CHIPLEY - The Chipley Kiwanis Club host a debate for candidates in the upcoming election for Chipley City Council's Ward 3 seat.

Incumbent Mayor Lee Dell Kennedy did not attend the debate, despite having confirmed his attendance. Kennedy would later tell the Washington County News he regretted missing the debate but had a prior out of town health appointment.

Candidate Tracy Andrews took the opportunity to discuss her views on numerous city issues, including economic development, strengthening the working relationship between city and county officials, and bringing competitive wages to city employees.

"With the expansion of utilities heading south along I-10, we need to be having conversations so that we don't lose historic downtown Chipley," Andrews said. "There are more and more vacant buildings and fewer and fewer businesses that encourage people to spend time and money downtown. We need to find ways to strengthen economic development in this vital part of Chipley without losing that historic charm that makes our community so unique."

Andrews also stressed the importance of retaining qualified employees within the city.

"We need to offer competitive wages so we can keep the good employees we have. IN some cases, we only pay $8.63 an hour, and that isn't much more than minimum wage. We are going to lose good employees to other cities, counties, and agencies if our wages aren't competitive."

Andrews also stated she questioned the city's current custom of appointing a mayor and wondered if that shouldn't be a voted position.

"The Mayor is the face of the community," she said."He or she has to work with several agencies to represent the best interests of the city. We need to be sure the people are able to have a voice in who is speaking for them and that their choice can be counted on to make these travels and efforts."

When asked about the Freedom from Religion Foundation's objections to the nativity scene on city property, Andrews stated she stands with the former council.

"Former Mayor Linda Cain and that council sought advice from their attorney and adjusted the scene to include a Christmas tree to satisfy the need for secular representation," she said. "I believe the city is in compliance with the Constitution and stand by the decisions of the former council."

On working with the county, Andrews named the recreation department as an example, praising County Commissioner Tray Hawkins for his effort to ensure county children are able to participate in city leagues.

"I am glad the county is willing to help our youth," she said. "I know for a fact that together, we will do great things, and I am the person for the job."

The Chipley City Election will be held August 1.