Need for change among key themes at candidate forum

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Changing the direction of city government and building up the city’s downtown were among the key themes at the Poplar Bluff City Council virtual candidate forum Thursday afternoon at the Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce.

While the event was not open to the public, it was live-streamed on the chamber’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Each of the nine candidate running were allocated five minutes to speak Thursday.

At-large candidates include incumbent and current mayor pro tem Steve Davis and the following, listed in the order they appear on the ballot: Robert Duckett; Logan Gilham; Jim Chrisman; Peter Tinsley; Christine Taylor; Brent Eason and Robert E. Durbin. Chester Pumphrey is also on the ballot, but said that he is not physically up to the job.

Duckett was the first speaker and he stressed those key themes. He said he seeks to restore a positive relationship between the city’s citizens and the city council.

“I see citizens that are despondent with the city government of Poplar Bluff,” Duckett said. “They feel like they don’t have a voice. They feel like they’re ignored, or they feel like Poplar Bluff may not be going in the direction they want.”

Gilham, the youngest candidate running for the city council at 24, said he was “absolutely disgusted” by the decisions of the current city council. He pledged to start rebuilding the city’s government from its roots, starting with the city council.

“The citizens of this town’s voices are not being heard,” Gilham said. “Someone needs to stand up for them. Someone needs to stand up to the corruption that is happening in this city and I am here to tell you today that person is me.”

Taylor also said she decided to run for city council because she was concerned with the direction the city is going. She pointed to the Sept. 16, meeting of city council, where she said she felt that citizens were disrespected while speaking to the council.

“People addressed the city council and were talked down to, were joked about (because) of what they were saying,” Taylor said. “Some of the council (members) were rolling their eyes. At that moment, I decided that Poplar Bluff deserved better. Poplar Bluff deserves respect. They deserve to allow their voice to be heard.”

Though Pumphrey said he is unable to serve on the council, he did speak Thursday and called for a citizens complaint review board to review the city’s police department, which he also said was not corrupt, but incompetent and lazy.

By contrast, Davis, the lone incumbent in the field — though Tinsley served on the city council as a ward representative in the past — highlighted his accomplishments during his three years on the council, including keeping the city hall downtown.

“I have no score to settle,” Davis said. “I have no clique to join. Let’s keep Poplar Bluff moving forward.”

Davis, like several other candidates, also highlighted his support of downtown.

“I will continue to work with (Poplar Bluff Chamber of Commerce President) Steve (Halter), the Chamber and other members of the community to ... bring small business downtown,” Davis said.

Duckett also highlighted Poplar Bluff’s location — and that of the city’s downtown — along Black River as one of its strengths.

“Let’s promote the downtown area and the city’s heritage,” Duckett said. “Let’s encourage that.”

Tinsley referred to Poplar Bluff as an “economic hot spot” and that the city has a lot of opportunity. He also touted his support of downtown Poplar Bluff.

“We need to revitalize downtown,” Tinsley said.

In other themes on Thursday, Chrisman stressed his support for a smaller and more centralized location for the city’s new police headquarters and also an Internet sales tax to offset revenue losses because of COVID-19, while Tinsley said that the city’s levees on the southside need improvement to cut down on flooding.

“If we learned one thing from the Eight Points project, it’s that dirt is valuable,” Tinsley said.

Eason emphasized his support of veterans and President Donald Trump and said that he would run Poplar Bluff like a business.

“No matter how you shake it time equals money,” Eason said.

The city’s voters will choose the two winners from the field of nine at the municipal election on June 2.