For the first time, the Marshall County Tribune is hosting a debate for candidates campaigning for the office of county mayor -- providing those three men a place at center stage at 6 p.m. Friday.
Lewisburg businessman Mike Spence and county Commissioner Scottie Poarch are challenging County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett in the Aug. 5 election. Early voting starts one week from today. There are 16,000 registered voters in the county.
Doors open at the Marshall County Community Theater for the debate at 5:30 p.m., a half hour before the debate starts with Barry White of First Farmers serving as moderator.
Admission is free. No tickets are needed, but good front and center seats are being reserved for people who have signed up at the newspaper office directly across Lewisburg's public square from the theater.
White and the Tribune's news staff have collaborated on the format of the debate. That's in contrast to a candidates' forum where respondents just answer questions. White, who has served as an assistant district attorney, has been encouraged to use his discretion to explore details on answers from the candidates, Confehr said.
"This isn't a trial, so there won't be a grilling of witnesses in cross examination," Confehr said. "However, we want more of a conversational exchange instead of a series of planned talking points.
"Barry plans to conduct an informal discussion with a give and take on problems facing the county, ideas on how to deal with them and the nature of leadership during trying times," Confehr said.
The Tribune is pleased to have White as the moderator. His law career, including private practice, followed by his leadership positions with First Farmers and Merchants Bank includes public service that establishes White as a community figure with the gravitas a local newspaper wants in its moderator.
Meanwhile, state and local leaders have expressed interest in attending the newspaper-sponsored Mayoral Candidate Debate in the Marshall County Community Theatre.
"It gives me a lot of opportunity to meet with my constituents and to hear opinions from people on how they want their county to move forward," state Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro said Wednesday.
Between licks on a vanilla ice cream cone at the '50s & Fiddles restaurant and ice cream parlor next door to the old Dixie movie-house, Ketron also explained that "Since I have to work with that person (who serves as county mayor) on a weekly basis, and chair the Senate State and Local Government Committee, it's important for me to know them."
County Commissioner Mary Ann Neill, a former commission chairman and Commissioner Mickey King, chairman of the county's Budget Committee, have said they plan to attend. Both will have seats in the reserved sections near the orchestra pit.
In preparation for the debate, Farris Phillips and David Sanders, both leaders of the Community Theatre, have met with Confehr about staging the debate.
One long table with three chairs will be provided on the left side of the stage for the three candidates. White will have a chair and a table on the right side of the stage. All four will have separate microphones.
Several newspaper staffers will be in the audience at front to time answers, introduce the program, assist with seating, photograph the debate and report a story for the July 14th edition of the newspaper.
As the program begins, the lights will dim and, among preliminary announcements, time will be provided to retired Lewisburg Police Capt. David Ray who may take a few minutes on stage to address the audience about his candidacy for sheriff. Ray is the only one of five candidates for sheriff who did not send a note of regret to the newspaper, declining to participate in a planned debate for all five candidates for sheriff. If Ray wants the opportunity to address the audience, it's available to him before the debate between candidates for mayor.