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Mayoral candidates debate
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John Shields wants to pay for more street lights, but not Park Theatre restoration.
Norman Rone wants to continue down the road to financial stability and emphasize infrastructure projects.
David Hill says he’s dedicated to serving the people and returning Kevin Lawrence to his former job as fire chief.
Jimmy Haley wants to maintain a positive attitude and embrace the mindset that the technology and service sectors will be driving the 21st century economy.
Those were just a few of the comments made Tuesday night by the four men seeking the job as McMinnville mayor in the Nov. 6 election. The Southern Standard and WCPI held a political forum for the candidates at WCHS.
“I promise I won’t remove more streetlights and sacrifice the safety of our city residents,” said Shields. “I promise I will not spend taxpayer dollars on the Park Theatre. If we can’t pay our electric bill, surely we can’t afford to go to the movies.”
Mayor Norman Rone, looking to retain his seat, said he has not been afraid to make unpopular decisions which have benefited the city.
“When I took office in 2008, the city was in deep financial trouble,” said Rone. “We had a $1.6 million shortfall. Today we are in better conditions so McMinnville is no longer in dire straights, but getting to this point has meant some tough decisions.”
Rone said a hiring freeze, raising taxes, and removing street lights were some of those tough decisions. As a result, he says the city now has money to start a number of capital improvement projects. One of those was paving 50 city streets, which took place over the past year.
David Hill says his top priority is serving the people and he will never put his own self interests over those of the people.
“Every vote I make will be made after I answer two questions for myself,” said Hill. “Is this vote in the best interest of the people of McMinnville as a whole, and is this decision or vote a true representation of the people of this city?”
Jimmy Haley, a current alderman seeking the job as mayor, says McMinnville is no longer competing only regionally against Nashville or Chattanooga for economic development projects.
“We’re competing with the world,” said Haley. “As a city we need to foster a new mindset that allows us to transition into this new post-industrial society where it’s technology and service that’s driving the economy. It’s teams, not rubber stamp committees, that will move us forward. Communication and maintaining a positive attitude are key to having success in our community. I’m a proverbial optimist so I know we can do it.”
Both Rone and Haley spoke in favor of the Park Theatre project. Hill said he has an opinion but will abide by the wishes of the upcoming referendum on the Nov. 6 ballot. Shields said the Park Theatre project should be done with private financing, not taxpayer dollars.