Mayoral candidates meet at forum

Published 10:11 pm Thursday, September 25, 2008

About 100 people braved Thursday night’s storm’s wind and rain to come out to the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center to hear from this year’s crop of mayoral candidates.

The League of Women Voters of South Hampton Roads held a mayoral forum during a night of mostly inclement weather.

“Not a fit night out for man and beast, and y’all came out anyway,” joked Channel 13 reporter Mike Gooding, who served as moderator for the night’s roundtable.

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Coming into the night, volunteers with the league’s planning committee had put together a set of six questions for the candidates. Each candidate was allowed to answer the question, with the first candidate who answered given the ability to have a 30 second rebuttal time.

The candidate who was given the first question was chosen in a “double round robin” fashion.

Time allowing, the candidates would take questions from the audience. On the way in the VMASC conference room, attendees were given a blank index card to put in their questions for the candidates.

All six candidates – Andy Damiani, Michael Debranski, Linda Johnson, Roger Leonard, Dwight Nixon and Tom Powell were on hand. Write-in candidate Deborah Wahlstrom was not invited to participate in the forum.

The first question of the night revolved around education – and the location of the forum – by asking what steps the candidate would take as mayor to create private and public partnerships benefiting the schools. Specifically, how would the candidates help prepare the schools for the 21st century?

Johnson was the first to answer, and she pointed to modeling and simulation as a crucial piece, specifically the efforts of VMASC.

“We have the 21st century right here where we sit,” she said.

Leonard pointed to the teachers as “ambassadors” of the breakthrough material being brought to the classroom.

Powell called for proactive communication with those in charge of schools and institutions such as the Pruden Center and Workforce Development Center. Debranski agreed, saying the technology piece and partnerships with businesses are needed to know what is necessary in the classroom. Nixon called specifically for math and sciences to be focused on in the classroom, since that fits with the high-tech jobs in modeling and simulation. Damiani said it was necessary to look into retail options for students to develop their careers.

For a complete list of questions and candidates’ answers, check online at or see tomorrow’s paper.