Crime and city finances were the topics of the night as the Killeen Daily Herald kicked off the May 5 election political season Monday with the Killeen Candidate Forum.
In front of more than 250 residents, the 12 candidates vying for three council seats highlighted their reasons for running and the issues that matter to Killeen residents — particularly crime prevention and public safety.
The council candidates are:
- Incumbent Gregory Johnson, 35, a businessman.
- Incumbent Juan Rivera, 67, a businessman.
- Patsy Bracey, 72, a registered nurse.
- Mellisa Brown, 36, a caretaker and student.
- Bruce Bynum, 50, a family consultant and substitute teacher.
- Den’Mica Eugene, 42, a salon manager.
- Leo Gukeisen, 52, a security company manager.
- Tolly James Jr., 49, an HVAC contractor.
- Hugh “Butch” Menking, 57, a financial adviser and former Killeen school board member.
- Brockley Moore, 50, a former councilman.
- Placidio J. Rivera, 53, a retiree.
- Kenny Wells, 65, owner of Wells Laundry and a former councilman.
The candidates discussed their stances on staying apprised of the city’s financial matters, creating sustainable and high-paying jobs, and crime, with all the candidates supporting increased appropriations and putting more cops on the street.
The candidates were split over the role of managing and monitoring the city’s finances, with some — like Moore and Rivera — saying the council’s responsibility was not to “micromanage” the city’s funds.
Almost all the candidates heaped praise on City Manager Ron Olson, a 37-year veteran of city administration, but argued for more council oversight of the city’s finances down to line-item appropriations.
In 2016, former interim City Manager Ann Farris presented the council with an $8 million projected shortfall in the 2017 budget, surprising the public and members of the council.
After a cutting spree, the council balanced the budget and then passed a balanced budget in September 2017.
On job creation, the candidates were also split on the city’s reliance on Fort Hood, with candidates such as Brown, James and Johnson calling for a close look at the city’s funding of the Killeen Economic Development Corporation and Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce.
The city sends roughly $800,000 each year to those two organizations, which are tasked with attracting and retaining businesses in the city.
Other candidates such as Wells and Placidio Rivera highlighted the city’s “mom-and-pop” business environment, saying the city needed to do more to invest in small-business ownership.
The five candidates for mayor followed the council candidates Monday, highlighting the office’s roles as the “face” of the city and the presiding officer of the council.
The candidates also discussed the mayor’s role in being informed on the city’s financial state and fostering consensus among council members.
The candidates include:
- Mayor Jose Segarra, 53, a Realtor;
- Hal Butchart, 70, local businessman and retired Army lieutenant colonel
- Arturo Cortez, 65, a retiree
- Jimmy Parker, 48, a local automotive technician
- Holly Teel, 47, a dog trainer
The candidates’ largest divide was on the council’s recent contested 4-3 votes at meetings and some heated debates among council members — sometimes breaching protocol.
Segarra, who has overseen the council during its recent hot spell, said there is no issue with a 4-3 vote and that it represented a strong spirit of debate.
The other candidates said a clear divide between two camps on the council and a run of bickering at meetings presented the city in a bad light and a stronger consensus should be sought on measures of importance to the city.
For more articles and information leading up to the May 5 election, go to kdhnews.com/centerforpolitics.
Early voting for the May 5 election opens April 23 and ends May 1.