Local election day is getting closer and on Wednesday, the Dodge City Public Library hosted the candidate forum for city commissioners.

Incumbents Brian Delzeit, Joyce Warshaw and Ken Smoll took part in the forum along with candidates Kevin Gwaltney and Charles Sellens.

Prior to the forum, candidate Liliana Zuniga indicated she would no longer be running for the position.

In a letter to the Daily Globe, Zuniga wrote, "I am unable to run as a commissioner at the present moment due to medical reasons and a surgery I had last month.

"The doctors advised me to rest and slow down my daily activities for a couple of months.

"Thank you all that believed in me and I hope to serve you in the future."

The forum was moderated by library executive director Brandon Hines who asked the candidates questions submitted earlier.

Each candidate was allotted an opening and closing statement along with the questions.

Delzeit and Sellens touched on their military experience while Smoll discussed his experience as a CPA and being on the commission for the past 15 years.

Warshaw discussed her education background and retirement from being the principal of Miller Elementary while Gwaltney talked about being a business owner.

Some of the key issues discussed by the candidates was the need for retail and the retaining of the youth in Dodge City.

"I returned back to Dodge City and feel it is a necessity to retain the youth of Dodge City," Gwaltney said. "If we can raise them here, get them educated and have them return, I feel that would help us in the future."

Sellens also indicated the continued need for agriculture in the area.

"We need to stress the importance of agriculture," he said. "If one of the plants closes down we would be in trouble.

"I take jobs very seriously and have positive feelings about Dodge City and feel I would be a positive influence."

Each of the incumbents discussed the difficulties they have faced regarding retail development prior to the addition of the Sutherland's home improvement project.

"It is tough to bring retail in because of our proximity to Wichita," Warshaw said. "Sutherland's is going to be an answer for us along with the three other retail out in front of it."

Smoll added, "Retail is changing. The brick and mortar is tough now because of the Internet but we have a demand for it from the people of Dodge City. We may succeed but we have to continue to shop local and shop often."

Sellens touched on his experience within local governments in the past as well as economic development and the Peace Corps.

"I would like to see us make sister cities," he said. "When I was in Japan I saw the benefits first hand out how they work and I would strive to create those international friendships."

Other issues discussed from the candidates were streets, the methane project, infrastructure, Star Bonds and Why Not Dodge.

Gwaltney and Sellens talked about being antiquated with the city budget and future plans.

Delzeit and Smoll touched on issues in dealing with the state legislature on things, something both candidates were passionate about.

"The state is poorly managed and poorly planned and when Dodge City has the highest credit score in the state, they still feel they need to tell us what to do and how we need to do things," Delzeit said.

"They just need to butt out."

Smoll jokingly mentioned his hatred towards the state but went on to say that, "They give us little funding and more mandates. We have to depend on ourselves more and more so no I am not a state advocate, they don't benefit cities."

Regarding the state, Gwaltney said, "What the state does is still not an excuse for what we have to deal with.

"We preach not making excuses at our company but obviously the state is not helping this city out very much otherwise we wouldn't have such strong feelings."

When the question of diversity was raised, Gwaltney said, "We have to embrace the culture. I myself have been learning Spanish to better communicate with my customers and employees and it’s something we need to do more of."

Warshaw and Delzeit stated they felt Dodge City was doing a great job in terms of diversity especially through the school systems.

"It's who we are," Warshaw said. "We don't notice we have to make an attempt at it anymore, it's something we just do."

Smoll talked of the continued support of the DACA act and added, "You know the police force is a great figure head in the community.

"They are out there amongst all the people whether they are black, white, green, purple, brown and they are out there supporting and promoting Dodge City."

Sellens answered by wanting to get more of the adults assimilated in Dodge City.

"The schools are doing a great job and everyone is treated well," he said. "But we need to get the adults more assimilated and keep trying to get them more involved."

The election will be held on Nov. 7.

Early in-office voting begins on Oct. 31.

To contact the writer email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com