By Alicia Lacy
Killeen Daily Herald
The road to the council has been long, but after Tuesday's special election the city of Copperas Cove and its residents can rejoice at the first signs of normalcy in a while after an unprecedented recall election removed four council members.
After one candidate forum, another online forum, a candidate interview panel and seven days of early voting that saw 797 ballots cast, two days are left until the question of who will make up the new city council can be answered.
The candidates are:
Cheryl Meredith and Charlie Youngs, vying for Place 1.
Michael Zehr and Chuck Downard for Place 3.
Danny Palmer and Joseph Solomon seeking Place 4.
Konrad Kohler, Bill Stephens and David Wilson vying for Place 5.
For more than a month since the filing deadline, the nine have campaigned and addressed issues important to Cove residents.
One major issue is the Solid Waste Department's bulk waste fee. Council hopefuls unanimously expressed dissatisfaction with the newly-implemented $18 fee and its effects on the pockets of Cove residents during the first candidate's forum, Jan. 24 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8577.
Property tax rates are another major issue.
The Fort Hood Area Association of Realtors' government affairs committee asked candidates about property tax appraisal caps, tax rate increases, eminent domain and other property issues.
On Jan. 28, the FHAAR endorsed Zehr and Stephens following a candidate panel conducted on Jan. 22.
The Chamber of Commerce's online forum addressed the issues of area businesses, Fort Hood and the U.S. Highway 190 bypass.
At blog.copperascove.com, residents had the opportunity to question candidates, who unanimously agreed the U.S. 190 bypass would be beneficial to the city and critical for growth.
Cheryl L. Meredith
Meredith is the escrow officer for Land Exchange Abstract and Title in Killeen, where she has worked for 20 years.
"I want responsible growth and a more positive government for the people of Copperas Cove." Meredith said. "I just want what's best for Cove."
She has been a Cove resident since 1984 with her husband, retired 1st Sgt. Rick Meredith.
The couple has two children and eight grandchildren.
Youngs is a former council member who served from 1994 to 1997.
"I feel the citizens have lost faith in our government," Youngs said. "I'm running on a platform of integrity, ethics and honesty. We have to tell the citizens up front and be honest with them and not run behind closed doors."
Youngs has served on the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corp. board and the Coryell Central Appraisal District board and worked for the city's planning department.
He retired from the military in 1998 after 27 years. Youngs lives with his wife of 38 years, Peggy, and has one daughter.
Zehr's platform is based on moving forward.
"I could make good changes in Cove," Zehr said. He said he believes in lowering taxes.
Zehr has been a resident of Cove since 1973. He is a retired U.S. Army warrant officer. Zehr is the owner of Avalar Fort Hood and Armadillo Properties with his wife, Denise. The couple has six grown children.
He is a member of Grace United Methodist Church, 1st Calvary Association, Fort Hood Board of Realtors, Texas Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors.
Charles "Chuck" Downard
Downard retired from the U.S. Army after 22 years and worked as a city employee for 18 years before retiring.
"One of the numerous issues facing the citizens of Copperas Cove is the lost faith in our City Council, and I support 100 percent our current mayor's goal of council unity to put the citizens faith back in the Council," Downard said.
Downard also wants to reverse the recent increase of bulk trash pickup, and wants more citizen input and stronger relationships among the city, county, Copperas Cove Economic Development Corp. and the Copperas Cove Independent School District.
A Cove resident for more than 35 years with his wife, Cora, Downard is the father of five, grandfather of 20 and great-grandfather of eight.
He is a USO volunteer, and a member of the 1st Cavalry Division Association, AARP, VFW 8577 and Disabled American Veterans.
Palmer settled in Copperas Cove in 2004.
"I retired form the military in 2000 and was working and living in El Paso when I was involved in a motorcycle accident," Palmer said. After the accident and entering rehab, Palmer said his kids moved him to Copperas Cove.
"The more I got around (Cove) the more I liked it," Palmer said.
"We need to quit putting other issues above family living. People aren't going to settle and buy houses where they'll pay the highest taxes in the area," he said at the VFW forum.
"I want to be a part of the future. This is where my grandson and granddaughter are," he said.
Palmer has three kids, two who live in Cove.
Solomon ran for council in the May 10 election that resulted in a runoff election. Solomon said he's sticking to his earlier campaign, which focused on the future.
"I felt that city service and public service you become a servant. I always wanted to serve the city and this is a good opportunity. I could bring a sense of unity and work together with the council, mayor and city manager," he said.
He said he wants to work on accomplishing the city's 10 goals. Solomon is the director of the Refuge Corporation at the Christian House of Prayer, a nonprofit community service outreach, and a member of the Greater Copperas Cove Community Action Network.
He has been a resident of Cove for 28 years with his wife, Michelle. He has two children and one grandchild.
Kohler is running to help make Copperas Cove a city of family living.
"My intent is to work with the mayor, council and staff," Kohler said.
Kohler has been a resident of Cove since 1993 with his wife, Cynthia, and his two stepchildren.
He is a retired veteran, currently a defense contractor on Fort Hood, a member of AUSA and the Army Aviation Association of America.
Stephens has lived in the Copperas Cove area for 17 years with his wife, Stacy, and six children since he retired from the Army after Desert Storm.
"I now work for Army Research Laboratory as a computer scientist doing software for our combat troops," Stephens said.
He wants to give "the citizens a voice and representatives in government."
Stephens has written three books and several short stories.
Wilson and former council member, said his main concern is property tax rates.
"One thing I'm concerned about is the drastic increase in appraisal value," Wilson said. Instead of going to the taxpayers with bond issues, Wilson said the city could use property tax revenue.
"We should be using growth to fund projects," he said.
Wilson also wants to reverse the bulk trash pick-up fees.
Wilson has been a resident of Cove since 1979. He was a council member from 1982 to 1989 and 1992-1995.
Wilson has two children with his wife, Susan.
He is a small-business owner and was a teacher for 32 years.