‘Town-Crier’ To Host Candidates Forum Feb. 18

The Town-Crier will host a televised Royal Palm Beach candidates forum on Tuesday, Feb. 18 in the Village Meeting Hall Council Chambers. The forum, moderated by retired WPTV news anchor Jim Sackett, will get underway at 7 p.m. and last approximately two hours.

The forum will feature the four mayoral candidates — incumbent Mayor Matty Mattioli and his three challengers: businesswoman Laurel Bennett, community activist and Royal Palm Beach Planning & Zoning Commission Alternate Felicia Matula and former Councilwoman Martha Webster. All four have agreed to attend the forum.

Vice Mayor Jeff Hmara and Councilman Richard Valuntas were re-elected unopposed when filing closed Tuesday. They will not participate in the forum, which will be televised on the village’s Channel 18.

Sackett has moderated many successful forums in Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, West Palm Beach and Wellington, both before and after he retired in 2011. He believes it’s a great way to get the word out about the candidates’ various stances, not only for them, but for voters, too.

“I take the point of view that hopefully people will know that there is going to be a debate, to come out and see face-to-face who these candidates are and listen to them,” Sackett said. “It’s nice to read about what they say, but it’s valuable in the context of being there in person and hearing them.”

The forum will be divided into two 45-minute parts. In the first 45 minutes, each candidate will have two minutes for an opening statement, followed by a round-robin format of questioning, staggered so that each candidate has the opportunity to answer questions first.

Each candidate will have one minute to respond to each question, which will be asked by a panel made up of Town-Crier Executive Editor Joshua Manning, Managing Editor Ron Bukley and News Editor Lauren Miró, moderated by Sackett.

The second half will consist of Sackett asking questions selected from audience submissions, which will be screened for duplicates and worded so that each candidate can answer. Questions specifically worded to paint a particular candidate in a negative light will not be included.

At the end, each candidate will have one minute for a closing statement.

After no candidates forum was held before the 2013 election, the Royal Palm Beach Village Council solicited bids from groups willing to stage one prior to the 2014 election. In September, the council reviewed the proposals and invited the Town-Crier to stage the event.

“Our mission at the Town-Crier is to keep residents informed on important local issues, and crucial to that is making sure that our communities have informed electorates,” Manning said. “We’re proud to be able to stage this event for the Royal Palm Beach community and look forward to a lively and informative candidates forum.”

The Village Meeting Hall is located at the southeast corner of Okeechobee and Royal Palm Beach boulevards. The candidates forum is open to the public, and the entire community is welcome to attend.