Five candidates for Marion city council spoke to voters Monday night at a forum sponsored by the Marion County Record.
Chris Costello, Jerry Dieter, Melissa Mermis, Michel Soyez, and John Wheeler have tossed their hats into the ring for two positions that will be on the ballot. Additionally, one seated council member plans to resign at the end of the school year and will have to be replaced, moderator David Colburn, Marion County Record news editor, told attendees.
“This election will be important,” Colburn said.
Each candidate gave a brief introduction.
Costello is a lifelong Marion resident with degrees in business administration and law. He is president and part owner of Tampa State Bank.
Dieter, an incumbent, is a Marion native with degrees in chemistry who returned to Marion in 2004. He was first elected to council in 2012.
Mermis, also an incumbent, holds a degree in nursing and works at St. Luke Hospital. She moved to Marion in 2008 and was appointed to the council in 2014.
Soyez, a Marion native with a degree in criminal justice, moved back to Marion in 1999. He is operations manager for Cardie Oil.
Wheeler, a Marion native with a degree in history who moved back to Marion after about 20 years elsewhere, works for Forest Products Supply in Newton.
Most of Colburn’s questions pertained to things that have cropped up over the past year, with economic development matters a main theme.
For Costello, economic development efforts that are friendly to the business community are of high importance.
“It’s easy to throw up road blocks,” Costello said.
Businesses should be helped to learn what they need to know in order to be successful, Costello said.
Soyez said the community should keep up with changes in the world and social expectations for small towns. Additionally, improved economic development activities and emergency medical services that are “something we can rely on” matter as well, he said.
Dieter said the city’s aging infrastructure needs to be addressed.
“We’ve got some city water pipes that are more than 100 years old,” Dieter said. “I know a lot of people who complain about our water. We have sewers that are problems, leaking in some places.”
Mermis said the city needs to make good choices in both economic development matters and infrastructure needs.
Wheeler believes the city should capitalize on its proximity to recreational facilities and work on housing development.
“We’ve got some of the finest recreational facilities,” Wheeler said.
As a parent who used to often travel with children, Wheeler said, he’d like to see the city land a local hotel affiliated with a major chain.