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Dayton candidates share vision for city

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    The Dayton Chamber of Commerce’s Staci Wise welcomes the audience as the candidates listen in. The Vindicator | Calynn Owens-McDonnel
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Tonya Smikal, running unopposed for Position 4, addresses the audience during opening statements. The Vindicator | Calynn Owens-McDonnel

DAYTON – It was a night filled with ideas, hopes and, for at least a couple of participants, a difference of opinion as hopefuls for mayor and city council fielded questions about their candidacy.

Voters were on hand at the Dayton Community Center to listen to candidates share their vision for Liberty County’s largest city, as it will see a new mayor and three new council members take office in late May.

In the race for mayor, Martin Mudd and Mike George laid out their ideas for leading the city and were asked what they thought would be their primary role if elected.

“ I believe that my primary role is going to be almost that of a project manager,” Mudd continued, “ my primary responsibility is to get everyone to the same table and that we’re all speaking the same language and that it’s one voice and message going out to the people, and that is that we’re being held accountable to what you are asking us to do.”

George weighed in on his role if elected the next mayor and spoke of his leadership as president of the Dayton Noon Lions.

“ I’m hands- on. That’s just me. I’ve got to see and touch, and I’ve got to know, but I just feel direction in the right way and leadership is what I am going to bring to the table,” said George.

In the race for Position 5, Ron Peroni and Valorie Barton fielded several questions, including one that asked them what life experiences they would draw from if elected.

“ I’ve always lived down to earth and bailed hay, milked cows and I’ve always had to manage my money. That’s the one thing, I worked for the government for 28 years, and it just drove me crazy to see us wasting all of the time,” said Peroni.

Barton has worked extensively in project management and currently works with the federal government.

“ I believe in accountability, and I believe in identifying government waste, fraud, and abuse, and I’m held at a higher standard from an ethics perspective, so I would use my experience in my professional role,” said Barton.

Next up were the candidates in a special called election to fill the unexpired term of the late Dwight Pruitt in Position 1. That race has drawn former council members Sherial Lawson and Josh Townsend.

Lawson, who served several terms before losing her seat in last May’s election to Janette Goulder- Frick, was asked how she would draw from her previous experience on a council that will be fairly inexperienced going forward.

“ Listen, gather more information, but I think ask more questions because one of the problems we’ve gotten to in the past is perhaps not being more inquisitive, but listening to others and not thinking that we know it all and listening to the fresh ideas,” said Lawson.

Townsend, who also lost in the same race to Goulder- Frick last election cycle, also spoke about utilizing his experience if elected. While echoing Lawson’s comments, he stated those questions should have already been asked.

“ We should have been asking questions and as a council member, I asked questions before. I stood up and I said, this isn’t right and we need to do something about this, or we need better questions,” said Townsend.

The two candidates provided the most spirited answers of the night, both taking exception to one another’s answers at times.

Finally, Tonya Smikal, the lone candidate for Position 4, spoke with voters before the question and answer session, taking an opportunity to identify with the community face to face. Smikal, a third- generation Dayton resident, has long given her time in the community and shared some comments with those in attendance.

“ I wanted you to know that I am a hard worker, and I am willing to put in the time. I go to the city council meetings and have for the past couple of years, not because I had to but because I wanted to. I wanted to learn what was being presented to city council themselves firsthand and learn the processes and procedures, the way that things are supposed to be done,” Smikal continued, “ I feel like the citizens deserve that.”

Candidates visited with audience members, addressing issues they found meaningful, and if you missed the forum, you can visit The Vindicator’s Facebook page and see it in its entirety.

The event was hosted by the Dayton Chamber of Commerce and The Vindicator.