OTTUMWA — Both candidates could be described as civil, but neither appeared passive during the mayoral debate Thursday evening.
Challenger Tom Lazio and Mayor Frank Flanders agreed that economic growth is important to Ottumwa.
Yet Lazio said he has been to most meetings of the Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation. And he had not seen Flanders at those meetings. Flanders said he has been at meetings of the Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation. He, however, didn't see Lazio there.
Despite the disparity, Ottumwa City Hall remained peaceful during the event, which drew a nearly full audience in council chambers. That includes the portion of the debate where the sponsor, KLEE/TOM-FM Radio, allowed a rarity in current forums and debates in Ottumwa politics: Direct questions asked by each candidate of their opponent.
But questions from the public and the moderator were the first to be asked. One was, what does the mayor do?
Flanders said the mayor is the M.C. at City Council meetings, has the power to veto decisions and the power to appoint members to various boards. Yet the main power is not a formal one: "It's one of leadership ... I'm the coach of the team," he said.
Lazio said the mayor does a lot of work behind the scenes: Setting the agenda, doing research on what's best for the town, and getting various groups to work together. Unlike his opponent, said Lazio, he'd be able to devote himself full time to the office. He had 45 years running an agency in which he was required to write grants, talk to state and federal lawmakers, and set a reasonable budget. As mayor, he said, he will "make decisions based on data ... not political gain."
Flanders said the community has come together over the past two years. He said he makes his mayoral decisions based on, among other things, compassion for all residents.