The local Kiwanis Club held a “Meet the Candidates” night at The Crown Room Monday evening for the five candidates running for Washington C.H. City Council.
Residents were asked to bring questions for the candidates — Kendra Redd-Hernandez, Anthony “Jay” Yahn, Trent Dye, and current council members seeking re-election, Jim Chrisman and Steve Jennings. Due to a prior commitment, Jennings was unable to attend, but Roger Kirkpatrick read a written statement by Jennings at the beginning of the evening.
The evening was moderated by Kiwanis member Larry Speck, with Gary Brock keeping time. Each candidate was given three minutes for an introduction. Questions were drawn at random and each candidate was given one minute for a response. Each candidate answered every question. Candidates were then given a two minute closing statement.
The first question asked to each candidate was how he/she would work to make the council and city government more transparent.
“Well, we try to be transparent as much as possible,” said Chrisman. “I found out that the public, a lot of times, has a complaint but most of the time they are either uninformed or misinformed. It would help if they would read the paper. I think we are fairly transparent, there are some things, various negotiations that we just can’t give out all the information right away.”
“I really believe that, I’ve been to some council meetings, and there are eight or nine chairs there, and they’re empty,” said Dye. “People have to make an effort to be informed as well. I really believe that if we can utilize social media and get it so that people can watch the videos on YouTube at a later date that will really help.”
“There are other mediums that we need to start using,” said Redd-Hernandez. “I think Facebook is huge. But, I agree, we need to start getting people to the meetings. People have questions and if we can get them to the meetings to ask those questions, and even if we can’t answer them right that minute, we need to be able to give every citizen an answer. I think when someone has a concern, and you just address it, it makes them feel 20 times better. Better than ignoring the question or not being able to answer it.”
“Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a computer geek,” said Yahn. “We have a website out there, but it’s pretty difficult to get things out of that. I’ve tried to find the meeting minutes from any of the meetings that I’ve missed, and the minutes aren’t put up until the day before the next meeting. That’s not okay. I know there are other challenges, but I’d like to see that website updated a little more frequently. But, Trent, Kendra, and Jim were all right, we need to get people in those seats.”
The candidates were then asked why they should be voted onto council at the November general election.
“I’ve thrown around change quite a bit,” said Dye. “I’m not going to try and say that I’m the smartest in the room, because I’m not, I know that. But I am going to work hard to get things done. Communication is key, in business, in every aspect of life. I consider myself someone that can communicate, I’m not afraid to speak in groups, I’m not afraid to ruffle feathers or step on toes. That’s just the kind of guy I am. You’re going to get an answer if you ask me a question.”
“Anyone that is a customer knows that I am a heck of a worker,” said Redd-Hernandez. “I don’t do anything half. I always try and do things full-force, that’s what my momma taught me. Do it right or don’t bother doing it. I have a huge, invested interest here in our community. I own a building that is in the heart of downtown, I own a business that is my livelihood, and I have a lot of risk. When you are self-employed, it all falls on you. When it comes to city council I think it’s the same way, and I think if you ask some of my customers, they’ll tell you about my track record and agree.”
“My vested interest is my kids,” said Yahn. “I own property, but my main concern is this city getting back to full and having jobs and having an economy that can thrive and survive economic downturn. I like the word challenges, not issues. Challenges bring out the competitive side of people. I can’t promise you I’ll do one thing in particular, because I’ll be one person out of seven, but I will do my best to do what’s best for the city. I’ll be an open door, you can always get ahold of me.”
“Like the other candidates, I am vested in Court House,” said Chrisman. “Overall, the last few years I’ve been on here, maybe they aren’t perfect, but they aren’t all that bad when you look at surrounding cities. Hillsboro, for example, Circleville, Chillicothe, they’ve all had their problems. And we’ve stayed in better shape and that’s due to our employees. We’ve watched the money very carefully.”
When asked where each candidate saw the city in four years, each candidate said they hoped for progress.
“I’m going to spin this one around a little bit,” said Yahn. “Where we are in four years depends on the voters. If we keep doing the same thing, the same thing is going to happen. I have no problem personally with anyone in the administration, in council. I think they’re all great guys, they’ve done a great job, but I think it might be time for some younger folks to come in and try and bring a little bit of a different view. The citizens need to do more than just talk to people, they need to get involved.”
Each candidate agreed that the youth needs to get involved.
“That’s an easy question to ask, but I’m not so sure that’s an easy question to answer,” said Chrisman. “I just don’t know, we need a committee of citizens to come up with a solution, because I don’t know that I have one.”
“The folks at The Warehouse do a great job of helping the youth of the community to grow and get involved,” said Dye. “I’ve talked to the (Washington City Schools) superintendent, Matthew McCorkle, about creating a youth council — a city council at the high school age. That way they can get together and discuss with the council what they see as youth and what their ideas are. Listening to the kids, they are our future, so we need to listen to them.”
“David Penwell runs a business class at the Washington High School,” said Redd-Hernandez. “I’ve been involved volunteering with that class. I am astounded by the projects these kids come up with, but one thing I wonder is why can’t these projects become reality? They’ve put so much work and research and effort into putting these together, and I’d like to see them become reality for downtown.”
Finally, the candidates were presented with the question of security measures for council meetings. While each candidate said that they would support security if that’s what would get citizens to attend meetings, each noted that Police Chief Brian Hottinger attends every council meeting, and if he is unable, there is a deputy. Yahn noted that those with a legal conceal carry license aren’t allowed to bring guns into the city building, and extreme security measures cost money.
Each candidate took the two minutes to remind the citizens of Washington C.H. to vote on Nov. 3. Roughly 20 community members attended the event and afterwards, citizens were welcome to ask the candidates more questions or discuss any other issues.
Reach Kellee Bonnell at (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @newskelleebee.