Arkansas Tech University community took part in civic action on Thursday by hosting a mayoral debate between two of three Russellville candidates.
The Department of History and Political Science, Forensic and Debate Team and Pre-Law Society hosted the debate at Doc Bryan Lecture Hall. Current aldermen Randy Horton and Martin Irwin participated in the hour-long event, but former mayor Tyrone Williamson declined the invitation to speak.
Though much of the debate was focused on the city of Russellville, the candidates addressed the issue of a sidewalk along State Highway 124, or O Street, to Vista Place Apartments, which would greatly affect Tech students.
Horton said engineers are currently trying to tie the sidewalk with the Reasoner Lane project.
“This is a high priority for the city,” Horton said. “I am confident we will work out something for the city and all ATU students.”
Irwin agreed but said little can be done about the sidewalk right now.
“If there’s a street in Russellville that needs a sidewalk more, I’d like to know where it is,” Irwin said. “There’s several things you could do, and I’m looking to see what the best option is. However, I think you will have to wait before O Street becomes a city street.”
Both candidates refused to ask a question to each other but reminded students and other attendees why they were running for the position.
“I just as confidently believe probably the only way we will realize our full potential is to work together an promote each other — building each other up and not tearing each other down,” Horton said. “If you elect me mayor, all of you will be challenged to participate, lead, educate, take part, take leadership in your city like you never have before.”
“Leadership is an interesting prospect. You lead from the front. That’s where all the rocks are thrown,” Irwin said. “We have to dedicate ourselves and be aware we can only serve the public the best way if we serve every single citizen in Russellville equally and fairly.”
Students who attended the debate said they felt more informed on the issues of the community after hearing the candidates speak.
Nicholas LaRoe, a freshman biochemistry major from Havana, said he appreciated the fresh perspective the candidates presented.
“They brought some state-level topics to the local level, like the alcohol proposition,” LaRoe said. “It was very informative.”
Rachel Martin, a freshman early childhood education major from De Valls Bluff, said the debate sparked an interest in the politics of Russellville.
“I’m glad I came,” Martin said. “I didn’t realize the issues of this area. It kept me interested.”