2018 Rowan County Candidate Forum

Mayor Jim Tom Trent and Candidate Laura White-Brown

The candidates for Mayor of Morehead concluded the evening’s festivities at the Morehead Conference Center during the General Election Forum last Tuesday.

Incumbent Jim Tom Trent and challenger Laura White-Brown fielded questions moderated by Morehead State Public Radio’s (MSPR) Chuck Mraz, The Morehead News editor Stephanie Ockerman, MSPR’s news director Leeann Akers, and The Trailblazer’s Addie Hogan.

Candidates were asked individual questions allowing a two-minute response. Their opponent would then have the opportunity for a one-minute rebuttal. At the conclusion of the reporter-asked questions, each candidate also received an opportunity to ask a questioned directly to their opponent.

Candidates were first asked about their future involvement with the Laughlin Health Building project, a joint effort between the county, city, and Tourism to rent MSU’s facility for use as a recreation center.

Brown said the project is a remarkable opportunity, but still needs more information she is awaiting from the feasibility study.

“We hear over and over again about the need for more recreation,” Brown said. “If it presents itself in a feasible manner I would support it and advocate for it.”

Brown said there are questions such as handicap accessibility and strategic funding, but said they were not obstacles that can’t be overcome.

Trent said he’s been involved in the project from the very beginning and a lot of questions still need to be asked.

“I see it as an opportunity for us,” Trent said. “We couldn’t do what we do without the support of the school system, but they are growing and need to use their facilities. I see the project as a win-win for everyone and we hope to have the results of the study made public soon. The results of which I know will be positive.”

The two were then asked about how the community can become more livable, keeping those who work in Rowan County living in the community.

Trent said livability is a big issue, one that is being worked on by nearly every entity within county limits.

“It goes back to quality of life,” he said. “We want to build things so people will stay here. We have people wanting to invest in Rowan County through the TIF District and that will help draw in business through the positive energy and developments. If we keep the progress rolling we will see more of that.”

Brown said our vision should be place to work, live and play.

“They work here but don’t live here,” Brown said. “They commute from bigger cities but won’t invest in here to live and people leave here to play, as well. People leave to find better opportunities. We have to be promoting quality of life by improving livability. We need a long-term strategic plan and focus on incorporating livability into that.”

Candidates were then asked about how they would utilize some of Morehead’s more underutilized strengths moving forward.

Brown said there is a lot of opportunity here to grow.

“We need to emphasize our strengths and share those with others. Let’s tie that into our long-term plan,” Brown said. “We have a strong Tourism program that we should be thankful for and continue to back. Let’s have roundtable discussions between all the entities to help.”

Trent said currently the community is setting records as far as Tourism and conference center participation, trails participants, and many other strengths.

“We see something nearly every weekend popping up in this community,” Trent said. “There are things we can do better but we have been utilizing a lot of strengths. The community sees the values in these and people want to be a part of this community and growth.”

The final question asked candidates about social media, in particular whether or not private social media be used as official business.

Trent said he manages both his social media, along with the cities on nearly every platform.

He said it’s something that should be closely monitored and used for the best interest of the city.

Brown said her and her family have been blocked by Trent on Facebook. She said that when he makes posts on his personal page, and then shares them on the city page, she cannot see that information which she says is unconstitutional.

“During the floods there was a strong gas smell all across town and I couldn’t find out what was happening because I was blocked on his personal page,” she said. “If I’m elected Mayor, I will not post things on my personal pages that is vital to you as citizens and taxpayers.”

Trent said Brown has been critical of the projects that City Council has passed during the election, and then asked if there was anything positive she’s seen thus far.

Brown took the time to talk about the splash pad, something she said she’s been very vocal about.

“There is a difference between being critical and negative, and asking questions and factual information,” she said. “Yes, I’ve asked questions but I’m supportive as well. I’m not saying the splash pad is not a bad idea. But the cost has increased $400,000 and we have invested way over our head. The project was not managed well. I am informed and that’s why I’m a good candidate for this race. I will inform myself on every decision before the mayor.”

Brown also said she has concerns about the safety in regard to the splash pad.

“We don’t have a pool and that’s something our community needs,” she said. “Teaching people to swim is a safety issue and since we have a lake, we need to promote it.”

Brown told Trent that as she’s knocked on hundreds of doors during this campaign and the biggest complaint she receives is the use of city property for impermissible uses.

She cited a case in which she said Trent used a city employee on city time to set up for his campaign event at the Carl Perkins Center, an accusation that’s against the law according to the Attorney General, she said.

She asked why Trent thought it was appropriate to use taxpayer dollars for a service in which no others receive.

Trent said in this case, Brown was misinformed.

“I paid for the reservation and for one individual to help set up,” Trent said. “Off the clock I also paid him to stay and clean up. I have the contract for use of the room and for one man to help set up. It was approved every step of the way.”

Brad Stacy can be reached at bstacy@themoreheadnews.com or by telephone at 784-4116.