A grand debate

Mel Olson, left, and Mike Vehle participate in a debate Thursday night at MTI. (Chris Huber/Republic)

Mel Olson and Mike Vehle are both seasoned politicians, so I expected their debate about adding a city manager to Mitchell’s city government to be a good one.

It lived up to that expectation and then some.

Olson, a city councilman, high school history teacher and former state legislator, wore an American-flag-like shirt and passionately insisted that the addition of a city manager would be an assault on democracy. As one of the panelists, I asked him if he really believes that people who want a city manager “hate democracy” (as he was quoted as saying in a Thursday story in our paper). He stuck by the comment.

Mike Vehle, a former banker and current state legislator, wore a suit and made a more dispassionate case than Mel, but even Vehle couldn’t keep the passion out of his voice when he defended himself against Olson’s anti-democracy accusation.

The debate went far beyond the democracy-hater talk, though. Each man had a lot of good arguments and explained them very clearly.

Afterward, Olson left before I had a chance to speak with him. I told Vehle that I wished the two would have engaged in a series of Lincoln-Douglas-style debates. It was that entertaining.

Whether or not this city’s voters decide to add a city manager to city government on Tuesday, we’ll be fine as long as people like Olson and Vehle continue to get involved in the business of the city.

To watch video from the debate, click here.

To read our coverage, click here.

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