Council forum

The Market Park Pavilion in Downtown Athens was the host site for The Daily Post-Athenian’s Athens City Council Candidate Forum on Tuesday evening. Shown here (from left) are the three candidates running for two seats on the Council: Jordan Curtis, Eric Morrow, and Frances Witt-McMahan.

The Daily Post-Athenian hosted its 2020 Athens City Council Candidate Forum on Tuesday night.

The event featured the three candidates for two seats on the Council — Jordan Curtis, Eric Morrow, and Frances Witt-McMahan — on the eve of the start of early voting for the Nov. 3 election. The candidates were asked a series of 10 questions and concluded with closing statements.

The DPA will feature a five-part series during the early voting period, which continues until Thursday, Oct. 29. The series will include each candidate’s answer to all questions posed by DPA Editor Dewey Morgan during the forum, as well as their closing statements. Each part of the series will group between two and three questions together based on similar subject matter.

The following is the first part of the series and includes both the opening question of the night and the candidates’ closing statements. These responses should give readers a better idea of who the candidates are and why each believes they will make a good addition to the City Council. Subsequent stories in the series will dig deeper into important issues facing the city and how the candidates may choose to address them.

The entire forum is available to view any time on The Daily Post-Athenian’s Facebook page.

The candidates’ responses are listed in the order they were asked during the forum.

Question: Why did you decide to run for a seat on the Athens City Council and what do you feel like you would bring to the Council?

Answers:

Curtis: “I think that my decision to run — it’s always a hard decision to want to put yourself out there — but truly, my main motivation was thinking about my daughter and what Athens will look like when she’s my age. I think we want to build the kind of town where our children and grandchildren can live, work, and feel like they have as many of the opportunities that we can offer in a small town. As far as what skills I think I bring to the Council, certainly the City Council is a board of directors of a corporation that provides a very unique service that can be provided really by no one else. I think my experience working in finance brings a perspective that is needed and a skill set that can be beneficial to the group. I think my diverse experience in community involvement with non-profits and different areas being involved with the city — Planning Commission, Council Advisory Committee — that brings some existing experience of how city government works. I look forward to utilizing a broad base of experience around town to bring all those skills to the City Council.”

Morrow: “I decided to run for Athens City Council earlier this year. Most people had known me working for WJSQ/WLAR in the past and bringing live streams of events, interviews with your politicians, local events, people in the area. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing the governor of Tennessee, talking to state representatives — our very own State Rep. Mark Cochran — talking with the county mayor, city mayor and city manager. Over the past several months at the beginning part of this year, you could see after I stepped away from the radio the City Council wasn’t working to its full potential. I started hearing that from people in the community that they wanted someone else to sit on the Council to bring better ideas and bring a cohesive team together. We’re not always going to be on the same page when we sit upon the City Council; we all have our own different points of view on everything, but I think the three of us would probably agree in saying this tonight: We all have to work together to make this a better town, a better city. That’s why I decided to run for Athens City Council.”

Witt-McMahan: “I ran a couple of years ago for the City Council and I did not win, but the reason I wanted to run is, about 14 years ago, I started a local non-profit and began to work throughout the community and I learned so many different things about the community and about how decisions are made. I wanted to be a bigger part of how decisions are made for our community. I am a servant at heart. I love to work with people. I love people, but I also like to be able to bring something different to the table — a different perspective. I think our city has done a really good job over the years, but I don’t think it lacks the need for some improvements. I don’t think anything is running fully up to par in any organization and I just want to be part of making those decisions. There are so many great things about Athens and I want to help to enhance that so more people will want to be part of the community. What I bring to the table is, for one, I am a non-profit director and that is similar to the city council/city manager form of government. So, I understand how the meetings are supposed to be conducted. I understand that we must work together. But most of all, I understand that we work for you — the citizens — and I want to be part of that. I don’t have a personal agenda except to do what I can do to make the quality of life better for all the citizens of Athens, and I think I can do that due to the work I’ve been able to do for abused children in the community.”

Closing statements:

Morrow: “I said this in the last forum and I truly mean it: All three of us are friends up here. We’ve all worked together in certain situations. The people of Athens that are watching on Facebook Live, the ones that have joined us here, there’s a hard decision. You guys have three great people up here running for Athens City Council. I had someone, after the last forum we were at, say, ‘Honestly, I wish there were three seats open so all three of you could be on the City Council because we need your types of views on the City Council.’ That was pretty inspiring to hear that and I heard that from more people than just one person. In saying that, I would ask for your vote, to vote for me. I think the best thing I can provide is my knowledge of working with the community and understanding the City Council. I’ve been there working in the City Council under the radio for the past six to eight years and I understand how it works — the different things that need to be taken care of in regards to ordinances. And most definitely — these two will probably hit on it a little bit — is teamwork. We need to elect people that are going to work together. Right now, there’s an idea that’s streaming through the community that the people sitting up there on the City Council right now are not working together, and the city manager’s not working with the City Council. We need to eliminate that idea and we need to be able to work together as a City Council. In saying that, I humbly ask for your vote and your support. Vote Morrow for a better tomorrow.”

Witt-McMahan: “The reason that I want to run for the Council is because I want to be part of the decision-making process. I know that I can work with each one of the Council members who are currently serving. I speak to them all the time; I see one standing back there now. I make sure that I, as a citizen, I’ve always reached out to my Council. I want to be that same person to the Council that they’ve been to me. My door and my telephone line will always be open. I want to work on behalf of the needs of the citizens so that each person in this community has a better quality of life. I’m pretty authentic — what you see is what you get. I don’t know everything. I will not stand here and pretend that I know everything. Some of my answers you may not like and I may change my mind at some point in this, but I want to learn. I want to learn everything that I don’t know about this community so that I can be a better councilwoman for you all. I’m looking forward to Nov. 3. Don’t forget that early voting starts (today). Vote for Frances. I will be a voice for the citizens of Athens.”

Curtis: “Well, here we are. We’re much like a prosecutor; these are our closing arguments. I’ve worked really hard and I’ve tried to show the citizens of Athens by the work I’ve put into my campaign how hard I want to work for you on the Council. As I said last week, when I ran four years ago and didn’t win, I made the commitment to the citizens of Athens that I would continue to serve and find more ways to get even more involved to help the citizens of Athens, and that’s a promise I’ve made and kept. When you lose, it’s easy to tuck your tail and run, but it takes the right kind of resolve to dig in and get back to work. So, I want to make this promise to the citizens of Athens tonight: If you elect me, I’m going to be the most informed Council member, I’ll be the most prepared Council member, I’ll be the most accessible Council member, and I will be the Council member that will be decisive to make the right decisions for you — the citizens of Athens. Thank you so much. I’m going to ask for your vote. Check the top box for Jordan Curtis.”

Email: andy.brusseau

@dailypostathenian.com

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