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Killeen council candidates must prepare for seats

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The races for four Killeen City Council district seats officially have begun, and the field is packed with candidates from a variety of backgrounds.

That wealth of experience is important — the next City Council will have plenty of work cut out for it when the May 6 election votes are canvassed and the council members are sworn into office.

The candidates by seat and stated profession are:

DISTRICT 1

Incumbent Councilwoman Shirley Fleming

Kenny Wells, laundry owner

Holly Teel, dog trainer and handler

DISTRICT 2

Debbie Nash-King, graduate student

Larry Smith, contractor

DISTRICT 3

Incumbent Councilman Jim Kilpatrick

Patsy Bracey, retired registered nurse

Vantonio Fraley, VL Coaching Unlimited founder and coach

Hal Butchart, retired military

DISTRICT 4

Incumbent Mayor Pro Tem Brockley Moore

Steve Harris, teacher and coach

Ralph Cossey Jr., software engineer

Stanley Abrahams, corrections officer

NEW FACES

The list of candidates includes eight who have not served previously on the council and will have to catch up on a number of pressing city issues, including a pending forensic audit, continuing turmoil in the city’s financial situation, a rising violent crime rate, crumbling infrastructure and a lack of high-paying jobs.

The current City Council recently hired City Manager Ron Olson and said the fiscal year 2018 budget is balanced, but Olson said Feb. 10 he and the council will be tasked with “putting out the embers” of a smoldering financial crisis.

The long sought forensic audit spurred on by resident demand last year went off the rails after the City Council issued a timorous list of targets for outside auditing firms to include, leading to a process that has dragged on at a lethargic pace and that might not address residents’ concerns.

The council also struggled to work together on key issues, with council members — sometimes unprofessionally — disrupting each another on key decisions and failing to reach agreements on ideological grounds.

Olson previously withdrew his name from the city manager search after coming face to face last year with a council that could not reach a strong consensus to pick him.

With these issues and more on the table, the new council will have to step up immediately and keep the fire burning on residents’ concerns and the civic involvement playing a part in making council races competitive this spring.

RESIDENTS' NEEDS

Knowledgeable residents have their own wish lists for what makes an ideal council member and what issues the council members should tackle.

The Daily Herald reached out this week to the KDH Reader Panel, an in-the-know and informed volunteer group whose mission is to be independent thinkers willing to share opinions and ideas. (Go to bit.ly/kdhreaders for details.)

Panelists were asked which issues they wanted the new council to tackle first and what qualities and experience they are looking for in council members.

“City Council members are similar to the members of the board of directors of a large corporation,” said former Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin, a District 1 constituent. “They should have the education, experience and expertise to make policy decisions, approve budgets and provide guidance for staff to do long-range planning and budgeting.”

James “Jack” Ralston, a District 4 voter, echoed the need for financial expertise.

“The citizens of Killeen need forward-thinking council members who can balance a checkbook and are not (beholden) to special interests and big unions,” Ralston said. “We need individuals who understand that when you borrow money (bonds) to pay for everyday city maintenance functions such as streets, sewers, you are not being a good steward of the citizen’s money.”

Bob Blair, a District 1 voter, said greater cooperation among council members is necessary to get business done.

“The District 1 representative should be able to set aside ego and dogma to find compromises that benefit the city and the district,” Blair said.

Cooperation was an issue recently after four council members denounced the actions of Councilman Jonathan Okray during a Feb. 7 discussion on a potential forensic audit of city finances. Okray loudly interrupted fellow council member Kilpatrick and interrogated recently hired city auditor Matthew Grady after issues Okray wanted addressed in the audit were not included in a proposed contract with accounting firm McConnell & Jones.

Volunteers on the reader panel outlined districtwide and citywide concerns of note.

“In District 1, the main concern is crime, but transportation is also an issue for many,” Blair said. “Past councils were lax in studying and understanding the packets prepared for them by city staff, resulting in inefficient meetings and uninformed decisions. I want my council person prepped and up to speed for every meeting.”

Ralston said water rights should be a major concern for the council.

“The problem lies in the bald fact that if there is no water, there is no public safety,” Ralston said. “In fact there will be no city to be safe in!”

The city has done an adequate job of supplying water through its contract with Bell County Water Control and Improvement District No. 1, Ralston said, but was still losing out to Georgetown, which secured the water rights of the Chisholm Trail Special Utility District in December 2015.

“We often hear that the future growth of Killeen is going to occur in the much ballyhooed southern corridor,” Ralston said. “Anyone who thinks Georgetown politicians are going to prioritize water for southern Bell citizens — who cannot vote for them — over their own interests are living in a dream world.”

IMPORTANT DATES

The candidates will have 12 weeks to make their case to residents. Big dates to watch for:

The candidates must submit campaign finance reports to Bell County on April 6 and April 28. These reports, which the Daily Herald will track and publish, allow residents to see who is donating money to council members in their districts.

The first day of early voting is April 24. Early voting ends May 2.

Residents must register to vote with the Texas secretary of state’s office before May 6.

Residents vote for the candidates who represent the district in which the residents live.

For more information on which district you live in and where to vote, go to www.killeentexas.gov/election or call City Hall at 254-501-7600.

For continuing coverage of the Killeen election, visit www.kdhnews.com/centerforpolitics.

kyleb@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

(5) comments

UT Fan

Seriously? You think Larry Smith is a good candidate? Absolutely...NO WAY! He is a hot-head and will be a GIANT detriment to our council and to the city.

Alvin
Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.
@Thallus: In response to your inquiry, I do seem to recall a rather large settlement package regarding this new city manager. Don't quote me on this, but if you want to back track the newspaper and what was written about his salary, his subsistence, and his 'failure to perform', I'm sure you will find just what the council has given him.
One of the few who voted.

Thallus

@Alvin - My personal thought is this regarding our new city manager. Unless there is some kind of secret clause that we do not know about that guarantees him job security and, or a great severance packet, if he does well I would assume the council would keep him. If he does not do well, I would think the council would not renew his contract. Of course, this is all depending upon the overall makeup of the council.

Alvin
Alvin

This is the personal opinion of this writer.
@Citizen360: I agree with this. But in all of this discussion, you don't mention 'our new city manager'. It remains to be seen what direction he can/will have on the future of Killeen, not necessarily the city councilmen/woman.
Keep up the good work Kyle Blankenship.
One of the few who voted.

Citizen360

Moore needs to go! Kilpatrick can go too. And these has-beens like Wells and Cossey should stay home. District 1, Fleming needs to stay for sure. District 2, say NO to Nash King. District 3, Butchart NO, Kilpatrick NO. District 4, Moore NO. Vote for Harris.

If Wells, Kilpatrick, Nash King and Moore get elected they will take the City back 20+ years. They will cater to the good old boys and let them have their way with development. And Killeen will continue to lack true economic development, housing diversity, better paying jobs or anything nice.

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