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(Most) Candidates Embrace Debates

by Lisa Ellison

September 2 update: Patrice Barrow accepted. McLean Godley, Angela Williams and Mayor Allen Thomas will not be participating in debates.

Original story: After we at the Guardian posted this invitation to Greenville city council candidates to participate in a series of debates, I followed up with each each candidate by e-mail. I expected to receive some great responses; most of those seeking to serve their fellow citizens did not disappoint.

Many replies were short and to the point:

Marion Blackburn, Aug. 9, “it is my intention to participate;”

Terry Boardman, Aug. 11, “I will be there;”

Rick Smiley, Aug. 11, “Count me in;”

Richard Croskery, Aug. 11, “I’ll put it on my calendar;”

Donna Whitley, Aug. 12, “I look forward to the event;”

Calvin Mercer, Aug. 12, “I accept;”

P.J. Connolly, Aug. 14, “I would be happy to attend the event;”

Ernest Reeves, Aug. 23, “I will attend;” and

Erik Anderson, Aug. 29, “That works great.”

Kandie Smith had a little more to say (Aug. 23), “This is a golden opportunity for the public to be introduced to candidates who could possibly represent them.”

These candidates get it. They understand that, although the job of a city councilor is low-paid and often thankless, it is an important and necessary one; they want  the public to know who they are and why they want these jobs.

Smith wrote something else which I found particularly resonant, in light of the response of another candidate, who so far has not seen his way clear to participate, despite, like everyone else, having had weeks to arrange his schedule.

First-time candidate McLean Godley, who is opposing Blackburn for the district 3 seat she now holds, responded early (Aug. 13): “I regretfully must decline the invitation but will surely see Marion in [a] public forum sometime this election season.” I suggested we reschedule, offering a few options. “Unfortunately,” Godley wrote on Aug. 14, “these particular weekends will not work with my scheduled plans. Please let me know if there are any more opportunities to participate with your organization or if y’all would ever like to chat briefly.”

I suggested more times. Since weekends were clearly out, I asked if he could make some suggestions for times during the week that he might be available. “It’s hard to know so far out,” Godley wrote on Aug. 21. “Typically I am usually doing something until 10 o’clock at night during the week nights [sic] as you can imagine this time of year of year is particularly busy with the election.”

I asked if Godley was interested in participating and if he was willing to work with us to find a date. His response thus far? Crickets.

Smith said something else I find notable, something indicative of the exact rationale I assumed any serious candidate would apply in gauging whether to join the debates: “I will make sure that everything else is moved around to accommodate this most needed event,” she wrote. The public should insist on such maturity and responsiveness from all who would represent it, be they incumbents or hopefuls.

Candidates who have not yet accepted our invitation have until 5 p.m. today to do so. They are challengers Patrice Barrow (District 1), Godley (D3), Angela Williams (At large) and just one incumbent: Mayor Allen Thomas.

The schedule follows, incumbents are listed in italics. All debates will be held in council chambers. 

Saturday, September 12

10:30 a.m. District 1

Patrice BarrowYes
Kandie SmithYes

Saturday, September 19

10:30 a.m.: District 4

Terry BoardmanYes
Rick SmileyYes

1:30 p.m.: At-large

Erik AndersonYes
Calvin MercerYes
Angela Shackleford Williamswill not participate

3:00 p.m.: Mayor

Ernest ReevesYes
Allen Thomaswill not participate
Donna WhitleyYes

Saturday, September 26

12:30 p.m.: District 5

P.J. ConnellyYes
Richard CroskeryYes


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