JOHNSON CITY - Election season in Johnson City is officially in full swing, as the first major candidates forum drew a large crowd of potential voters Tuesday night.
Incumbent Commissioners Ricky Mohon, Pete Paduch and Phil Roe as well as Jeff Banyas, William "Bud" Hill Jr. and Marcy Walker will vie for three open Johnson City Commission seats in the April 24 city election. Before a packed auditorium at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church, the candidates took turns answering questions prepared by members of the Mountain Home, Sherwood Forest, Southside, Greater Towne Acres, University Place and West Davis Park neighborhood organizations as well as the umbrella organization Johnson City Residential Neighborhood Council.
Topics concerned issues ranging from quality of life in Johnson City to "inefficiency" and length of the twice-monthly commission meetings.
Paduch, seeking his fourth consecutive term, said he thinks the commission runs smoothly and he would "refuse to change" and would not stop "asking the hard questions."
"I don't think you should make certain issues go quickly, nor should you try," he said.
Roe, seeking his second term after falling short in his bid to become a U.S. congressman, touted the natural beauty, climate, available health care, affordable housing, low crime rate and excellent schools and expressed his desire to see a new veterans memorial project come to fruition in Johnson City while sticking to his voting record of the past four years.
"We've got to keep our budgets balanced and our taxes low," Roe said.
On the topic of what the city can do to more effectively develop its Med Tech economy, Mohon said city leaders should follow their recently approved 20-year land use plan and the suggestions of the recently completed Market Street Services report to provide Med Tech opportunities.
"We need to think beyond just those properties on either side of (State of Franklin) Road," Mohon said.
As a member of the Johnson City Board of Education for the past eight years, Walker has experience in dealing with controversies and disagreements. When asked what her major goals would be as a commissioner, Walker said she would like to help the commission lead by action and example.
"The one thing I've realized is it's time for our City Commission to work as a team," Walker said. "We need to form a vision and set goals and make sure they are implemented."
On the topic of the city's effectiveness in enforcing codes and ordinances, Banyas said the city does a good job overall, but there is "room for improvement." He said some "short-staffing and discrepancies in how some codes are enforced" illustrate the need for improved communication among city departments.
Hill said his main focus as commissioner would be to "get our schools built now, rather than two years down the road," and expanding the city's manufacturing base while "stopping the exodus" of the manufacturing companies that are here.
Commission candidate Roger Bryant did not attend the forum.