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UTM hosts Martin mayoral debate

Published (Volume 75, No. 8)

The format for the debate was as follows. Each candidate would answer 14 questions, each selected from the 21 questions submitted by The Pacer, SGA, Weakley County Press, Dresden Enterprise, and UTM’s Faculty Senate Committee.  After one of the candidates gave his answer, the other candidate had one minute to rebut the response.

The members of the panel (which asked the questions to the candidates) were Laura Lytle from the Weakley County Press, Matt Crouch from the Pacer, Nancy Warren from the UTM faculty Senate, Jason Rushing from SGA, SGA president Eric Tolbert and Renee Phelps from the Dresden Enterprise. 

The following are the 14 questions that were asked by the panel:

1. With UTM being a major contributor to the economy in Martin, what changes do you see in the future that would cater to the UTM community?

RB:  “I would like to implement meetings with SGA and city officials on a monthly basis, so that communication could be kept between the city and UTM.”

LT:  “Interns from UTM promote to our community already.  I believe that the city is already doing a great job working with UTM.”

2. If elected as mayor of Martin, how would you attract new industry to Martin on a practical level?

LT: “I believe we have already done many things to promote industry in Martin.  We have renovated the library, joined the police force and the fire department.  We have also built a new sports recreation complex.”

RB: “I think that we need to keep our students here after they graduate from college so they don’t have to move away to find jobs.  I would also like to find alumni that are CEOs across the nation and see if they know of industries that would want to relocate to our town.”

3. What are the three most pressing problems facing city government?

RB:  “The possible loss of state shared funds. City debt; the city has approximately 18 million dollars debt and it will take 1.1 million over the next 13 to 20 years to pay off that debt. Economic development being brought to Martin.”

LT:  “The increase of the state income tax is a major problem; storm and water drainage presents a possible dilemma.  And, the economy is threatening to not turn around.”

4. One of the most controversial moves for the city of Martin was the merging of the fire and police departments.  Do you feel this was the right move and will you make changes to the present situation?

LT:  “I would not make any changes. Martin has experienced low crime rates, and I would not change this decision.”

RB:  “The way the board handled this problem was controversial. However I would not make any changes at this time.”

5. How do you feel about a lottery coming to Martin?

RB:  “This is the people’s vote, but personally because of my religious beliefs, I would vote against it.”

LT:  “This is a regressive tax that targets low income families, and because of my religious beliefs I would also have to vote against it.”

6. Will you support the continued development of the Martin Recreational Complex if elected Mayor?

LT:  “Yes, it is one of Martin’s most valuable assets.”

RB:  “Yes, although my opponent has stated that I am against supporting the complex, I am in favor of the development of the complex.”

7. At the end of your term, what would the citizens of Martin say you did to improve their lives?

RB:  “That I have given more jobs for the citizens, less debt, and a more unified community.”

LT:  “That I have provided a better quality of life for residents, and a safe community.”

8. The Martin city board has budgeted $18,000 for the next year’s tenth annual Soybean festival.  Would you be in favor of continuing to provide this amount of funding for the festival?

LT:  “I am proud to be a part of the establishment of this festival and would heartily support the continuing of the funding of the yearly event.”

RB: “Unlike what my opponent has stated about my views on the funding for the festival, I will continue to support such funding.  It is family oriented and highlights West Tennessee’s biggest crop.”

9. What is your position on a proposed/approved prison facility being built near the city of Martin?

RB: “This would provide much needed jobs for the community.  It will have a negative impact on the town’s image and we will have to reinforce marketing for a safe community and campus.”

LT:  “I will have to look into this and there are issues that need to be discussed.  There must be a referendum for the people to decide as they did in Carroll County.”

10. Do you see UTM students as an economic boost to the economy of Martin or an economic drain?

LT:  “The students are not a drain, they but clothes, gas for their cars, and contribute to the housing in our community.  They impact our economy.”

RB:  “The students are not a drain. I have heard several store owners in Martin say that when the students are gone in the summer their business declines.  So, students are definitely an asset.”

11. What is your plan for economic development?

RB:  “We must aggressively recruit for industry, and utilize unused corporate zoned land.”

LT:  “We have already started development for economic growth in past years.  The stage is set for economic success through the Soybean Festival and the Martin Recreational Complex, among other things.”

12. How do you feel about liquor by the drink?

LT: “If the law passes I will try to recruit businesses, but there are no guarantees that any major restaurants will come because Union City will have an interstate to pass through.  Personally, I cannot vote for liquor by the drink due to my religious beliefs.”

RB: “Again, this is the people’s decision on whether to pass this referendum or not, however I will also not support this resolution due to my religious convictions.”

13. If elected mayor, would you support the funding of the MEDC (Martin Economic Development Council) board and its director?

RB: “The MEDC board brings new employment opportunities to Martin and is vital to the livelihood of the community.”

LT: “I support the MEDC board.  It was formed during my administration.”

14. Why are you qualified to be the next Mayor for the city of Martin?

LT:  “I have a degree from UTM, and I have 10 years experience as part-time mayor and six years as alderman for Martin.  I will continue to add to what I have already begun as your devoted mayor.”

RB:  “Unlike my opponent, who has never owned his own business, I have run my family owned business for 27 years.  I will continue the hard work and dedication that I have gained through hard economic times with my personal business.”

Closing remarks were made by Eric Tolbert, SGA president. He thanked all the participants for their cooperation with the Martin mayoral debate, and thanked Chancellor Nick Dunagan for allowing UTM to host this event.