Nearly 100 citizens hear from most Daleville municipal candidates at public forum
By Jan Murray firstname.lastname@example.org
Nearly 100 citizens turned out Thursday night, Aug. 18, for the 2016 Municipal Election Candidate Forum in Daleville.The Chamber of Commerce sponsored the public event, which was held at the IAM Union Hall.Each mayoral and city council candidate present had two minutes to make introductory statements before being asked a series of planned questions. After that portion of the program was done, then spectator-submitted questions were asked of the candidates.Present at the event were incumbent Mayor Claudia Wigglesworth, challengers Johnny Buchanan and Shana McVickers as well as council challenger Bobby Hardrick and incumbent council members Scott Moore, Kathryne Horace, Marvin Wise (appointed, but running for the first time) and Bob Slagle. Mr. Slagle arrived near program-end after an apparent flat tire delayed his arrival. Incumbent Councilman Alan Souders did not attend and was said to be sick. Mayoral candidate Jayme Stayton was also not in attendance due to a “prior engagement,” according to chamber officials.The City Council is elected at-large as opposed to places or districts, which means the top five vote getters will win a spot on the council.MAYORAL CANDIDATESIn her opening statement, Wigglesworth noted problems in a previous administration leading her to first run for mayor four years ago. She had served on the city council for one term at that time.“As a council member, I was frustrated that we never collectively prepared a budget. Frustrated that our city had no plan to determine spending priorities. I was disappointed that the Billy Adkins Community Center was a dump. Saddened that Culpepper Park received a failing grade on an inspection and thereby precluded the city from submitting for grants. I was shocked that the city council was on the hook to pay for a road re-surfacing project that we had never approved.“Our police department did not even have tasers…The rescue squad failed to file insurance claims and $155,000 worth of bad debt was written off. For those that shake their heads at the federal government for spending $100 on a hammer, how about an unapproved $6,000 office in an old well house that nobody needed? But, I didn’t resign as a city council member, I continued to work with adversity...”The current mayor said Daleville is the second largest city in Dale County with an operating budget in excess of $3.6 million. She said that with the input of the employees and department heads, city operations have changed dramatically in the last four years for the better.“We’ve spent four years putting a plan in place. That plan is not Claudia Wigglesworth’s plan. That plan started with the citizens. We sent out a survey—three years ago—asking for input (strengths, weaknesses, etc.). She said the Comprehensive Plan is on the city’s website for anyone to view and she looks forward to serving as mayor another four years as officials continue to put the plan into action for the betterment of the city.Wigglesworth feels that communication with citizens is still something that needs improvement and that is a huge concern for her. She referenced the city’s updated website, the Facebook page, Discover Daleville, the local newspaper, public meetings and other sources.“I think there are a lot of great, talented people in Daleville and if we can just come together, many of the things we need to get done, will get done easier,” Wigglesworth said, adding that increasing the city’s population is of utmost importance in order to bring forth economic and business growth.School board member Buchanan is making his first bid for mayor. He said he has lived in Daleville for 28 years and he would be happy to serve the community as mayor and that if elected he would retire from his 37-year civil service career and be a full-time mayor.Buchanan said he has two concerns in Daleville—a nursing home and a swimming pool. He noted that other small towns have their own nursing home and the city could have its own. Plus, he said that a municipal pool would allow people to be better trained in swimming and that drownings would decrease. He said he would also like to see a lot of improvements in Daleville, but he is more concerned with “keeping what we actually have” and become stable without Fort Rucker should the post be closed at some point as well as work on infrastructure and schools.First-time office seeker McVickers told the crowd, “I am just a citizen like you guys. My profession, I am an EMT…I think there’s a lot that can be done in this city and together we can do it. It’s not just one person, it’s all of us.”Her answer to the question of why she wants to be mayor, McVickers said, “Because I see a lot of things that could be done, that need to be done. I don’t think the current government is bringing us together as a community like they should…How can we promote our city if we don’t first promote the businesses and people inside the city…”McVickers said she doesn’t have much experience working with government or civic organizations, but to her the most important concerns include reprioritizing funding. She said call into question the building of two new ball fields and some issues with the schools. McVickers also said there should be more promotion of local businesses.CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATESHardrick said he had not prepared a speech, but told the crowd that “you see what you get” and that before he would ever violate the public’s trust he would resign. In response to questions, Hardwick said he had served on the public housing authority for many years and he simply has an interest in serving the public.