Holding up yellow and red signs and sporting a green sweatshirt for the holiday, Liz Schmidt acted as a stoplight for a Columbia-Boone County candidates forum Thursday night.
Columbia voters met and questioned Columbia City Council candidates for the First and Fifth wards at the forum. The Columbia-Boone County League of Women Voters sponsored the event, which also featured a session with Columbia School Board candidates. The Columbia Public Library co-sponsored the forum.
Schmidt, who is the league’s secretary, helped time each candidate’s answer and signaled the candidates with construction paper signs when their response times ran out.
All three Fifth Ward candidates — Laura Nauser, Gayle Troutwine and Joseph Vradenburg — and First Ward candidate Almeta Crayton attended the event. Crayton is running unopposed.
Each candidate had three minutes to make an opening statement. Nauser, Troutwine and Vradenburg used their remarks to explain why they were running and offer their qualifications.
Troutwine cited three aspects she said made her a good candidate.
“First, my experiences,” she said. “Second, my legal background, and third, I’m very brave.”
Vradenburg said his candidacy has enlightened him to the ways of local government.
“I’m learning new things about city governance and city issues all the time,” he said. “There’s a steep learning curve.”
The league came up with questions in advance in case the audience was shy, league member Elaine Blodgett said. The first question came from the league’s list, and audience members asked three more. Topics ranged from balancing ward and city needs to putting constituents before profits.
“What can you say that will convince me that you’ll put people first?” asked Eleanor Wickersham, a Fifth Ward resident and league member.
Wickersham said Fifth Ward members were concerned about council members with real estate backgrounds.
John John, the current Fifth Ward council member, is a real-estate agent, and Nauser is a real-estate closing officer.
Nauser said council members have to balance the interests of their constituents with those of the city as a whole. She said council members have to listen to people.
“It touches your home, and your home is your security and therefore you have a vested interest,” she said.
Council: Candidates asked about marijuana
One audience member asked how the candidates would have voted on Columbia’s new marijuana ordinance. Crayton, Nauser and Vrandenburg said they would have voted against it.
“I don’t know enough about the marijuana situation,” Troutwine said. Instead, she suggested to “table it and take care of issues of life and death.”
The forum ended with each candidate’s closing thoughts.
Although more citizens attended the forum for School Board candidates, about 30 voters stayed for the entire forum. “One of the things I’ve noticed since I moved (to Columbia) is the number of people that turn out,” Blodgett said. “It’s a good town that has a lot of people that are interested in what goes on in town.”