Dexter Village residents were able to gain some insight for the upcoming Nov. 6 election during a candidates forum Wednesday at Creekside Intermediate School.
The event was hosted by the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce and the Dexter Education Association and was divided into three mini forums. Up first were Board of Education candidates Larry Cobler, Bonnie Everdeen, Chris Gordon and Barbara Read.
Read and Gordon are each running for a part-time seat on the board, while Cobler and Everdeen are both uncontested for a full six-year term.
Education was the dominate focus of the forum, with topics ranging from student publication censorship to elective class choices and charter and cyber schools.
"The school board serves three purposes - to set a vision for the district with measurable goals, to manage the budget responsibly and to hire and fire the superintendent," Gordon said. "The goals we set should be aligned with the state and community expectations."
In her opening comments, Read advocated the importance of athletics and fine arts programs in Dexter schools and believes both operate in harmony with education, stating that students in such programs have a high success rate in the classroom.
Cobler agreed with the other candidates on "pro choice" for parents in regards to charter and cyber schools, but such schools must have the same level of accountability as public schools, he said.
Everdeen said that public schools offer more for students, while cyber schools cut out the social aspect for students. She also was against privatization of school services.
"Privatization should be looked at as a last resort and crisis mode," Everdeen said.
Education was an equally important issue during the second half of the evening, when Gretchen Driskell, Democratic candidate for Michigan's 52nd District, and incumbent Rep. Mark Ouimet took the stage.
Driskell said investing in education will attract businesses and jobs to the district.
"We need to give teachers the tools to be the best," Driskell said. "The recession caused restraints, but the teacher value is recognized. Early education is also an importance piece for a successful system, but funding should not be taken from K-12 education. We need that to be stable."
Ouimet acknowledged the importance of education, but said he is also focused on paying down the state's longterm debt and helping local businesses.
"I think we’ve got to continue to deal with our long-term debt in the state that’s on our balance sheet. We’ve paid down $15 million … I think continuing to work on our balance sheet to make it much more manageable, to be less intrusive in how government has to act because it’s so deeply in debt," he told Ann Arbor.com.
Public Safety Dominates Dexter Village Forum
The second half of the evening focused on Dexter Village president candidates Jim Carson and Shawn Keough along with village trustee candidates Julie Knight, Paul Cousins, Joe Semifero and Jim Smith.
Carson and Keough addressed the importance of local government communicating with residents.
"When we proposed the economic development plan in 2008, we got input from local businesses. We can do better in making a continued effort to gain input from the community," Carson said.
Both presidential candidates agreed that the condition of the Dexter Area Fire Department Station No. 1 on Main Street is below satisfactory operating standards, and renovation should be a priority for the next fiscal year.
While Keough has a future plan in dealing with the station, Carson is looking to take more immediate action.
"A leader is someone who moves toward the problem, and we can't wait until 2017 on the fire station," Carson said.
Each of the four trustee candidates agreed that the fire station should be addressed by the next council.
Cousins said if elected, he would like the council to bring a public safety millage before voters to help update the station.
Editor's note: This article focuses on highlights from the election forum. To view the forum in its entirety contact the Dexter Area Chamber of Commerce at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Individual candidate information can be viewed on Patch.com.