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Marietta candidates take part in Q and A

A virtual legislative forum Tuesday brought candidates for Marietta City offices and the Marietta City School Board of Education together for a question and answer session.

Moderated by Marietta College President Bill Ruud, the candidates were asked questions posed by members of the Marietta Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the event.

Before those running in contested races had the chance to answer questions, City Treasurer Cathy Harper, Councilwoman-at-Large Cassidi Shoaf, and First Ward Councilman Mike Scales had the opportunity to introduce themselves.

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Two are running for the Second Ward council seat to be vacated by Mike McCauley, who decided not to run again.

Christopher Pfeiffer said he decided to run because the city needed strong government. Bret Allphin said he’s committed to being an advocate not only for the Second Ward, but for the city.

Pfeiffer said the biggest issue facing the council was making government local again.

“There’s been a nationalization of government … but the hard work is done locally,” he said.

He said there needs to be an understanding that citizens should turn to their local governments. In turn, the local governments need to be accessible for small and micro businesses. Pfeiffer said the council needs to do what it can to make sure there are ordinances and zoning that allows small businesses to thrive.

Allphin said the biggest challenge is reminding citizens that the council is good stewards of resources given it.

“(The council) is working for them and on behalf of them and for the betterment of the entire community,” he said.

Allphin said his number one priority is making sure the city gets the water distribution project off the ground. Also of importance is making sure the Community Development Block Grant is running and operating well, as it provides for the most vulnerable citizens.

Pfeiffer said his number one priority was to do a deep dive into both ordinances and zoning rules to make sure Marietta is a friendly place to do business. He said Marietta has a reputation of not being friendly to businesses.

The pair were also asked what their suggestion was to help residents be involved in the decision making.

Pfeiffer said to look at what time meetings are held.

“How many people are available at 4 p.m. for committee meetings?” he asked, suggesting meetings be scheduled not for the convenience of the council, but for the residents.

Allphin suggested having a group like Main Street West in the Second Ward, where they could get feedback on issues.

“Have something like town hall meetings,” he said.

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Five are running for the open seats on the Marietta City School Board of Education.

¯ John Lehman said he plans to eradicate the culture of mediocrity in the school system. He said parents and teachers have not been welcome at board meetings.

“Teachers work in fear of the administration and board,” he said.

Lehman said his main goal is to improve literacy.

“We need the students to taste victory,” he said.

“Feel the sensation of A’s in English and A’s in math,” he added.

¯ Sam Tuten said his experience in city planning and community development will prepare him to serve on the board.

He said the board needs to reach out for small wins and “show achievements outside the classroom.” He noted the board needs to be transparent about what its strategic plan is and where it is financially.

“Making sure we are transparent in that amount, where those go and where they are coming from,” he said.

¯ Ethan Vessels said being an attorney is an advantage to the board as much of what it does is regulatory.

He said his issue is educational achievement.

“With reading, writing and arithmetic, (students are) not where we want them to be. Everything else is secondary,” he said.

Vessels said with every question the board has, it should come down to “will this increase education achievement?”

“That’s the filter every question should go through,” Vessels said.

¯ Cody Parman said as a pastor, working with people is what he does.

He said morale within the school district seems down, but helping to build strong communication, identity and transparency will help build trust.

“How we communicate with the public is of utmost importance,” he said. “Trying to utilize every avenue and make it a two-way street. Finding different ways of getting feedback.”

¯ Eric Reed said the board needs to look to teachers to get feedback from them.

One issue that motivated him to run for office was the failure of the school levy.

“I was on the committee that tried to digest everything,” he said.

He felt they needed to get a bigger pulse on what the community wanted.

Reed said there should also be high expectations for students from the time they walk into school as a kindergartener.

“Raise the academic bar and create the culture,” he said. “The bar has to be raised for everyone.”

At a glance:

¯ Marietta Chamber of Commerce held virtual legislative forum.

¯ Those running for Marietta City offices and the Marietta City School board were invited to participate.

¯ Questions were submitted by chamber members.

¯ The forum was moderated by Marietta College President Bill Ruud.

Source: Marietta Chamber of Commerce Legislative Forum.

Michele Newbanks can be reached at

mnewbanks@mariettatimes.com.

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