Wirgau, Ridgeway square off

No, the boxing glove strategically located between Henry County mayoral candidates Tim Wirgau (left) and John Penn Ridgeway wasn’t needed Tuesday night. Wirgau and Ridgeway appeared at a debate at Perrylodgic Brewing Co., as they are two of the three contenders for the post in the Nov. 3 election. The third candidate, Carlton Gerrell, has been hospitalized with COVID-19.

Two of the three candidates for Henry County mayor talked about issues, challenges and their mutal love of Henry County during a Tuesday night debate livestreamed on social media.

John Penn Ridgeway and Tim Wirgau, both running as independent candidates, spent about 90 minutes covering the issues during the debate held at Perrylodgic Brewing Co., 3465 Hwy. 79 northeast of Paris.

A third candidate, Carlton Gerrell, the Republican nominee, was unable to attend because of his hospitalization on Monday night for COVID-19, according to his campaign’s social media page.

Moderators for the debate were Jonathan Lodge, the brewery’s co-owner, and his father, Arthur Lodge.

When asked the greatest challenge facing the incoming mayor, Ridgeway pointed to the ongoing challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve got to have a plan once we come out of COVID,” he said. “Whoever takes the reins is tasked with some big decisions that will affect every Henry Countian.”

Wirgau said unity was essential, pointing to times he had urged that same trait while serving as general manager of the World’s Biggest Fish Fry and president of the Paris Rotary Club.

“If we’re going to have a community that’s going to come together, we need to have a leader that’s going to lead by example rather than just talk about it.”

Both committed to open government, with Wirgau referring to his past use of weekly updates during his time as state representative, while Ridgeway advocated a greater social media presence.

Both candidates said their love for their community was behind their motivation to run for office.

“This area means so much to me,” Ridgeway said. “It’s not for personal gain. It’s for seeing the better for this county. That’s why I’m doing it. I feel up to the task, and that’s primarily what I want to do, is to make the right decisions, and see this county continue to move forward.”

Wirgau said he believed the county had grown stagnant, and projects that had stopped, not because of COVID-19, but because the area needs a cheerleader.

“It is a passion of mine to serve, to take Henry County to new heights that are not going to be finished without the biggest cheerleader and most experienced candidate sitting behind that desk as the mayor. That’s why I’m running.”

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