One thing was clear at Tuesday’s forum of candidates for Findlay City Council: Democrats want to be represented in city government, and the Republican candidates are set on stopping them.
The 90-minute forum, sponsored by The Courier, WFIN-AM and UFTV, was held at Winebrenner Theological Seminary on the campus of the University of Findlay.
All six candidates for the three open at-large council seats participated in the forum. They included Republican incumbents Grant Russel, Tom Shindledecker and Jeff Wobser, and Democratic challengers Mary Harshfield, Barbara Lockard and Heidi Mercer.
The forum was moderated by Steve Dillon, editorial page editor of The Courier, and WFIN News Director Doug Jenkins.
For a city the size of Findlay, Mercer said, it’s highly unusual that there is not more diversity in city government. At last census count in 2010, Findlay had a population of about 41,000.
The Republican Party holds every elected position in both Findlay and Hancock County, with the exception of one: Hancock County Common Pleas Judge Reginald Routson is a Democrat.
“So Findlay, it’s up to you now. If you believe in a two-party system, vote Democrat. If you believe we need to consider other pressing concerns in this town, than I urge you to vote Democrat,” Mercer said.
Affordable housing and addiction recovery have been a central theme of Mercer’s campaign. Mercer, 34, is a human trafficking survivor supervisor at Crime Victim Services, Lima.
“… I think that sometimes you don’t see what I see. If you aren’t paying attention to other sides of Findlay, you are missing what being a council person is all about. And do you see what I see? I don’t think you see the side where families are so desperate to make ends meet, but still can’t afford rent in this town, because if you did, you’d be making housing a priority,” said Mercer. “I don’t think you see people struggling with addiction, because if you did, you would be making a priority to include more recovery housing and to help inform the police what they should be doing, which is carrying Narcan, because in fact, all lives do matter. …”
Shindledecker, however, choked back tears as he described Findlay as a community that has been blessed.
“… It has just been a community that has been blessed by geography, by the forward-thinking people that have built reservoirs, and built bridges and built industrial parks, and we have been blessed economically and culturally and in many other ways, and as a family, we have been blessed, too. I would like to humbly think I had a small part in some of that,” he said.
Shindledecker retired from WFIN, WKXA and The Fox as news director in May 2011. He is serving his second term as an at-large councilman.
Courier reporter Denise Grant will have more on Wednesday.