The Network of Entrepreneurs and Business Advocates (NEBA) held a mayoral forum Tuesday during their monthly luncheon meeting at the Capital City Country Club.
The straw ballot (only NEBA members could participate) after the session showed that three votes separated the winner, Leon County Commissioner John Dailey, and second place finisher Michelle Rewhinkel Vasilinda.
The top two were followed by Joe West, Carrie Litherland, Dustin Daniels, and Norris Barr.
Approximately 140 people watched as six candidates were peppered with questions from NEBA Program Chair Ted Thomas.
The program provided for a two minute introduction for each candidate, one minute to answer questions and a rapid fire round which called for yes and no answers.
When asked about their top priority, five candidates (Dailey, Litherland, Vasilinda, West, & Barr) addressed integrity and public trust while Dustin Daniels identified crime as the top issue.
Both Dailey and Vasilinda provided specific proposals for addressing the public trust issue.
Vasilinda said that crime, corruption, and cronyism were her top priorities and proposed that city commissioners should file the Form 6 financial disclosure instead of the less revealing Form 1 currently required.
Dailey followed and agreed with the Form 6 idea and said he supported a zero gift policy. He also proposed reforming the way public speakers are limited when addressing the city commission.
Joe West, who is a newcomer to politics but has been in the mayors race since November 2017, said that conflicts of interest and citizens receiving the best value for their tax dollars was his top priority. He also said he would support appointing Dr. Erwin Jackson to the City’s Independent Ethics Board.
Two relatively unknown candidates and newcomers to the race – Litherland and Barr – both expressed a need for a fresh start and stressed the importance of public trust.
Mayor Gillum’s former chief of staff, Dustin Daniels, focused on crime and the need to help the 1,000 people who will soon be released from prison and taking up residence in Leon County.
During the yes and no format part of the program, questions about the city utilities and the recently debated Children’s Services Council (CSC) provided a look into some differences among the candidates.
When the candidates were asked if they would explore the potential of selling the city utilities, Dailey, Vasilinda, and West answered yes. Litherland, Barr and Daniels said no.
With regards to the CSC ballot language, Dailey, Barr, Litherland said they supported a 2020 referendum, while West and Vasilinda said no.
Daniels said he supported a 2018 referendum and would now support the 2020 date.
In addition to these differences, there was a significant level of consensus on major governing issues among the candidates.
For example, all candidates supported a review of the city charter, the creation of a citizens budget review committee, changing the current at-large election of city commissioners to district elections, and the creation of an inspector general.
This agreement indicates the upcoming election could result in significant changes at city hall.