At the "Meet Mr. Bill" gathering in Oak Creek on Thursday night, seven people, plus part of mayoral candidate Bill Norris' family, heard Norris' vision for Oak Creek.
Before the meeting began, about 20 residents were turned away at the door, including Mayor Kathy "Cargo" Rodeman, who is running against Norris.
"I have to apologize," Norris said to a crowd gathering at the door to the South Routt Community Center. "I don't want any arguments. I don't think it's in our best interest that you're here," he said to Rodeman, who had hoped to attend the gathering. "I didn't hand-deliver a flier to you."
Norris later said he rented the Community Center room with his own money and invited people he thought might vote for him, such as people new to town and past supporters. He passed out fliers the preceding nights and posted some in town.
He also said he did not want the meeting to disintegrate into a fight or to be unproductive.
"You're running for public office, and you're cutting us off?" said Jack Romick, a resident but not a registered voter, as Norris turned him away. "I can't believe that."
Outside the building, a crowd gathered.
"I read the sign saying you're all welcome," said Town Trustee Jim Eskridge, who is running for another term. "So I came over."
But Eskridge, like the other 20 people, including trustee candidates Karen Halterman, Bill Paxton and Stephen "Spike" Beven, were not permitted to enter.
"It seems to me that a lot more of us were not invited than were," Rodeman said.
She called the situation "sad."
"I did want to hear what he had to say," she said.
Inside the room, Norris said he never intended the meeting to be open to everyone.
He scheduled the event a week ago after he learned the town was not going to have a candidates forum, but more recently, the town scheduled a forum for Saturday. Norris will not be able to attend because of CPR training.
Neither will town trustee candidate Reta McNutt, who was permitted into the "Meet Mr. Bill" meeting and listened as Norris described his ideas for making a better Oak Creek.
"Right now, I think we need a change," Norris told the small group inside.
Norris talked about grant applications that Rodeman, also the town's grant writer, had submitted recently, as well as other budget concerns, and questioned whether the town's finances lined up.
He said he supported better communication between the town and other South Routt towns, as well as county entities.
Some in attendance brought up concerns such as speeding on town roads, inaccurate electric bills and drug use among teens.
"I think we need to go back and revisit some of the good things we had going," Norris said, pointing to work that previous town boards had started.
Those who attended the gathering said they were happy to have the chance to hear Norris' ideas.
"Bill wanted it to be nice and quiet, and just an intimate thing" supporter Catherine Morrow said.
The Oak Creek election is Tuesday. Bill Norris and Cargo Rodeman are running for mayor. Residents running for the town trustee positions are incumbents Clyde Moore, Bill Paxton and Jim Eskridge; former trustees Reta McNutt and Karen Halterman; and first-timers Stephen "Spike" Beven, Kelly Lipsie and Kenton Schmidt.
The Oak Creek Candidates Forum will be at 4 p.m. Saturday at the South Routt Community Center.
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