Lehning enjoys role as forum moderator

Published 10:10 pm Thursday, August 21, 2008

Speaking with John Lehning, one gets a sense that his tie to the community got stronger after Wednesday’s town hall forum.

If the name sounds familiar, Lehning served as the moderator at the forum, and although he took the job in lieu of Alabama Southern Community College director Angela Manse, who was out of town, he said he enjoyed the role he played.

“It was quite exhilarating,” said Lehning, an instructor at ASCC. “I really enjoyed it because I got a chance to see people in the community ask the mayoral candidates as well as some of the other City Council candidates about their viewpoints. I thought it was great, seeing them have a dialogue back and forth.

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“I hope I can see more and more of it. It would make the political arena more transparent. I think every candidate used that, and several people made the point that the public should be more aware, and by having these forums, they create an atmosphere for both the politician, if you will, and the people of the community of better understanding o they both trust each other.”

In the original format, Lehning was to read questions written by audience members to the candidates, but the format was change prior to the question-and-answer period to allow audience members to stand and ask their questions directly.

“We had a more rigid format,” Lehning said, “but as we changed it, people started to open up and felt freer to express their opinions, so that was a good thing.”

The experience was certainly not lost on Lehning, who said that he would like to do something else similar in the future.

“You know what? It was a lot of fun to get first-hand experience from both sides of the table,” he said. “To see how the community and how councilmen and political officers see each other.”

Was it exciting enough to run for office someday?

“I would like to do that to see if I could make a difference,” Lehning said, “or to better appreciate when I don’t see things and I say, ‘Wow! I wish we could do that better.’ It would cause me to be more involved. It’s easy to say, ‘This isn’t right,’ but the hardest thing is: ‘OK, let’s correct it. Let’s make it better.’”

Lehning will teach microeconomics at ASCC this fall, along with three computer classes, a business education class and an accounting class. He earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Akron, and earned a master’s degree in business administration from Baldwin-Wallace College and master’s degrees in economics and finance from Walsh College. He is pursuing a Ph.D. in organizational management and leadership through an online program through Capella University in Minnesota. His wife, Dianne, also attended the town hall forum.

He hopes his experience with the forum would be shared by other members of the community.

“I think, in general, the more that you have forums, I would hope that you would get more and more interest,” he said, “and that more forums are also advertised. There was a situation where people said, ‘Gee, I didn’t know about it until 4:30.’ It was in the paper, but if you’re working from 8 to 5, how would you know about it? So, I think the more and more we have forums in general, the more information is shared, the more it engages both sides of the table.”