and as mayor, I want to encourage diversity while protecting the history of what Mount Sterling has always been.”
Diane Spradlin currently sits on village council. She is a defender of Ohio’s Sunshine Laws and the Ohio Revised Code, assuring listeners she has never transgressed those laws that she has sworn to uphold. She said she would like to see an end to the vitriol and animosity that she believes has infected much of village council. Spradlin said she also believes strongly in civic duty and strongly encourages all residents to get out and exercise their right to vote.
“When you vote on Nov. 7, when you are in that sacred space we call the voting booth, I want you to reflect deeply and ask yourself one question — who do you really trust to be your man?” she said.
The fallout of the corruption and ineptitude of administrations and mayorships of the recent past were a sticking point with many present. The two major issues of the night were financial responsibility or transparency, and lack of communication or inaccessibility of community input — the inappropriateness of “gavelling down” speakers at council meetings was made mention of several times.
One of the questions posed by Siscoe to the three of the candidates was: “What is the good in Mount Sterling that you want to preserve and what is the bad that you want to change?”
“The good is YOU people right there,” stated Martin. “It used to be a proud community where you could walk down the street and people would talk to you. You can’t do that now because of the problems of the past administrations and employees … the suspicions, mistrust and rumors — but I never paddle backwater under a bridge. I won’t even justify saying his name! The bad is over now.”
Spradlin disagreed with Martin that there is no community pride. “There’s never been a day that I wasn’t proud to say I’m from Mount Sterling,” she stated. “We can’t change the past … but we are making great headway and we are moving forward. The energy is good.”
Parker said that the good of Mount Sterling “was the shops and small businesses of downtown.” He wishes to look into grants for downtown revitalization to keep up the small town appeal. He also believes that it is important for the village to prepare for the eventual encroachment of other municipalities and development along the I-71 corridor.
All three candidates lamented the lack of a local grocery store and elementary school. None of them provided concrete ideas for correcting these missing features beyond appealing to the state or committee work.
All three also agreed that the community needed unity and stewardship.
The other contested race is for Pleasant Township Trustee. The candidates are Terri Thompson, a business owner and resident since 2006, and Mark Harden, who currently holds the position by appointment after the death of the previous trustee, Louie Conley.
As the owner of a pet grooming business and a small animal sanctuary, Thompson believes she knows what hard work is. As an active motorcyclist, she knows that many of the roads are in need of better upkeep. She wants to give back to the community and serve with honesty and integrity.
Harden is a graduate of Madison-Plains High School and is retired from AmeriGas (formerly Columbia Gas). His father served as trustee for over 20 years. He wants to continue working in keeping the roads mowed, plowed, and repaired.
Additionally, there are four vacant seats on village council to be filled. There are four candidates running for these seats as well. The candidates, who were also in attendance and who spoke briefly to the crowd, are: Rebecca Burns, Becky Martin (no relation to Billy Martin), Tammy Vansickle, and Thomas Ward.
Reach Andrew Garrett at 740-852-1616, ext. 1616.