A cordial and short debate for the mayor race ended with a jab from Mayor Tim Solomon to Bob Rice Thursday.
Solomon, in his closing statement at the candidate forum sponsored by the Havre Daily News, brought up a concern about former mayor Rice’s eligibility to run for mayor.
Solomon said Rice had moved out of town after he was defeated four years ago. Solomon recalled Rice saying during the campaign he would leave if he was defeated.
Democrat Solomon said the law requires that candidates for mayor live in the city for two years before running. After losing, Rice moved to Missoula and returned less than two years ago.
Solomon said he would not challenge Republican Rice’s qualifications in court, but just wanted to bring it to the voters’ attentions.
“That was a cheap shot, Tim,” Rice interjected in response, in the middle of Solomon’s closing statement.
Rice said he owns property in Havre and therefore is eligible.
The rest of the forum was cordial and the candidates agreed on many of the issues brought up by the moderator.
Solomon gave his opening statement first.
“First off, I want to welcome Bob back to Havre,” Solomon said. “I can’t believe it’s been four years.”
Solomon then went into his background about being raised in the Bear Paw Mountains, his family ties to Havre, his 28 years working at the Hill County Sheriff’s Office and his nine years working at the county fairgrounds.
He expressed his hope for talking about Havre’s important issues, like the state of the roads.
Rice began his opening statement with a thanks to everyone being at the debate, including his grandson, who was going door to door with him earlier that day to help him campaign.
“This is an extraordinary election,” Rice said. “We’ve both got experience.”
He spoke of his setbacks since the last time he ran for mayor, including his mother dying and his stroke, which he has “fully recovered from.”
Rice said the reason he left Havre was to be with his mother in her final days.
“I’m a hands-on guy,” Rice said. “You’re going to see me working in the streets. Solomon lets the department heads take care of things; that’s not my style.”
The first question concerned Havre residents’ complaint about the state of the streets, potholes and snow removal.
“They definitely have a legitimate complaint,” Solomon said.
Solomon said he and his team put together a capital improvement plan to not just dig up streets and repave them, but to look at the infrastructure of the roads to make them better.
Rice responded to Solomon’s statements by talking about his approach to maintaining the streets.
“You’ll see me with a three-man crew on the weekends,” Rice said.
He spoke of obtaining funds from the state through “aggressive politics,” after talking to the mayor of Missoula’s success in getting funds to make a bicycle lane in the streets.
The second question was about their opinions on whether or not there should be nonpartisan elections in the city. The question will be on the ballot that will be mailed to voters next week.
Rice spoke first and said “I’ve been for nonpartisan elections from the start.”
Having to have candidacies attached to a political party “keeps good people from running for office,” he added. “It’s not the way to get things done.”
He brought up that Havre is one of five cities in Montana that still has partisan elections and is the largest one out of the five.
Solomon said he agrees with Rice “100 percent,” on the issue.
The third question asked the candidates if they like the present form of Havre’s government.
Both candidates spoke of the benefits of having a city manager form of government, but both said they are happy with the current form of government.
Ita then asked both to describe their managerial style.
“My style is leadership by example,” Rice said “I’m a total quality manager.”
“It depends on the job at hand,” Solomon said. “You can’t know all the jobs in the city. You have to put the right people in place and work with them. I have excellent people surrounding me.”
On the topic of annexation, both candidates said they thought it was important to expand city limits.
Ita then asked the candidates what makes them uniquely qualified.
Solomon talked of his approachability and willingness to try new methods to better the city, and Rice said his eight years of experience makes him unique, as will as his “hands-on” style.
The last request from Ita before the closing statements was for each candidate to say something nice about each other.
Rice said Solomon was a friendly guy, had a good truck and spoke of a past statement of Solomon’s about Rice always being a good dresser.
“He looks good tonight too,” Rice said.
“Thank you, and you still look nice,” Solomon said. “You have a lot of nice cars and I just have that one pickup.”
After the debate, Rice said he thought the debate went well, “except for that cheap shot at the end,” concerning Solomon’s statement about his eligibility to run.
Solomon said he thought the debate went well in the time they were given.
“It was good for the amount of time we had,” Solomon said. “It’s not a whole lot of time to cover things. There’s a lot of research that goes into this and not enough time to really address them, but I think it was good.”