Forum kicks off City Commission race

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

Lewistown City Commission candidates listen to one of the nearly 60 members of the public that attended Wednesday’s forum at the Lewistown Public Library. From left to right, Richard Battrick, Diane Oldenburg, Patty Turk, Joe Kern, Alexandra Dunnington, Jonathon Moor and Clint Loomis.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

Wednesday’s City Commissioner candidate forum drew seven candidates to the Lewistown Public Library, prompted responses from two more and kicked off the public face of several campaigns, all with a little over a month until Election Day.

Lewistown has 10 candidates running to fill four positions. Three of the openings are in map-defined wards and one is an at-large position, open to any city resident. Only one candidate did not respond to the invitation, a turnout that excited moderator Dean Martin.

“I am very impressed, and I hope you guys are, too” he said to a crowd of almost 60 people. “There was a time in Lewistown where they appointed people to this job because they found no one cared enough to run.”

Candidates each had five minutes to share platforms and qualifications before a short question and answer session. Many touched on the condition of downtown, with descriptions ranging from Ward 2 candidate Patty Turk’s mention of beginning property renovations, to At Large candidate Jonathon Moor’s reference to boarded-up buildings.

All of the candidates present agreed downtown improvements were an important goal. A majority also vouched for fiscal responsibility, with taxes mentioned several times and some candidates promising to avoid raising rates.

The questions and answer session generated several queries on voting itself. Martin clarified the mail-in nature of the ballots, as well as how wards were defined and which candidates would appear on voters’ ballots.

One question solicited ideas for drawing in industry and business, and many candidates touched on drawing in not just companies, but workers themselves.

“The organizations that I volunteer for all address the need to provide activities and thoughts that are going to bring in families that want to be here,” At Large candidate Clint Loomis said. “From my perspective, it’s critical to build an environment that will attract the new entrepreneurs and the new business people.”

The conversations prompted an audience comment on affordable housing, which candidates agreed was part of enticing new industry to Lewistown.

“I think that is a huge issue that plays right into raising the population of Lewistown,” Ward 1 candidate Diane Oldenburg said.

The forum also included questions about the commissioners’ current jobs and the future of Lewistown tourism. Each round of answers was met with loud applause, and Martin closed the evening by reiterating his enthusiasm.

“Candidates, once again, thank you for your attendance,” he said. “I am very impressed with the quality of candidates that we have.”

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