Athens mayor race: Patterson pushes experience as Looker flaunts fresh perspective

Of the two candidates running for mayor of Athens, one has sat on City Council for more than three years, and the other has yet to graduate from college.

Naturally, Wednesday’s forum debate focused on the experience of candidates Steve Patterson, D-At Large and Ohio University professor, and Republican Andrew Looker, an OU junior studying communication studies.

Looker said he has enough skill to serve as mayor.

“My education is going to provide me with the necessary experience to do this job,” he said.

On the other hand, Patterson stressed his first-hand experience working in city government, citing his three and a half years on council.

“The city has some great things on the horizon, all of which I’ve just got my finger on the pulse of,” he said.

Patterson said he is qualified for the position because of his involvement with city projects such as The Essence of Athens, in addition to sponsoring legislation such as the Tobacco-Free Ordinance, which banned tobacco products from public recreational areas in Athens.

Despite his lack of governing experience, Looker argued that his status as a student gives him the upper hand when it comes to communicating to students.

“I’m a student just like you, and I have your interest in mind,” Looker said.

He also said students would feel more comfortable talking to him as an equal. As mayor, he said he’d try to hold office hours.

Patterson argued that his role as a professor made him equally approachable for students.

“One of our biggest roles (is) engaging the student body,” he said. “We have to figure out ways in which we can meet students on a level playing field.”

Looker was also questioned about his plans to continue as a full-time student if elected mayor.

Looker maintained he could juggle the two roles, comparing the role of mayor to his current part-time job at Wal-Mart.

“My responsibility as a student will not interfere with my responsibility of being mayor,” Looker said.

He would make time for being mayor by taking night classes, he said.

Patterson announced he would take a break from teaching in order to fulfill his responsibilities.

“You are the mayor 24/7,” he said. “It’s not a full-time job or a part-time job. You’re on call 24/7.”

Tensions shifted when Athens City Council candidate Aaron Dauterman asked candidates if they had any academic blemishes on their records.

Although Looker had none, Patterson spoke briefly on a censure he received in 2012.

At the time, Patterson lied about his published publications and was “censured” by the university, OU spokeswoman Katie Quaranta said in a previous Post report.

Patterson said he co-authored two research papers that were never actually published, according to that Postreport.

“That has nothing to do with politics, nor does it have anything to do with the way I lead,” Patterson said.



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