It’s easy to become discouraged over the state of American politics. Images of rioters and insurrectionists storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, are ever-present reminders of the ugly, divisive state of today’s public discourse.
Yet for 90 minutes on Monday night, there was reason for hope that discussion and debate can actually be conducted with respect and civility. And it happened right here, in the Bremer Conference Center on the campus of Danville Area Community College.
The event was a forum featuring the two candidates for mayor of Danville — incumbent Mayor Rickey Williams Jr. and challenger Jackie Vinson. Williams is completing his first full term as mayor and is seeking reelection. Vinson is executive director of the Vermilion Housing Authority.
The candidate forum was conducted by the folks at Neuhoff Media with cooperation and support from the Commercial-News and DACC. Neuhoff operates radio stations in Indiana and Illinois, including WDAN 1490AM in Danville, as well as the Vermilion County First website.
The Commercial-News was pleased to be invited to participate in the candidate forum and it was a privilege for me to be part of the panel of questioners. I had the opportunity to meet and work with Mike Hulvey, CEO for Neuhoff Media, as well as Mike Shamus, general manager of Neuhoff Media in Danville and Lafayette, Steve Brandy of WDAN and Bill Pickett, longtime Danville news reporter. Pickett served as moderator for the forum.
I have been a part of numerous political debates and forums over the years and am an executive board member and past president of the Indiana Debate Commission, an independent, nonpartisan organization that conducts statewide political debates for governor and U.S. Senate races. The group’s mission is putting voters first when planning and conducting debates and striving to ensure voters’ voices are being heard by asking questions that are important to them.
The Neuhoff group did an excellent job putting Danville’s mayoral forum together and kept the focus on the issues voters are concerned about. My compliments go out to Hulvey and his team for an outstanding event.
It is a tribute to Danville’s community spirit that Bremer Conference Center’s auditorium was packed with people, standing room only, when the forum began.
After Pickett welcomed the audience and introduced the candidates, Williams and Vinson were stars of the show the rest of the way. More than once during the course of the forum my thoughts drifted to how fortunate the people of Danville are to have such smart, knowledgeable, articulate, enthusiastic and passionate individuals seeking the job of this city’s chief executive.
Not only did the candidates speak clearly and intelligently about whatever issues were thrown at them, they also demonstrated a deep knowledge of the finer points of local government processes. You didn’t have to agree with their positions on the issues. But there was no denying that their responses to the array of questions were thoughtful and sincere.
Williams and Vinson showed the people of Danville what leadership looks like. I don’t know which candidate will prevail in the election on April 4. I do know that voters have two good candidates from which to choose their next mayor. There is no doubt in my mind that the occupant of the mayor’s office for the next four years will be motivated by a strong commitment to their community and dedication to serving the citizenry.
With early voting underway, many people have already cast ballots. Many more will vote in the next two weeks, leading up to and including Election Day. When the campaign ends, the candidates for mayor and other offices on the ballot will have done their jobs. At that point, it will be up to voters to do theirs.
Williams, Vinson and all candidates have put themselves out there in this election cycle. The ultimate show of respect and appreciation from Danville citizens to the candidates — and to the democratic process — will be for them to show up at the polls and vote. If the public turnout at Monday’s forum is any indication, voter turnout for this election could be strong. Let’s hope so.
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