LIMA — A scheduled forum for Lima mayoral candidates to express their experience and vision to become Lima’s next mayor was skipped by three of the four candidates.
The forum, organized by The Lima African American Chamber of Commerce, Millennial Action Pact, AHEAD and Our Revolution (Lima), was held in the City Club on Wednesday night.
Sharetta Smith was the only candidate who participated in the forum.
Smith is currently Mayor David Berger’s chief of staff. She addressed her reasons for running for mayor of Lima.
“I deeply love and care about this city,” Smith said. “I feel that my education, my experience, my passion and my compassion for this city prepare me to be able to lead on day one as mayor.”
She was asked what she would do in her first 90 days in office.
“I actually have a 100-day action plan with the first 10 days looking like a transition period where I would meet with my transition team … and lay out a plan on how we would get things done. We’ll spend the next 90 days charting our course.
“What that means is taking the issues that we’re building our campaign around — smarter students, which is connecting with our educational system and building partnerships, safer streets, supporting our police and also making sure that our communities are safe,” Smith said.
Smith was also asked what she would do to stop Lima’s population loss.
“I think the number one thing that we can do to stop this population loss is to work to make Lima a place where people want to live,” Smith said
Candidate Autumn Swanson issued a statement through her campaign manager, Paul Lagemann, prior to the event saying, “We had planned to participate in the initial debate prior to the rescheduling. As more information came to light about key members of the organizing committee, it became clear that individuals tightly tied to the Smith campaign were part of the team organizing the debate’s structure and questions.
“This would be like wrestling an opponent whose parent is the referee,” Lagemann said.
Candidate Elizabeth Hardesty was surprised by the forum, saying in a statement, “I never received an invite for it after the postponement of the March 25 event.” Hardesty stated, “I am highly concerned with the purpose and impartiality of this forum.
“Since the March postponement, representatives from several of the sponsoring organizations actively disparaged me via numerous social media posts, a Letter to the Editor (in the Lima News), and now a frivolous lawsuit done as a political tactic for voter suppression … I’d much rather spend my time meeting voters and walking neighborhoods.”
The fourth mayoral candidate, Joshua Hayes, did not return our request for comment on his reasons for not participating.
Jamesha Williamson, with Millennial Action Pact, says the three candidates’ absences say volumes about what they would be like as mayor.
“We want leadership that is going to be transparent with us and really hear our issues … and by skipping out today it shows us what’s important to those other candidates,” Williamson said.
Williamson said they did reach out to the Hardesty campaign as to her availability after the March forum was postponed, but did not get a response.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.