LIMA — The community got its second of three chances to hear from Lima’s mayoral candidates on Thursday night. Sharetta Smith and Elizabeth Hardesty took to the debate stage at the City Club in Lima. The event was hosted by the African American Chamber of Commerce.
While much of the first debate revolved around the issues facing the city of Lima, the second debate put a greater focus on getting to know the candidates on a personal level and how Lima will benefit from their own unique skills. Smith touted her experience as a public servant and her work under Lima’s current administration. Hardesty said that her science and business background could bring a fresh approach to how the city is governed.
The two candidates were also pressed on issues such as how to support diversity in the community and how to keep Lima workers in local jobs, specifically talking about Cenovus’ decision to outsource workers for their fall turnover at the Lima Refinery, which has been a topic of discussion throughout the summer.
“I am a supporter of labor; in fact, I’ve been endorsed by a number of labor unions,” Smith said. “In addition to that, I’ve stood on the picket lines with the refinery workers.”
Hardesty took a different stance on the issue, explaining that the refinery made a difficult decision that it thought was best for the company.
“I definitely encourage people to hire locally when possible. Just like any sort of argument, there are two sides to every story,” Hardesty said. “The contract was awarded to a company that they chose was best, for safety, for quality, for multiple reasons.”
The debate became much tenser when the two candidates were asked about making Lima’s leadership positions more diverse. Smith said that the diversity of the city needs to be represented better through leadership roles. Hardesty offered a rebuttal saying that the city is diverse and that people are promoted on an equal level. Smith replied with a counter to that statement.
“I would just like to point out that there are several organizations in our city, particularly in our economic development organizations that have zero African American representation,” Smith said.
Hardesty gave a reply that was not met warmly from the rest of the room.
“I think that if there is a lack of diversity, it’s probably because either no one has offered to do that job, or no one is qualified to do that job.”
Both candidates made an effort to stay on the same messages they sent during the previous debate. Smith and Hardesty will have one final chance to make an impression on Lima voters before going to the polls in November, with LACNIP slated to host the third debate at St. Luke’s Lutheran Church on September 29.
Reach Trevor Hubert at 567-242-0398