Mayoral candidates talk about handling HIV epidemic in Austin, I - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Mayoral candidates talk about handling HIV epidemic in Austin, Indiana

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AUSTIN, Ind. (WDRB) -- Political candidates are known for talking about jobs and the economy, but how would they handle a health crisis?

WDRB visited Austin, Indiana on Sunday and caught up with three candidates hoping to become the city's next mayor.

"My heart's here, I want to see this community thrive," said three-term school board member Linda Richie Spicer, who's lived in Austin for 40 years.

"It's a nice town, it's full of nice people," said Ron Atkins, who's been in Austin since the 1980s. The retired teacher now works at a hardware store.

"We have problems that need to be dealt with throughout the city," said Dillo Bush, who moved to the city 17 years ago and spent the last 12 as Clerk Treasurer.

All three Democrats are running to lead the city of Austin, a community of about 5,000 people. Whomever is elected mayor will have to deal with a health crisis.

An HIV epidemic broke out this year and has already made national headlines. More than 140 confirmed cases have already been reported in Scott and Jackson Counties.

"The drug use has gone on too long, the poverty has gone on too long ... We should've seen this coming," Atkins said.

"Ninety percent of the crime probably is drug-related in this community, so it's cause and effect," Bush said.

"The drug problem is near and dear to my heart - I just buried my niece in February," Spicer said.

All three candidates say enforcing laws and adding more police officers will help shut down drug houses and keep prostitutes off the streets. When it comes to the HIV issue, they want the city to take a more proactive approach.

"The medical professionals are the ones that need to handle this,” Bush said. “Our role would be to communicate and do whatever's possible to aid them.”

"I'm not certain that the city is financially equipped to do something itself,” Atkins said. “But we can try to help support the churches and other organizations that are trying to help the people."

"I believe that the state and the federal (are) going to come down and help us on resources that we don't have,” Spicer said. “We'll finally get some resources that we need to get these people some help."

Current Mayor Douglas Campbell, who is already dealing with the HIV crisis, will not seek re-election. He says he's served two terms and has decided to retire and enjoy life with his family.

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