Experience trumped all else when the city commission picked three finalists to fill the seat vacated by newly elected State Rep. Dennis Murray Jr.
Commissioners narrowed the field to Paul Watson, Pervis Brown and Richard Koonce after interviewing 11 applicants Wednesday evening at city hall.
Nearly all the commissioners pointed out that Watson, Brown and Koonce had run for public office previously, and that factored into theirdecision.
"I think to run repeatedly shows a real desire to help the city," commission president Craig Stahl said. "It can be embarrassing to lose an election, so I think that shows passion to want to run again and again."
But on a night filled with sincere pleas and a handful of bizarre moments, Dannie Edmon, who had the most experience, appeared to be the odd man out.
While some candidates didn't know the difference between the Paper District and Marina District, or between legislators and administrators, or didn't even understand the word "sustainability," Edmon, a former city commissioner, answered questions with authority and specifics, audience members said.
"If you build a 300-mile radius around the city of Sandusky, you capture 15 percent of the population," he said when asked how to enhance business in the city. "Yet we don't have a single distribution (center) in the city. That's something we should look into. With our proximity to water, rail and trucking, it would be ideal for our city."
Edmond also noted he and commissioner Dave Waddington were the first to discuss alternative-energy solutions for Sandusky, and were the first commissioners, along with Dan Kaman, to host Saturday morning coffee hours to be accessible to residents.
Waddington said he was "disappointed" Edmon wasn't selected. "He was the best prepared of the candidates. The best read," Waddington said.
The commission asked every candidate the same eight questions and tried to limit the interviews to 10 minutes apiece. After the interviews, the commissioners each filled out secret ballots with three names on them.
In their interviews, Watson, Brown and Koonce all highlighted their resumes. Koonce, who teaches journalism and communications at Walsh University, stressed his communication skills and said he has spent his entire career fighting for regular people.
Commissioners cited Koonce's intelligence and eloquence as key factors in their decision.
"I thought I represented myself well," he said after learning he made the cut. "I just spoke from the heart. I tried to convey I'm running for the regular residents of the city, because that's my background. I was born and raised in Sandusky. I'm regular folk. I may have a Ph.D., but I have regular-folk sensibility."
Brown said he thought thecommission was executing the will of the people.
"I ran last time and just barely lost," he said, referring to the 2005 election when nine candidates ran for three vacancies, and he finished fourth. He missed being elected by just 248 votes.
Paul Watson said he thought his persistence -- running several times for public office -- showed his commitment to the city. Commissioners confirmed he was correct.