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Randy Morris

Elections: Mayoral hopefuls set eyes on student voters

With more than a full month left until Athens’ mayoral race, both candidates are already making their platforms known and are reaching out to student voters — an electoral demographic that recycles every four years.

Last week, Republican candidate Randy Morris, who is challenging incumbent Mayor Paul Wiehl, announced his “student outreach campaign directive.”

“We need to improve the relationship between the city and the students,” Morris said. “I don’t (understand) the mindset that if you’re only here for four years means that you don’t have the same say as long-term residents.”

Morris specifically noted recent revisions to the city noise ordinance, dubbing them an “us versus them” mentality.

For Wiehl, a Democrat, it is all about getting rid of the “demon” student stereotype.

“Some people have said that my administration demonizes the students in general and this is not the case,” Wiehl said. “We have worked alongside the administration and will continue to work in conjunction with them and with its students. ... We recognize that everyone has to test their limits and learn, but we are also part of the learning students do here.

“It’s about being a good community member,” he said.

Morris’ platform also includes opening up Bobcat Lane, connecting traffic from Baker University Center directly onto Richland Avenue, as well as re-examining the city’s expenses from the Halloween and fest seasons.

“I would like to meet regularly with the Student Senate to ensure that issues for students are on the radar for the administration,” he said.

Though Wiehl admitted he should attend Student Senate meetings more than he already does, he also said he’d like to see more than just student senators in action, but rather the entire student population.

“We have had town-hall meetings that students are welcome to attend. I run into students all the time on the streets and they are always welcome to come in,” Wiehl said. “I don’t look at it as students and residents; I see it as short-term and long-term residents.”

The first political debate between the opponents is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Athens Public Library.

In response to Morris’ recent campaign redirection, Wiehl said he would like to generally open up the conversation between city officials and students because he sees residents in Athens as long-term and short-term rather than locals and students.

In addition, Morris’ overall goal is to create a level of respect between permanent residents and students.

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