Town-gown relations, water rates and renewable energy took center stage at Monday’s Gambier’s mayoral debate, sponsored by the Center for the Study of American Democracy (CSAD).
Candidates Liz Forman ’73, Betsy Heer and Kachen Kimmell — all members of Village Council — took turns responding to round-robin questions posed by Tom Karako, CSAD director, and Samantha Scoles, managing editor of The Mount Vernon News.
About 70 people filled Brandi Recital Hall almost to capacity, but one could “count the number of Kenyon students [in the room] on one hand,” said Sam Whipple ’16, president of the Kenyon Democrats, which co-sponsored the debate with the Kenyon Republicans.
Heer, who runs the Gambier House Bed and Breakfast, sought to distinguish herself from her fellow candidates, whom she deemed more connected to the College.
“I am not a student, alumna, employee or employee status,” Heer said in her opening statement. “My loyalty is with the Village residents.”
Forman is a former College administrator who worked most recently for admissions, but maintains ties to The Kenyon Review Young Writers Program. Kimmell has lived in Gambier with her husband, Kyle Henderson ’80, who works in the College’s development office, since 2006 and has served on the Planning and Zoning Commission for nine years.
When Karako posed a question about how candidates viewed the relationship between Kenyon and the Village, Kimmell and Heer took different positions.
“Kenyon tends to seek forgiveness rather than ask for permission when it comes to certain building things,” Heer said.
Kimmell disagreed. “I don’t view it as such an antagonistic relationship,” she said. “Sometimes, the Village’s interests and the College’s are the same, and sometimes they’re not.”
Heer emphasized her love of Gambier’s sleepy village atmosphere, adding, “I don’t have a big vision, I have to admit. I like Gambier pretty much the way it is.” She also expressed interest in looking into the economic viability of solar energy.
Forman sprinkled her responses with anecdotes about the Gambier community. Although she poked fun at her own “romantic” or “wishy-washy” stories, she emphasized that the Village serves as an important governmental role model for Kenyon and Gambier residents alike.
“One of the things that Gambier … can do is be a model for the huge number of people that pass through our Village,” Forman said. “Seeing how the College and Village work together will be instrumental. … I think we’re a good model for all of those people that are going to go out in the world and make public policy.”
Kimmell said she wants to improve emergency services. She also recommended a more lively downtown that would include another business or a food truck.
Though audience members did not have a chance to participate in the forum by bringing forth questions for the candidates, Alice Straus, coordinator of alumni admissions volunteers, said the candidates were able to express their positions clearly.
“I was pleasantly surprised that I found my opinions about the candidates changing as a result,” Straus said. “I thought that the format gave the candidates an adequate time to express their platforms, and also to differentiate themselves from each other.”
Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. The voting location nearest to campus is the Gambier Community Center, located at 115 Meadow Lane.