Residents had the opportunity to get to know all four of the mayoral candidates at a Chamber of Commerce forum on Monday at the Copperas Cove ISD administration building’s board room.

The main issue voters wanted candidates Joey Acfalle, Bradi Diaz, Ron Nelson and Brandi Weiland to address was their plans for economic growth without losing its small town identity.

Both Nelson and Weiland agreed that economic growth should focus on a skilled-labor workforce.

“It’s not just about bringing jobs to the town,” said Nelson, “but middle-class wages.”

Weiland noted her diverse educational background before adding, “College isn’t for everybody. College does not equal success.

“Trades — we need to work on skilled manual labor.”

Attendees specifically asked about bringing jobs that do not rely on Fort Hood to the area, but Acfalle and Diaz pointed out the asset of having the nation’s largest military installation just outside the city limits.

“I don’t think we should depend on Fort Hood,” Diaz said. “But we should work with Fort Hood.

“We shouldn’t look at it like a negative; they provide a skill set to our community.”

After 21 years of military service and being assigned to Fort Hood before deciding to root his family in Copperas Cove after he retired in 2013, Acfalle doesn’t view Fort Hood as a negative either.

“We need to use our assets and work with our sister communities,” Acfalle said.

Per the city charter, a special election must be held within 120 days following the death of the mayor. Mayor Frank Seffrood died of cancer Dec. 28 at the age of 79. Seffrood was elected Dec. 11 to his second term as mayor, defeating Azeita Taylor in a runoff election for the post.

Various community members gathered and were given the chance to talk one-on-one with the candidates during a half-hour meet and greet session.

Weiland, who has been noticeably absent at previous forums, explained her absence was due to family obligations.

Among the crowd of more than 50 residents sat members of the Copperas Cove City Council, as well as Interim City Manager Ryan D. Haverlah and CCISD Superintendent Joe Burns.

The forum started with two-minute opening statements from each candidate followed by four questions submitted by Chamber of Commerce members.

Each candidate was given two minutes to answer each question and topics ranged from what each candidate would like the city to look like in the next three years to their favorite place to spend their free time in Cove, as well as why they chose to run for office.

Despite referring to himself as “the new guy,” Nelson has lived in Copperas Cove for four years and recently was compelled to throw his hat in the ring for mayor.

“I see a great need in this community,” Nelson said on why he decided to run. “It doesn’t feel like much of a community to me so my big thing was to get out there and talk to people.

“I’ve learned more about Cove in the last two months than I have in my four years here.”

A common volunteer around town, Acfalle filed to run for mayor in order to continue to serve his community in a new way.

“What else can I do to help the community?” he asked the audience. “I want to seek what’s best for the community and I’m willing to go around to other counties, voicing what Copperas Cove is all about.

“I want to bring some jobs to our community and help it grow.”

Acfalle and Nelson made similar comments at a Saturday forum they attended at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8577.

Weiland grew up in Copperas Cove and wants to hear from the citizens what changes and improvements are needed.

“I’m not here to talk, I’m here to listen,” she said. “I’m not here to control things, I’m here to help.

“I don’t know what needs to be done unless you tell me.”

In her opening statement, Diaz noted her involvement within the community dating back to 1994.

“I served as mayor before,” Diaz noted, as she was elected in 2004. “We are on the cusp of great things.

“I want to be a part of making those things happen.”

At the end of the 2½-hour forum, each candidate urged citizens to head to the polls in their closing statements.

Voting information

Early voting for the special mayoral election began Wednesday and will continue through April 23.

All voting will be held at the Coryell County Justice Center at 201 S. First St.

Polling hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 10, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 22.

On April 11 and 23, polling hours will be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Polls will be open on Election Day, April 27, from 7 a.m to 7 p.m.

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