“I don’t want to be mayor or a figurehead, I just like doing work behind the scenes and am joyful doing that,” he said, adding that he wanted to see improvements in the city’s sewage services, particularly in the Hilltop Subdivision, as well as improve relations between the police department and the community, plus bring more businesses into the community.Horace told the forum attendees that she is an educator, having worked with the city schools since 1985. She said the last four years of service on the council has been interesting, painful at times, but overall fulfilling and humbling.“I’m running to continue to achieve a vision. Some of my objectives are to continue to make Daleville a better place to live and to make it an impressive city; to continue to update and implement city policies, such as the Comprehensive Plan,” Horace said. “The Comprehensive Plan had not been rewritten since 1999…The Comprehensive Plan is a guide for the direction that the city is going.”The councilwoman also said she wants the city to stay progressive and she will continue supporting the public safety department and the school system, continue to encourage economic development, the ongoing sidewalk addition projects, the new ball fields at Culpepper Field, the city’s relationship with Fort Rucker, the senior citizens programs and the recreation department.Moore said as a Realtor he has the opportunity to meet many people looking for a place to live and he does all he can to make sure they choose Daleville.“I’m vitally interested in the progress of our city. After all, my business relies on it. I promise you that if re-elected I will do everything to ensure Daleville’s growth over the next four years. I pledge to work with you and for you to make our community a better place to live,” Moore said. In his closing comments, the multi-term councilman said that current city officials work well together and that in the last four years more has been accomplished than at any other time during his previous 12 years of service on the council. He also said it is great to have a plan and actually be using it. “All of us together can make this work,” he said.Wise was appointed to the city council in April 2015 after the sudden resignation of Jimmy Seaton who had been elected in 2012.Wise talked of growing up in a small town and having made his home in Daleville for over 30 years following his service in the military and career in aviation maintenance. He listed his work with the IAM Union, the United Way, March of Dimes, the Red Cross, Girl Scouts, the city Water Board and the Level Plains Lions Club.Wise stressed that the new ball fields being built at Culpepper Field will bring in more revenue for the city and the small businesses within. Improvements and activities through the recreation department will also help increase population, business and jobs for Daleville. And, he said, while Fort Rucker is very important, the city must become self-sustaining so that should something happen to the post the city would survive.Citizens were encouraged by all candidates to be more active in city government and attend city council meetings and other public meetings.Although long-time councilman Slagle did arrive late he did say it is important for citizens and businesses to understand that there are limited dollars and city officials have to develop a hierarchy of needs and to do that it is important for city leaders to hear from their constituents.“We can’t address it (issues, concerns) unless you have it put on the agenda so we can look it…It’s very easy to get things done when we’ve got the right people, at the right time…”All of the current council members and the incumbent mayor noted the need for a larger population in the city in order to attract more business, including a much talked about second grocery store. It was explained that several potential businesses from grocery stores to drug stores had chosen not to locate in the city because of low population numbers, even though traffic counts through the main thoroughfare to Fort Rucker—Daleville Avenue—are as high as 17,000 cars per day. Current officials also stressed that the current work implementing the updated Comprehensive Plan and the newly passed Zoning Ordinance must continue in order to keep the city progressing and bring the citizen’s desired growth and prosperity to fruition.In addition, city officials stressed that a strong Chamber of Commerce is very important to the growth of Daleville’s business and population.