By Ben Kleppinger
12:24 PM EDT, October 31, 2012
STANFORD — With the general election less than a week away, candidates for many offices in Lincoln County and Stanford spent a couple hours Tuesday night sharing their backgrounds and platforms during a political forum in downtown Stanford.
Candidates for the district three school board seat, circuit court clerk, district two magistrate seat and Stanford City Council took turns answering questions posed by moderator Mark Thompson, pastor at Stanford Christian Church.
The forum was sponsored by the Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce and Stanford-based radio station WPBK 102.9, which broadcast the candidates' responses live.
District three school board
Candidates for the district three school board seat led off the night, discussing where the school district has been and where it is headed.
Incumbent Theresa Long and challenger Michael Gourley focused on improvements made in testing in the past year, while challenger David Hacker emphasized his past experience as a school board member.
Gourley said he has grown tired of hearing people "bashing" Lincoln County's school system for poor performance, but is encouraged by recent improvements.
"I want to see that trend continue," he said.
Long said improvements in Lincoln's school district may often be overlooked and people don't hear enough about the good things that are happening.
"Maybe at one point there was a time when the school board didn't know what was going on, but they're on top of the game now," she said.
Hacker said he served on a school board for eight years in the past, and that experience makes him the most qualified.
"You take my 96 months of experience, you compare it to these two candidates, they have a total between them of six months," he said.
Circuit court clerk
Incumbent Circuit Court Clerk Teresa Reed and challenger Dwight Hopkins were up next, with Reed speaking to her customer service abilities and good rapport with local judges and Hopkins focusing on his background in economics.
Reed said serving as circuit court clerk is "not just a job" for her and she takes pride in helping people who come into her office, whatever their needs may be.
"Whether you have been chosen to serve on jury duty, you have a traffic ticket, you have a court case — sometimes, those things can be overwhelming," she said. "I'm there to help you, explain the process and answer any questions you have."
Hopkins said his degree in economics gives him an edge that will be needed due to an economy that presents "a very formidable challenge."
"I'm more convinced than I was on day one that a person with a good economic background in any elected position in the state of Kentucky is going to be an added plus."
District two magistrate
Things lightened up when the candidates for district two magistrate — incumbent Bill Dyehouse and challenger Lonnie Pruitt took the stage. Both candidates cracked multiple jokes and got plenty of laughs from the audience.
Pruitt got a big laugh when he explained why he has enjoyed campaigning.
"I told the people campaigning I was kind of excited because I went to one house and a gentlemen who owed me money paid me on the spot," he said.
Dyehouse likewise brought smiles to the audience's face when he shared a conversation he had with Pruitt after the two knew they would be running against each other.
"He (Pruitt) said, 'Bill Dyehouse, I voted for you every time you run for office, and now it's time you should vote for me,'" Dyehouse said. "Lonnie, I'm going to pass on that."
More seriously, the candidates both emphasized the importance of representing the citizens of district two and commended each other for running a clean and friendly campaign.
Dyehouse emphasized his previous experience as magistrate and Crab Orchard mayor, listing off many of the different grants and programs he was able to bring to the area.
Pruitt pointed to his decades of experience as a businessman and his desire to see Lincoln County continue to thrive.
Stanford City Council
Wrapping up the evening were the nine candidates for Stanford City Council, who answered questions focused on the Logan's Fort restoration project, the city arts program and the Stanford Fire Department.
In general, most of the candidates agreed that the Logan's Fort project — if funded by private donations — is a positive thing for Stanford; and that the arts program likewise is a good thing for the city, but should be self-sufficient and given second priority to essential services like police and firefighters.
The six incumbents — Greg Findling, Mike Southerland, Scott Maples, Eddie Carter, Scottie Ernst and Bobby Wilkinson — were largely in agreement that while the fire department had been through a rough patch recently with a shrinking number of volunteers, efforts to recruit more new volunteers and bring back old ones have been successful.
The three challengers — Amy Hazlett, Tom Moser and Naren James — said they knew less about the fire department situation since they have not been serving on city council.
The final round of questions held perhaps the most contentious moment of the night, when Moser said he has heard from many Stanford residents who are unhappy with what the city did with the land along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard known as the Creamery Property.
The seven-acre tract in question was bought by the city for $100,000 in 2008.
After several years of unsuccessfully trying to develop and rent out a large building on the property, the city made a land-swap deal with First Southern National Bank in May, giving the bank three acres of the land including the building in exchange for a lot along Lancaster Street in downtown Stanford valued at $80,000.
First Southern also agreed to pay for leveling and paving the Lancaster Street lot, turning it into a parking lot.
Moser said when he figured it out, it will have cost the city $8,500 for each parking space when the lot is completed. Moser called the move a "waste of tax money" and promised "If I'm part of this council, I will not allow it (wasting tax money) to the best of my ability."
Ernst responded to Moser's statements, explaining his belief that making the land-swap was the right move. The city kept four acres of the Creamery Property, so it didn't lose the whole property, he pointed out.
And while the city didn't have the funding to fix up the building so it could be rented out, First Southern does and is planning to, he added.
Ernst said in the end, the Creamery Property will wind up looking nicer — his desire all along — and the city has some much needed downtown parking as well.
Wilkinson then finished the round and the forum off, explaining that he was against purchasing the Creamery Property to begin with and against trading it for a parking lot, but "that's neither here nor there."
"We all make mistakes," he said. "The only way you don't make mistakes is don't do anything."
WPBK is offering an archived recording of the entire debate, available for streaming on its website at http://www.wpbkfm.com/listen_live/archived_broadcasts/.