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Smithsburg debate lacks heat

April 15, 1998|By TERRY TALBERT

SMITHSBURG - Those who thought there would be fireworks at Smithsburg's candidates forum Tuesday night were wrong.

Four men vying for two council seats, and incumbent Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers fielded written questions from about two dozen residents who showed up at the fire hall for the two-hour forum.

Of the three mayoral candidates, Myers was the only one to attend. Council member Joseph Slick, who is giving up his council seat to run for mayor, was out of town. He faxed in a statement that was read aloud at the forum.

Mayoral candidate Tommy Bowers, the former police chief who was fired by Myers and the Town Council last August, didn't attend. Residents upset by his firing forced to referendum a measure that would allow voters to recall elected officials before their terms end. That issue is on the May 12 general election ballot.

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At the last mayor and Town Council meeting, Bowers, who had agreed to a debate with Myers, said none of the candidates had any input into the forum, and accused Myers of organizing it. Myers denied the charge.

Mayoral candidates will square off in a primary on Monday, April 27. The top two vote-getters will face each other in the general election.

Myers was asked at the forum whether she would debate the other candidate after the primary. "As far as I'm concerned, this is the only debate," she said.

In response to a question about Bowers' firing, Myers read a brief list of actions that she said led to his dismissal. In response to other questions, both Myers and three of the council candidates said they supported a carefully considered recall amendment.

Jeff Berk said he felt it would be better to look at the town's hiring and firing policies. "I don't think a recall can prevent anyone from being fired, or help anybody come back," he said.

The council candidates at the forum were: Jake Johnson, 50; Mike Rohrer, 30; Berk, 31 and Smithsburg native Charlie Slick, 67.

The candidates agreed it was their main priority to maintain the peaceful, small-town quality of life in Smithsburg, and to balance the needs of older residents with those of younger ones. "Demographics show we have as many residents 65 and over as we do 1 to 18," Slick said.

The candidates said the town probably needs a third police officer or will as development continues. They said they felt financing was an issue that had to be examined. Also discussed was the need for downtown development, affordable water and sewer rates, and parkland development.

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