At The Village Political Candidate Forum, the eight residents running for three seats on the Killeen City Council tackled issues of crime, city spending and first-year goals Monday night.
“It’s important to let the citizens have an opportunity to hear the candidates and understand where they stand on issues in our community,” said JoAnn Foster, the organization’s director of civic engagement.
So far, the candidates’ platforms have been presented through forums hosted by the Killeen Daily Herald and LULAC Herencia Council 4297, but Monday’s forum gave residents another chance to hear the council candidates.
About 70 people attended, including District 1 councilmember Shirley Fleming, who is unopposed in her re-election bid.
Tavares Bethel, executive director of The Village United, officiated the forum.
Candidates for the City Council seats are: Will Baumgartner, Debbie Nash-King and Mellisa Brown competing for District 2. Jim Kilpatrick, Tolly James Jr. and Sandra Blankenship are running for District 3. Brockley King Moore and Steve Harris are both on the ballot for District 4.
The forum opened with the question of what is the first task each candidate will take on if elected.
Brown said she will have opportunities for residents to speak directly with council on issues that pertain to them.
Her opponent, Baumgartner, said he will tackle dilapidated roads in North Killeen.
Nash-King, who is running for re-election in District 2, said her main focus was on youth and to “ensure that they have a place after school, a safe place to socialize.”
For District 3, James said his first goal is “to turn on the light on how our government works.”
“The word transparency has been used a lot and they put the budget on the website and don’t actually come back and tell them about the budget,” he said.
Blankenship, a retired nurse, said it will be opening the Killeen Community Center the first Monday after she is elected and making “sure our water is secured.”
Mayor Pro Tem Kilpatrick, who is also running for re-election in District 3, said his first year goal is to establish a stable economy.
Moore, a former council member now competing for the District 4 seat, said “this go around it will be back to safety and retention.”
“Crime is flaky right now. I support first-responders, not just fire, but also police. It’s not just ‘I got you.’ It is understanding, and assistance,” he said.
Harris, running for re-election for the District 4 seat, said it will be marketing the southern corridor and to push for more economic development.
All agreed the city needs a balanced budget.
Many of audience members left the forum stating that it was informative.
Tamara Freeman, of Killeen, said there should be more forums like Monday’s, as it was engaging.
“We need more forums like tonight so we can get more information about our city, get more in-depth answers,” she said.
Local business owner Louie Minor said he left the forum knowing who he is going to vote for as he called the gathering “very exciting.”
Village United member George Yeanue thought the forum was great and is glad the organization held such a meeting.
Early voting is open April 22 through April 30, before election day for both races May 4.