COLUMBIA CITY — A local political group hosted a forum Tuesday night for candidates running in the upcoming May primary and general election next November.
The Whitley County Patriots invited all four mayoral candidates to speak at its regular meeting, held at Columbia City’s Church of the Nazarene.
All three Republican candidates for Columbia City mayor spoke for 15 minutes each. Cathy Heritier, the lone Democratic candidate for mayor, could not attend.
Following the group’s traditional opening routine, former U.S. Congressman John Hostettler addressed the crowd and spoke about the U.S. Constitution.
Whitley County Patriot member David Cooper introduced the mayoral candidates in alphabetical order.
Ryan Daniel addressed the crowd and wasted no time pointing out his youth. At 26, Daniel is the youngest candidate for Columbia City mayor.
“If you can look past my baby face, I think you’ll find I have the experience to move Columbia City forward and lead us in a new direction,” said Daniel.
Since graduating from college with a degree in political science, Daniel said he’s been involved in government both at the local and state level.
Among the issues Daniel listed as top priorities were the city’s infrastructure, flooding problems at South Line Street and the Westgate community, revitalization of the downtown, the current state of Burnworth Memorial Pool and bringing jobs to the city.
He also said he wants to serve as a full-time mayor.
“I don’t want U.S. 30 to become Columbia City,” he said.
Gary Parrett, who serves on the Columbia City Police Department and who owns a local restaurant pointed to his business experience and his humble beginnings as tools he would draw on to be a successful mayor.
“I’ve moved up quickly in most every job I’ve worked at,” Parrett said.
“I know what it’s like to have the fear of the unknown.”
Parrett described himself as honest and selfless and said “this is the next logical step for me to take.”
The self-described “Big G” also said he would take a common-sense approach to spending if elected mayor.
“If we need it, let’s get it, if we don’t need it, let’s don’t get it,” he said, adding that he would also be a full-time mayor.
“If elected I would work every day for the everyday person,” he said.
Don Sexton, the only mayoral candidate with public office experience, described himself as a salesman, saying that skill would be one of his most marketable as mayor.
The longtime banker said a mayor’s job involves salesmanship when it comes to attracting new business and industry to a small town.
“I believe Columbia City has a great story to tell,” Sexton said. “I’ve been in sales all my life and when it comes to bringing industry to a small town, I want to be your salesman.”
Sexton is a member of the Columbia City Common Council and a former member of the Board of Works and Safety.
He received applause from the audience when he announced if elected he would refuse the use of a city-owned vehicle.
“Then, I would gather the department heads and have a serious discussion about wasteful spending,” he said.
The primary election is May 3.