April 29, 2013 10:02:47 AM
Seven Starkville aldermen candidates will make their respective platform pitches and discuss various city issues tonight during a 6:30 p.m. public forum at the Greensboro Center.
Several candidates - Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 2's Democratic incumbent; incoming Ward 5 alderman Scott Maynard, a Republican; and Ward 7 candidate and former city alderman Janette Self, a Democrat - will serve as their respective wards' sole representative at the forum after numerous candidates passed on the event. While Ward 3's Republican contenders - incumbent Eric Parker and challenger David Little - and Ward 4's respective Democrat challengers - Jason Walker and John Gaskin - represent the only direct competition at tonight's event, five other candidates declined to attend the forum.
Ward 6 will not be represented tonight as its contesting Democrats - incumbent Roy A. Perkins and challenger Lerin Pruitt - both declined the event. Other no-shows who face primary battles include Ward 2 candidate Lisa Wynn and Ward 7 incumbent Henry Vaughn, both Democrats. Ward 1 alderman Ben Carver, a Republican running unopposed, also declined the event.
Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Jennifer Gregory confirmed last week that Wynn first declined to attend the event before its established April 10 signup deadline but then asked to be included at a later date. The Partnership declined to include Wynn, citing its deadline and numerous follow-up attempts with candidates.
"We invited candidates to participate in this non-partisan, community event via email on April 4. We asked them to confirm their participation by April 10," she said in an email last week. "Ms. Wynn did contact our office after the deadline stating that she had rearranged her schedule and was able to participate; however, since it was post-deadline, we opted not to include Ms. Wynn. Publicity had already begun, and we wanted to adhere to our deadlines and dates that were made public."
The event, which is expected to run approximately 90 minutes, will feature one-minute opening statements from each candidate. Five candidates -- Maynard will be left out of the question-and-answer session since he is running unopposed -- will then tackle several questions developed by Partnership representatives and submitted via social media. Each candidate will have a minute to answer the questions, which range from topics including Starkville's quality-of-life issues, local and regional economic development and the city's overall direction for the future.
Audience members will also have a chance to offer their own questions during the event's remaining time.
Candidates are not allowed to debate points, and the audience's questions should be appropriate and not leading, a copy of the forum's rules state. Also, no outbursts, signage or other disruptions will be permitted.
The event will close with candidates' final statements.
The five undecided Starkville ward races will be determined during the May 7 primary election after Ward 2 Republican challenger Josiah Buckner rescinded his candidacy Thursday.
Only the city's mayoral election will head to June's general election. The winner of the May 7 Democratic primary between incumbent Parker Wiseman and former Alderman Mary Lee Beal will face Republican Dan Moreland, the Starkville Parks Commission Chairman, on June 4.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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