Candidates for the Mexico City Council and school board will have their say at tonight’s forum hosted by the Mexico-Audrain County League of Women Voters. The event takes place at 7 p.m. …
Candidates for the Mexico City Council and school board will have their say at tonight’s forum hosted by the Mexico-Audrain County League of Women Voters. The event takes place at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 31, in the Community Room of the county courthouse.
The League will present the same two questions to each candidate. The remainder of the program will consist of questions from the audience.
“The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political organization and cannot endorse or oppose any candidate for office,” said league member Alice Leonatti. “The basic purpose of the League is to promote informed voting.”
Four people are running for two City Council seats, which will be awarded to the top two when ballots are counted. Five people are vying for the two three-year terms on the school board.
Mexico School Board
When Deb Haag announced she was leaving her post as Mexico Middle School principal, she joined a line of those abandoning the district. Five administrators either took positions elsewhere or elected to retire in the past year.
And there have been other departures. Whoever is elected to the board will face critical issues.
Keith Louder is a Mexico School District veteran, having spent 33 years as a teacher, coach and in leadership roles. He looks to focus on electronic education, as well as recruiting and keeping top educators.
“We want the environment in the schools to be inviting for students, parents and teachers,” he said. “Recruitment of quality teachers is aided by this type of environment.”
The qualities Louder expects to see in a new Middle School principal include “knowledge of educational strategies, compassion for students and staff, as well as high expectations of performance for students and staff.”
Louder gives the board high marks for its handling of educating its students during the pandemic. “Students have had the opportunity to be in the classroom and activities have remained available to students,” he explained.
Marci Minor stepped down recently as the district’s communications director, which allowed her to work with the board and all departments. Before that she was an educator for 17 years. She now serves as the communications point for a law firm that works with over 200 school districts within the state.
Minor notes that staff turnover costs money, so retention of faculty and staff is important. She also sees professional development and measurable goals as critical.
“We have overlooked internal hires for leadership positions – individuals who already know our kids, our staff and our community,” she observed. She applies this to the open Middle School principal position.
“I sincerely hope candidates who already know our school and especially our kids will be strongly considered,” Minor said.
Scott Nichols is an incumbent with children in the school system, a supervisor at True Manufacturing and a captain with the Little Dixie Fire Protection District. Again, recruitment and retention of talented educators is one of his goals.
“As we all know there will always be turnover for any employer but I would like the district to dive deeper into why individuals are leaving and how we can improve our process going forward,” Nichols said.
He also would support and grow the program aiding behavioral, social and emotional issues.
“Not only does this program benefit a particular group of students, it also helps reduce distractions in the classroom for other students,” he pointed out.
Nichols praised the learning culture created at the Middle School during Haag’s tenure. He expects the incoming principal to continue this. Like other candidates, he feels the board and district responded well to the pandemic during this school year, losing only a few weeks to virtual learning.
Andy Craig calls himself a lifelong learner and longtime youth sports coach. He applauds the current board and administration for their response to the pandemic, but lists in school learning as a priority. Staff recruitment and retention are also key issues.
“The students of Mexico deserve to have the best opportunities to advance their education,” he said.
Craig also plans to focus on finding and keeping education professionals. His concern is that young teachers are hired and then move on after a brief stint in Mexico.
“We must work diligently to retain their skills for years to come,” he pointed out. “Our students can’t afford for our district to be a stepping stone.”
Randy Reinwald has nine years behind him in the classroom, the last seven as a special education teaching assistant. He is also a school bus driver.
He looks to curtail the use of federal funds that have an impact on activities and the curriculum.
Mexico City Council
Chris Miller is an incumbent, so there are ongoing projects on his radar, such as the disposal of the old A.P. Green property.
“Lots of thought and long-range planning will need to be done,” he said. “We need to figure out how to finish the clean up, sell all or part of the property.”
His other primary focus is infrastructure. “Each year we slip line old sewer mains and rebuild manholes,” he observed. “We have been doing this in our budget for several years and it needs to be done in the future.”
Vicki Briggs is also an incumbent. She initially ran for the council to push for a new swimming pool. Now that it is in its final stages, she wants to ensure the facility remains affordable. Briggs also ticks off creative ideas to attract business, affordable housing and public safety as priorities.
Richard Gold has owned the Budget Inn for the past four years and is a retired Navy officer. His goals include increasing the population of Mexico, which will attract new business and boosting activities for both youth and adults.
Joshua Price is running, he says, to accomplish what God asked of him. For Price, the biggest issue facing Mexico is the 2019 pipeline explosion, as well as points like “two small trees on the corner of Jefferson and Hendrix.”
Tonight’s forum is open to the public. Masks are required and social distancing will be the norm.
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