MANSFIELD -- A trio of candidates, two of them write-in ballot options, seek to become the next 4th Ward representative on Mansfield City Council.
Democrat Alomar Davenport, 42, of 575 Stocking Ave., had been unopposed on the Nov. 5 ballot until Brenda Collins, 44, of 469 Howard St., and Gerald Strouth, 65, 516 Bryden Road, both met the Aug. 26 deadline to become official write-in candidates.
Davenport announced Thursday he has suspended his campaign, but remains a candidate.
In a Facebook post announcing the suspended campaign, Davenport was critical of media reports of his encounter with Mansfield police when he was found sleeping in his vehicle on Sunday just before 5 a.m. in a no-parking zone. He was not cited and was released with a warning.
"I will remain on the ballot as I am the duly elected candidate (having won the May primary). For the first time in decades, the people of the 4th Ward have options in a general election and I will not take that away from them," Davenport told Richland Source.
"I still believe I am the most qualified candidate, however in an effort to give the people of the 4th Ward time to process all that has happened and make an informed decision, I have decided to halt all active campaign activities," he said.
"This came at a time when a family issue forced me out of town and I will remain away until the people have made their decision," Davenport said.
The decision by Collins and Strouth to enter the race came after Davenport was ticketed by Mansfield police after a highly-publicized traffic stop on Aug. 15 for driving with a suspended license and an improper right turn.
During the incident, the officers pulled their guns, though never raised them, when they mistook a silver pen in the console of Davenport's vehicle for the slide of a handgun. The incident led to two public meetings on how to improve police-community relations.
Davenport later pleaded guilty to driving without an operator's license, amended from the original charge of driving with a suspended license, according to Mansfield Municipal Court records. The improper turn charge was dropped.
Davenport -- a political newcomer who defeated incumbent Walden "Butch" Jefferson in the May primary -- had said he welcomed the opposition in the general election to ensure ward residents have the chance to make their voices heard.
He also said he will do what's necessary for the people he would represent.
"I am going to do what's necessary, regardless of what it means to me personally, regardless to what it means to anyone other than the people I am trying to help," Davenport said during a recent Richland County Democratic Party luncheon.
"If this was a job interview, hands down, I am the clear candidate who can move forward. Not because I care more ... the issue is it's time for us to have a councilman who is prepared for the job, who can step in day one and sit with a finance director and fully understand what she is saying ... who can sit with our law director and fully understand what is being said," Davenport said.
It's the first time either Collins or Strouth has run for elected office.
Their names will not appear on the ballot, according to Paulette Hankins, the local board of elections director.
Voters using electronic voting machines will see the word "Write-In" on the line under Davenport's name.
The voter will hit the box (rectangle) beside the word "Write-in," which would bring up a keyboard on the screen they would use to type in the name of the person for whom they would like to vote. Those using a paper ballot would need to write-in the candidates' names.
Collins, who said she is a full-time caregiver for her mother now after working in the manufacturing and service industries, said 4th Ward residents need a council representative who will be active in all parts of the ward on the city's north side.
"Ward 4 deserves a councilperson who will be connected and willing to work on the issues that are important to their constituents. (The 4th Ward) also deserves a councilperson who has honesty and integrity about themselves ... a councilperson who is about us, instead of me," Collins said.
Strouth, a station manager and EMT for Mansfield Ambulance, echoed similar thoughts.
"I want to represent the people of the 4th Ward with hard-working integrity and to work with city council to improve economic growth in the 4th Ward and across the city," Strouth said.
Davenport said during the primary campaign he grew up in the 4th Ward and moved to New York City, earning college degrees in business administration and public affairs. He has said he worked for the Brennan Center for Justice, the Vera Institute of Justice and the Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services.
Davenport said he worked as a policy analyst on right-to-vote initiatives and criminal justice reform measures. He returned to Mansfield in the summer of 2018 and works for T-Mobile as a sales analyst.
Collins, who graduated from Mansfield Senior High School, said she has been active in community events, including spearheading this past summer's "Movies in the Parks."
"I would continue to be active in the community. I will also be continuing 'Movies in the Parks,' which I organize along with City of Mansfield Parks and Recreation. I also participate in the Mansfield Lions Club and help or attend other events during the year," she said.
Collins said her primary campaign issue is improving city services, including trash clean-up, safe/clean roads, snow removal and street signs/lines.
"Firstly, I would like to look at our asset management and see what, if anything, we can possibly do to improve how we plow and maintain our city with our snow plowing. However, budget will be the largest determining factor when it comes to just how much can be done in any scenario," Collins said.
She said she would be a "visible" council member and would like to see council meetings live-streamed on the internet.
"(People) want to be talked to and have calls returned. They want explanations and to be kept informed. They want a councilperson who is connected and willing to work until they get the job done," Collins said.
Collins said she can relate to 4th Ward residents.
"I have been feeling exactly what many people here have been feeling. The loss of jobs. The terrible blight. The drug epidemic. The lack of affordable quality housing. Roads that need repaired. I relate to all of that and it's time that we get to work on these issues. I didn't just come back to town or just step out of my house. I've been here actually participating in my community and trying to make it better," Collins said.
"I hear about inclusion a lot. Many facets of our community feel overlooked and left out for many different reasons. It would be my intent to include everyone in the 4th Ward in the conversation about decisions that affect all of us as residents. Everyone has a seat at the table," she said.
Strouth, who graduated from Mansfield Senior High School, said his key campaign issues are safety, trash removal and snow removal.
He said he wants to reestablish neighborhood watch meetings in the 4th Ward, work as a team to investigate options for standardizing trash removal services and work with others on council to improve the snow removal plan in residential areas.
"I am a life-long resident of Mansfield and have lived specifically in the 4th Ward for more than 40 years. It's where I established a residence, raised my family and provided assistance to my neighbors," pointing out that Davenport only recently moved back into the city.
"I have always had the utmost respect for our Safety Services employees. My opponent has demonstrated a bias toward those who serve and protect," Strouth said.
A registered Republican, Strouth described himself as a conservative when he filed write-in paperwork in August. Speaking at a Republican candidates' event in September, Strouth said he believes the 4th Ward, has "been forgotten" and would like to return its voice to council.
The elected position pays $7,536 annually.
(Tuesday: Mansfield City Council president candidates offer distinct choices.)