WM Mayoral candidates set for debate
East Arkansas Realtors, ASU Mid- South to offer forum for hopefuls to share their visions
“This is the most important election in a quarter century,” said Realtor Mike Ford.
Normally such strong sentiment has not been expressed for a midterm election cycle, but for West Memphis and the ripple effect throughout Crittenden County, the specter of a different Mayor for the first time this century has provided a pivot point.
Ford issued the observation as he announced the final public debate between the six candidates for Mayor in West Memphis.
Retired businessman and freshman City Councilman Wayne Croom will vie for the seat against two seasoned members of the council Marco McClendon and Ramona Taylor. Insuranceman
Fred Leonard, police
officer Eric Johnson and Parks Director and Quorum Court Justice Lorenzo Parker rounded out the diverse field. All the candidates accepted an invitation from the East Arkansas Realtors Association to square off its debate format.
ASU Mid-South Chancellor Debra West will moderate the forum, Tuesday evening, October 16, 6:30 p.m. at the Eugene Woods Civic Center.
Given the momentous election, Ford expects a full house. Being a Realtorssponsored event, he promised one question would be centered on housing in the city and the other specific questions kept secret from the candidates.
Each candidate will answer the same four questions. Questions will be presented one at a time and every candidate will have an opportunity to answer it in a rotating order based on a name drawing before hand. Ford said that if one candidate invokes another candidate’s name, the other candidate would be allowed a response.
Ford sees one common attribute in the candidates.
“We have six candidates who really love the city,” said Ford. “That has become obvious as I have listened to each one of them.
This will be an opportunity for the public to decide which candidate will best lead the city. This is an occasion for them to talk about their passion for the city. What a fortunate situation that we have six that want to be mayor and they all love the city.”
Mayor Bill Johnson first won election in 1999, and faced opposition in every election since. Now the octogenarian has stepped aside and as the result a wide field of candidates took aim for the office. November 6 marks the date for the general election that will help decide who the 13th mayor of West Memphis. The wide field has been expected to spark an additional runoff vote.
Ford said the city stands at a crossroads and the next mayor will be a key to the future. The debate, he says, will help voters decide.
“We have to find the candidate that the people love the most,” said Ford. “This is an opportunity for citizens to chart a brand new course for our city, whether we are going to be relevant as a city. The Realtors association believes this election will determine if we grow for the next generation. The person elected must have a clear vision and paint a new vision for the community.”
The mayor of the biggest city in the county will serve as a bell cow for the whole county according to Ford.
“West Memphis is the key to success in our county,” said Ford. “If we don’t have a strong community in West Memphis, we don’t have another city that will continue to be vibrant.”
The Realtors association spokesman touted the selling points for West Memphis and pointed to the opportunity for the next mayor to build on that foundation.
“We’ve got the basic, and now we have to figure out how to take all the great amenities we have and let the world know about it,” said Ford. “ We are the crossroads of America. We are ten minutes from anywhere in the county to downtown Memphis, one of the most exciting downtown’s in the country. This is our opportunity to grab the ring with this election to provide hope and opportunity for the next generation to call West Memphis
By John Rech