City candidate forum set in October

By John Peters - jpeters@mtairynews.com

Sometimes it’s hard to know just where a candidate stands on a given issue when it comes to local elections.

The Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce hopes to make that a little easier for city voters in the November mayoral and commissioner elections.

The chamber will be holding a forum on Oct. 24 at the Historic Earle Theatre on Main Street in Mount Airy. Invited to participate are the two candidates for mayor, incumbent David Rowe and challenger Ivy Sheppard; the candidates for the South Ward seat, Commissioner Steve Yokeley and former commissioner Todd Harris; as well as the unopposed incumbent in the North Ward seat, Jon Cawley.

Randy Collins, president and CEO of the chamber, said his agency has been in contact with all the candidates during the planning process.

“I’m certain they will all be there,” he said. “They all preliminarily gave us an okay on that date…but we’re still following up on each one to make sure everything is good with them.”

The format will be fairly straight-forward, Collins said.

Each candidate will be given time to make an opening statement, followed by a question-and-answer session, then each candidate will be given time for a closing statement.

The questions will come from those submitted by the public, either prior to the event or the night of the forum. Those wishing to submit a question in advance can send it to Travis Frye, programs and events director, at travis@mtairyncchamber.org.

Collins said which questions are asked will largely be up to chance.

“Essentially, we’ll gather all those questions up in writing, put them into the bowl, we’ll also be passing out index cards that night, people can write their question out and we’ll put them in the bowl.”

Adam Martin with Surry Yadkin Electric Membership Corp., and chair-elect of the chamber, will be serving as moderator. He will pull random questions from the bowl.

“We’ll direct the question to a candidate, then the other four will have an opportunity to respond,” Collins said. While the final format of the forum hasn’t yet been determined, he said there most likely won’t be any direct questioning between the candidates, but there might be some time for rebuttals on some answers.

“There may be a time for each candidate to step forward and say ‘let me clarify my response on taxes,’ or whatever it is,” he said. “We’re still working out the details. We’re going to do our level best to make sure the responses, the opening statements and closing statements are timed, but there’s going to be some flexibility there…you don’t want to give one candidate more time than another candidate. My guess is we’re going to set up a time for rebuttals, we’re just going to have to have them rebut in that time limit and then move on. We’re going to try to make it as even and bipartisan as we can, and give everyone a chance to respond.”

The forum will be from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Oct. 24. The event is free, and Collins said he wants to emphasize that all registered voters in Mount Airy are welcome and encouraged to attend.

“Our objective is to educate the voters in the community on the people who are running, so when they enter the voting booth they can make an educated decision on the candidate of their choice,” the chamber president said. “We believe local elections are the most important elections.”

Concessions will be on sale at the event in the theater lobby. The event is being sponsored by Foothill Garage Doors, Johnson Granite, Perkins & Associates and Homeway Furniture.

By John Peters

jpeters@mtairynews.com