When the candidates said something the audience liked, heads in the crowd would bob up and down in agreement. When the candidates joked, the audience laughed.
Two candidates for the Anniston school board and three candidates for the Anniston City council faced off in the two-hour forum, which drew a crowd of about 200..
Incumbent Ward 2 Board of Education candidate William Hutchings and his opponent Trudy Moses Munford sparred about their differences.
Munford, an Anniston native who moved away and then came home to retire, said she was willing to use her knowledge and experience to help Anniston move forward.
One question asked how the two would ensure that students are in the right frame of mind to learn. Hutchings outlined a joint approach.
“Get the students ready coming out of the preschool…knowing the testing scores there and knowing what is coming to you,” Hutchings said. “And also having these community meetings that you can get with the parents and get the students started in that aspect.”
Munford would rely on testing and teaching to prepare the students.
“I believe that we should maybe spend a week in the beginning testing our kids with all types of tests, aptitude, achievement, interest inventory,” Munford said. “What we would like to do is compile data on our children so that we could know where we need to intervene at any point.”
And while Munford talked about new programs, Hutchings was quick to point out that funding for those programs would have to come from somewhere.
The City Council candidates addressed a variety of issues from crime to recruiting business to building leadership. Herbert Palmore, incumbent Ward 2 councilman, spent a good deal of his time talking about his accomplishments on the council – road paving, economic development through the revolving loan fund and a new senior citizens center.
His opponent for the Ward 2 seat, David Reddick, criticized Palmore's travel spending.
“You know the Anniston city has a travel budget and that budget is for (a councilman) to go out and recruit business and recruit people and to learn how to make my city a better city,” Reddick said. “My opponent has gone over his travel budget repeatedly, but do you see more business? Do you see bigger businesses? Do you see your businesses moving better?”
Ward 2 council candidate Sheffton Goodson said the city needed to invest in its police force to prevent crime.
“We’re building a new justice center,” Goodson said. “Let’s invest also in some satellite police offices. If you know that your crime rate is up in Norwood and that’s where the majority of your killings are coming from, let’s put the police right there in the community.”
Reddick said the city needed to recruit business and give residents an alternative to selling drugs to support themselves.
“We need jobs,” Reddick said. The city needs businesses "to get enough business to where they’re going to have to hire some of these young men and women.”
Palmore said there needs to be more police on patrol and more citizen participation.
“You turn these drug dealers in,” Palmore said. “You look the other way when they’re selling drugs; they’re only stealing from you.”
The audience submitted questions to the candidates before the event, but didn’t directly speak to the candidates during the debate.
Audience member Angelica Boyd, 16, said she had attended all the candidate forums, and thought the Ward 2 candidates handled themselves well.
“They all did a good job,” Boyd said.