The three candidates in the race for District 2 Pottawatomie County commissioner squared off during a PAVE candidate forum Monday night.
Independent Candidate Scott Reynolds, Democratic candidate Bryan Richards and Republican Randy Thomas answered a series of questions following opening remarks.
Richards said he's lived in Pottawatomie County his entire life and has been involved in Wanette youth programs and has served six years on the Wanette school board.
Thomas, a retired Norman fire captain, has had his own concrete and construction business for 22 years, he said.
Reynolds, who is retired from Tinker AFB, said he's lived in Tribbey since 1971, where he's served as volunteer firefighter and fire chief, while serving on committees such as the county one-cent sales tax board.
All three said there were running to make a difference in Pottawatomie County.
All were asked about the most important issues the county faces, and all three had similar answers relating to economic development
"I think the county is stagnant," Thomas said, adding sales taxes have been down 1.5 percent.
"I understand roads are important," Thomas said, but those arteries also lead to commerce. Thomas said there's no reason Pottawatomie County shouldn't be growing like other areas, adding the county needs a sheriff's office to grow with it.
Reynolds, who said the economy is bad, said there needs to be a plan for economic development. While he agreed roads are important, Reynolds also said the sheriff's office needs more deputies. And while the county has 911 services, Reynolds said it needs better markers and signs for addresses so emergency responders can easily find locations.
Richards said economic development is the most important issue for every resident and their neighbors, as how everyone is doing is an indicator.
"Everybody in this district needs to be doing well," Richards said, adding the county needs to reach out to legislators to help Pottawatomie County.
All agreed that if elected, they would retain the current District 2 staff, although discussion indicated the current road foreman might be looking at retirement.
They were asked about their thoughts on discussions concerning a possible merger of the county 911 center with the city of Shawnee 911 center.
Richards said if both sides can come up with a plan, it's good for both to avoid duplication calls.
"I'm for it," Richards said.
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Thomas said he's in favor of it too.
"It comes down to no one wants to give up authority," Thomas said. As a retired firefighter, he said he knows seconds count.
Reynolds said he agreed with both his opponents but said quicker response times are the main issue.
"They need to lay their differences aside and think about the people," Reynolds said.
In closing, Reynolds said he will work to make a difference.
"Our county has come to a crossroads," Reynolds said, adding voters have the power to change the political landscape.
Thomas said he has the leadership ability to address the issues.
"I've led men into life and death situations and I've lead people out," Thomas said, adding he wants to be accountable and transparent to the people.
Richards said over the past 16 years, he's been "taught and schooled" on how to make the job successful and move the county forward, mentioning he has a pulse on the community and knows how to stretch tax dollars to the fullest extent.
For the District 13 Senate race, Incumbent Democratic candidate Sen. Susan Paddock took questions herself since her opponent, Republican Fred Smith, was not in attendance.
Paddock, from Ada, who was a schoolteacher, has been in office since 2004.
When asked how she's acquainted herself with constituents after redistricting, which now includes a portion of south Pottawatomie County, Paddock said she been out visiting with citizens at nutrition centers as she makes the rounds.
"I want to be a good advocate and vote for this area," she said, adding she'll take phone calls, return emails and be there for the voters.
"I'm approaching, accountable and responsible," she added.
Paddock spoke of her extensive volunteer work and said it was two decades of volunteerism that led her to run for political office.
Paddock said she's a strong proponent for funding public education.
"We have to put our children first," she said.
She also stressed that she's willing to work across party lines and vote for the people she serves.
"We have to get past partisanship — we have to work together," she said.
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In closing, Paddock said the job has been a blessing in her life and she has more to do.
"I care about people…I believe you deserve good government," she said.
"Good public policy is what matters to me," she said.