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Dayton Residents Meet Candidates At Open Forum

Dayton city mayoral candidate Rennes Bowers talks about his party platform at the podium in the St. Paul Methodist Church sanctuary. He is one of three candidates running for mayor.
Rennes Bowers
Dayton city mayoral candidate Rennes Bowers talks about his background as a former Dayton firefighter at the forum Monday night. He is one of three candidates running for mayor.

Candidates for the Dayton City mayor and commissioner seats met with community members in an open forum Monday night. The forum was hosted by the Historic Huffman Neighborhood Association.

Spaced six feet apart in the pews of the St. Paul Methodist Church, Dayton residents listened as candidates spoke about their platforms. Issues ranged widely, from Dayton’s racial divide to neighborhood revitalization.

Jeffery Mims, Rennes Bowers and Gary Leitzell are all contenders in the mayoral race. Mims is a current city commissioner, while Bowers is a retired Dayton firefighter and Leitzell is a former Dayton mayor.

In the commissioner race, there are seven candidates running, including incumbent Darryl Fairchild, Stacey Benson-Taylor, Valerie Duncan, Jared Grandy, Scott Sliver, Shenise Turner-Sloss and Jordan Wortham.

Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions towards the end of the forum. One attendee, Liz Velasquez, brought her three young children with her. She was concerned about the public school system.

“I see myself as someone that just wants things to be better,” Velasquez said. “And the only person to do it is the individual working together with other individuals which make up communities.”

Velasquez moved to Dayton three years ago, and says this is the first local election she’s really paid attention to.

“There's so many issues that are pressing and we are living in a time that is so turbulent that I think staying home almost feels irresponsible in a way,” Velasquez said.

Her neighbor, Vicki Morris, sat behind her during the forum. She has lived in the Huffman neighborhood for 15 years, and is an active member of the neighborhood association.

“We have such an active neighborhood so nothing gets past us,” Morris said. “We usually do a candidate night, and usually four or five people show up. This was a bumper crop.”

About 30 people attended the forum. Morris says she was tired from working in her yard all day, so she would have loved to stay home.

“Things are just so horrific for so long, and I think people are starting to understand the only way out of this is through the political system,” Morris said. “I was encouraged that most of the candidates seem to have a little spark of humanity.”

The candidates will get a chance to virtually debate each other in late April, right before the primary elections on May 5. Voters will determine the two mayoral and four commissioner candidates moving on to the November elections.