East Palestine mayoral candidates discuss their vision for the village following national attention
Residents in Village of East Palestine will be voting in a landmark mayoral election this year following February's train derailment which gave the village national attention.
In addition to incumbent mayoral Trent Conaway, there is a new candidate on the ballot this time around in the form of Misti Allison.
21 News spoke with both candidates and got to the bottom of where they stand on the response to the derailment and their visions for the village following the disaster.
When it comes to the cleanup efforts of the derailment, Mayor Conway tells us he is "very satisfied" with the cleanup effort so far stating the only thing he didn't like was when the train tracks were put down over the contaminated soil, which he says was resolved quickly.
"I think all the contaminated soil was out as of [October 28] and we're just doing some final testing, making sure everything's cleaned up and then we'll do some soil samples and we'll make sure we have all the contaminants out," Conaway said.
However, when it comes to residents relocating and experiencing health issues, Conaway says he is "very concerned."
"We've been told by numerous agencies that there's nothing to worry about, but yet some people still could have some issues. We're working with the CDC, the Ohio Department of Health and our county health department trying to get answers for those people," Conaway said.
Allison tells 21 News the answer to the question of whether or not the village is back to normal depends on who you ask with some people still relocated, some with health conditions and others who are just going about their days as usual and trying to move on.
"I would say for most people, East Palestine is back to normal, but for a lot of people it is a new normal," Allison said.
Looking ahead, both candidates agree that communication amongst local leadership and government agencies needs to be more streamlined, with Allison in particular listing this as one of her top goals if she's elected as Mayor.
Mayor Conaway says while the village tried to be as transparent as possible throughout the situation, they're looking to improve that transparency for any future incident like this.
"We've tried to be as transparent as possible. In the beginning, [but] being a small village we weren't quite prepared for everything that happened so we're working through those bugs currently and working with a PR firm and working with an economic development firm to streamline the information coming out," Conaway said.
In addition to more transparency and streamlined communication, Allison says her other top goals consist of uniting residents of the village and reminding folks that East Palestine is much more than just the site of a train derailment.
"A huge priority for me to partner with [a new village manager] and to figure out a game plan and how the mayor and the village manager can work together in tandem for the success of the community and then also collaborating and figuring out what that short-term and long-term plan is with Village Council and also with residents too," Allison said.
Meanwhile, Conaway says his top goals is to continue working on the communication issue as well as continue to hold Norfolk Southern accountable for the cleanup of the village, work on the rebuilding of the village park, work with the fire department on the training center and calming the fears of residents who are still uncertain about the aftermath of the derailment.
Tune in to 21 News Tuesday night to see the results of the East Palestine mayoral race and all other races across the Mahoning Valley.