LEESVILLE — Passion was on display Thursday at Lowe-Volk Park as the Mid-Ohio Progressives organization held a candidate/issues night in preparation for the November general election.
Some of that passion manifested itself as anger.
Thursday’s forum was simple. Candidates were given an opportunity to step up to a podium, share something about themselves and their political beliefs and answer a few questions.
The biggest response of the night — and not a positive one — came when the two candidates for Galion Director of Law were given an opportunity to speak.
Incumbent Thomas Palmer talked about the course-work and seminars and education he has received that qualifies him to be director of law.
“I have training in community and economic management,” he said. “I make an effort to stay up to date on the latest tools available for cities to use to bring business and industry to town.”
He said he has helped to reduce the amount of red tape new businesses have to wade through when coming to Galion. His goals, he said, are to keep developing and working with staff to make them more effective, to work with the mayor, to continue to revise ordinances in the city and to create an available and handy data base for city of Galion records.
His opponent, E. Roberta Wade, began her turn at the podium by comparing problems nationally with problems in Galion, saying that all of the people are not represented by their leaders and their is a lack of honesty in government.
When she accused Palmer of being disrespectful and untruthful and having “no respect for the law,” an until-then polite crowed responded with murmurs of disgust and cries of “no way” in voicing their distaste for the personal attack.
But Wade did not back away from her statement, emphasizing that city government in Galion “has not been responsive to all residents.”
When asked by participant Rich Henry what she would do if elected, Wade did not detail any plans. She stated that city residents and council members are not allowed to speak or share ideas at council meetings. She said council meetings are run in a way that discourages conversation and the sharing of ideas among council members and residents.
That exchanged prompted current City Council President Carl Watt — who is running unopposed for that seat — to ask Wade: “When have you ever been to a city council meeting and not been able to speak?”
Watt then added: “I am sorry, but you are completely wrong on this.”
That exchanged prompted moderator Bill Fisher to remind those in attendance that questions to candidates were fine, but other exchanges were prohibited by the rules set up for the meeting.
The rest of the meeting was mostly civil, with those in the audience who support the current administration asking specific questions of challengers.
Current mayor Tom O’Leary and opponent Jim Hedges shared some personal history and their thoughts on Galion.
Hedges, who owns Memory Lane Auto Museum, said he has a record of success as a local businessman and his relationships with other business owners would help him in efforts to bring industry to Galion, which is what the city needs most.
“Galion has gone too long without industry,” he said. “We need industry to grow. That has not happened for a long time.”
When pressed by an audience member about what he would do if elected — that is not being done now. Hedges replied, “I will personally knock on doors of people I know,” adding that his goal “is to serve the people.”
He said another priority would be to work with the state and with the city auditor to get Galion out of fiscal emergency.
Candidate Ken Bodkins did not take part in Thursday’s program at the Lowe-Volk Park Nature.
When O’Leary stepped to the podium, he stressed his experience and leadership skills and said his term has been a success, and that fact is one reason to give him another term.
“Galion is a business. We have a $20 million budget and about a hundred employees,” he said. “I would ask what other candidate can say they have experience running that kind of business.”
He too stressed the need for new business in Galion, but also stressed that more new business has come in the past few years than in the last 20-25 years. He added that contacts with other government officials and his knowledge of how government works have served the city well in the past, and will do so in the future.
In the race for City of Galion auditor, incumbent Brian Treisch and candidate Paula Durbin shared their thoughts.
Durbin, who has lived in Galion nine years, said the fact she was previously on city council and was city treasurer from 2013-15 qualifies her to be city auditor.
Treisch stressed his prior experience and a a record of success as reasons to give him another term.
“We’ve made payroll and paid our suppliers. I have done my duty,” he said.
The third candidate for auditor — current council member Susan Bean — did not take part.
In a five-way race for Galion council-at-large, incumbent Gail Baldinger said he has “served with integrity.” The retired firefighter also opined that some incentives given by Galion officials to local businesses in order to get them to come here, are acceptable and necessary.
Incumbent Shirley Clark stressed the positive role she played as the head of the city’s parks committee and she talked about the reason for her running for another term. “I had no intention of running,” Clark said. “They I read something on social media that said that I’ve not done anything during my term.”
She then went on to list her efforts to save the shelter house in East Park from destruction, her role in the skate board course and splash park facility at East Park and her efforts in establishing a disc golf course at Amick Reservoir.
Alice Matthews, also running for council-at-large, said she was running because she was tired of peoples saying they were leaving Galion because there is nothing for kids to do and that utility bills are too high in Galion. She also mentioned that Galion needs better paying jobs. Another resident disagreed with Matthews’ comment about nothing for kids to do in Galion, saying, “I don’t have enough time to get my kids to all the things they are involved in.”
Current council member Thomas Fellner did not participate in Thursday’s program, nor did candidate Carrie Zeger.
Third Ward candidate Joe Haley admitted he had no prior political experience, but was running because he is tired of people on social media complaining about Galion. His opponent, Mike Richard, did not participate.
Two candidates for the 4th Ward seat did appear. Jennifer Kuns is running against Tammy Siclair-Erlsten.
Kuns stressed her experience as a member of the Galion school board, serving on the executive committee of the local chamber of commerce and other organizations she has worked with.
Siclair-Erlsten said she is a retired teacher who has “wants to give back to the community.” She has served on the board of Sara Beegle and has a unique perspective about business having watched two family businesses she is associated with prosper through the years.