By Justin Cox
Killeen Daily Herald
The candidates for the upcoming Killeen City Council election spoke publicly for the first time Monday, introducing themselves at the Exchange Club’s weekly meeting.
Eleven of 12 were present, many introducing themselves as first-time candidates for public office. They had three minutes each — and for the most part, they abided by the time commitment.
District 2 is a matchup between one former councilman, Dick Young, and the current councilman, Juan Rivera, who is attempting to keep his seat.
Young spoke first, reminding those in attendance of his time on the council and hinting at some of what he perceives as weaknesses in the current council.
“During my six years, I feel like I was a very conservative voice,” Young said. “I feel like the citizens and their voices are not being heard. I feel like accountability is paramount. I don’t believe we have a clear plan as to what we’re going to do in the city … If you do cast your voice for me, your voice will be heard.”
Rivera noted his military history, then countered Young by saying that his time on the council has led to positives in the city.
“Voices are being heard in the city of Killeen,” Rivera said. “We have done a good job getting public safety. More recruits are going to the (police) academy from both sides of the house. If you have followed my track record, I believe in public safety … The quality of life is getting much better.”
District 3 features the lone open seat, as current Mayor Pro Tem Fred Latham is term-limited.
Candidates include former school board candidate JoAnn Purser, former council candidate Bernardine Martin, former mayoral candidate Harold Butchart and first-time candidate John Doranski.
Purser said her longtime status in the community would serve her well on the council, as would her business acumen.
“Since 1973, I have been growing up in this community. I feel it is my turn to serve you. Our ‘Doughnut Hole’ needs to be represented,” Purser said, referencing the recently annexed area in south Killeen. “I have to deal with employee management. I’m good with numbers, I’m good with facts and figures. Those are our taxpayer dollars, and I can help spend those in a fiscally responsible manner.”
Martin, meanwhile, focused her message toward meaningful benefits to citizens rather than getting caught up in the government minutia.
“We listen to all the buzz words — strategic planning, investments … What about human services?” she asked. “We forget we need to better serve and protect the poeple. I’m going to do my part in serving the people, and all the buzz words. We have to seek out more sources to increase revenue. We have to expand domestic violence programs.”
Butchart focused on his lack of agenda and hit the decisions of the council hard, criticizing several decisions and what he saw as a lack of proper policy development.
“I got my name around, I had a message. The message is ‘make our city responsive’,” he said. “I don’t have agendas. I don’t have (special) interests … You don’t move a police station eight miles from the city center … What I want is the citizens to be heard. Has anything ever been done to synchronize our lights?
“With me, you know what you get.”
First-time candidate John Doranski didn’t criticize as much as offer a change in the way of doing things.
“My acronym for this race is TIP,” Doranski said. “Transparency in government … Interaction … and Prosperity; prosperity not only for the people, but what I can do for the citizens and know what the effect might have down the road before it is voted on.”
District 1 features current councilman Kenny Wells and former Texas House District 54 candidate Ed Lindsay.
Wells spoke of his lengthy time in the city as well as his experience in the state and national coin laundry owners’ associations. He also noted his wealth of contacts after living and working in the area all his life.
“I’ve developed a relationship with leaders on the state and local levels. We have been instrumental in doing more for the citizens,” Wells said. “I want to help ensure we have the infrastructure to grow. If you want to get a job done, ask a busy person, and I’m a busy person.”
Lindsay focused on using the principles he learned in his youth and translating those to success in life.
“My father taught me the dignity of work, my mother taught me integrity, my brother taught me never to give up,” Lindsay said. “I’m running so the people of Killeen can have better streets. No one should be afraid of walking on the streets after dark.”
District 4 features another four-person race with a variety of candidates — first-time candidate Ralph Cossey, former Mayor Pro Tem Earnest Wilkerson, current councilman Otis Evans and Keith Gavin, who is out of town and was absent Monday.
Cossey, who sports a gray, dreadlock ponytail, referenced his distinctive look in his opening.
“I don’t particularly care about what people think I look. I care about the future of the city,” Cossey said. “We need to lead the way in entertainment, lead the way in arts … We need to stimulate people to get here. Let’s fix the streets, let’s fix the potholes. I have no ties to the city, I am moldable, shapable.”
Wilkerson, a practiced orator and longtime councilman, spoke of the census as a means for getting the city an advantage that it has not had in the past.
“In order to be a great city, we have to make sure we’re keeping the infrastructure,” he said. “Now is the time to make Killeen the great place. The 2010 census is coming. We didn’t do so well. It took almost a year before we had the right amount of numbers for the citizens of Killeen. It’s going to affect us on our roadway project … Vote for experience, I’ve been there, I’ve done this.”
Evans, now in his second stint on the council, emphasized increasing jobs and transportation links.
“There is one key ingredient that I didn’t see — it took about two and a half years to find a job — soldiers don’t stay here. Lack of jobs. The missing link is how do we get industry here to do that. We have to … have a major transporation link from I-35. We don’t have a railhead. If we can fix the transportation network and foster businesses, we can get jobs here.”
Contact Justin Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7568.