Leadership, experience and the student-resident division were the main topics of discussion yesterday as the two Athens mayoral candidates squared off at the only public forum scheduled before the November elections.
Mayor Paul Wiehl, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Randy Morris answered questions from both media and the public while making their case for mayor during a debate at the Athens Public Library last night.
“I feel that it is important to emphasize that this election is about leadership,” Morris said. “(The mayor) has to lead a staff of over 160 people, make sure that they are all pulling together and working together. … That requires leadership.”
Morris said his 29 years of experience in the military and other leadership positions have qualified him to be mayor.
Wiehl said the accomplishments made in the city during his first term as mayor qualify him for the position.
“One of my goals when I started was to increase communication, and we have done that with town meetings and social media, both Facebook and Twitter,” Wiehl said.
Construction on the roundabout and Jefferson Hill, on which the city worked in collaboration with Ohio University, were among the accomplishments Wiehl listed.
In terms of the relationship between OU students and long-term Athens residents, the candidates had differing strategies.
“(The relationship) is not as good as if could or should be. It reminds me a bit of a dysfunctional relation,” Morris said. “The city tends to complain and ask for things, and the university appears to be in a superior position.”
Wiehl said the relationship between students and residents is shaky because of a difference in lifestyle, adding that he is able to work with students on policies such as the noise ordinance.
“I don’t view it as a (division between residents and students) but between short-term and long-term residents,” Wiehl said.
Morris is the only Republican running in the upcoming election and addressed the possibility of a divided government in his closing statement.
“I can work with anyone who wants to work with me,” Morris said. “A divided government will not be a problem. I think this community will benefit from a different perspective.”
Though Morris criticized Wiehl’s leadership ability, claiming it to be a weakness for the current mayor, Wiehl defended his style by saying it is academic instead of military.
“I have made some choices in this city that I don’t agree with, but I believe my style of leadership is better for a college town,” Wiehl said.