The two finalists in the New Bedford Ward 3 City Council special election met Wednesday on WBSM's SouthCoast Tonight for their final debate before the February 28 election.

The debate was moderated by SouthCoast Tonight hosts Chris McCarthy and Marcus Ferro, as well as New Bedford Light reporter Jack Spillane.

The candidates, Carmen Amaral and Shawn Oliver, are competing for the city council seat recently vacated by Councilor Hugh Dunn. Dunn resigned in December to focus on his career as an attorney in Boston.

Marcus Ferro/Townsquare Media
Marcus Ferro/Townsquare Media

Amaral currently works as academic coordinator at Old Colony Regional Voc-Tech High School, and and was a classroom teacher for 18 years. She also volunteers on the boards of several local community organizations

Along with her professional experience, Amaral has shared her personal story on the campaign trail to demonstrate her familiarity with the struggle of people who have to navigate complex systems of government to get what they need.

She immigrated to New Bedford from the Azores as a child with her brother, mother and father. Amaral said she and her brother learned English at a young age and were tasked with many of the household responsibilities such as paying bills, and coordinating her mother's healthcare from the time she was diagnosed with cancer until her passing.

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Amaral said she is ready to use the skills she has developed to represent her neighbors in Ward 3.

"Things like budget management, working with diverse community stakeholders, navigating bureaucracies, advocating on behalf of others," she said during the debate. "That's public service. That's an understanding of the community, and those are the skills that you need in a city councilor."

Marcus Ferro/Townsquare Media
Marcus Ferro/Townsquare Media

Oliver is a corrections officer at MCI-Cedar Junction, the maximum security state prison in Walpole. Prior to that, Oliver worked as a salesman and manager. He also currently works in New Bedford as a constable, serving judicial documents to parties involved in matters before the court.

Having grown up in New Bedford and seeing his father run for city council in Ward 6 when he was a child, Oliver has said he has always felt a desire to give back to his community.

Oliver is a resident of a neighborhood off of Hathaway Road, near the city golf course that is going to be developed into a business park, and said he and his neighbors have concerns.

Oliver has had success thus far running as an everyman of Ward 3. He has often said that the city council is out of step with the wants and needs of their constituents and it is time to elect a "typical resident" to the council to give them a voice.

"For years, I've felt the same frustration that many of you have had," Oliver said at the debate. "I've gone unanswered and I've gone unheard. We need someone who is going to roll up their sleeves and do what they say and mean what they do."

The candidates discussed major redevelopment projects in Ward 3, the staffing shortage at the New Bedford Police Department, the debate over GNB Voc-Tech's admissions policy, and other relevant city issues.

Listen to the full Ward 3 City Council debate on SouthCoast Tonight:

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