HARKER HEIGHTS — Three residents are running for the Place 3 City Council seat vacated by Spencer Smith, who is seeking the position of mayor in the May 6 election.
Smith is running unopposed, as is Place 4 incumbent Councilman John Reider.
Pat Christ was the first to file for the seat vacated by Smith. Christ left the council in May 2016 after being term-limited. He served two three-year terms from 2003 to 2009 and again from 2010 until last year.
On Feb. 17, the last day to file, two political newcomers, Laurie Williamson-McElhiney and Jackeline Soriano Fountain added their names to the ballot running against Christ for the Place 3 seat on the council.
Christ has a BA in accounting and an MBA plus 23 years on active duty as a comptroller and intelligence officer in the U.S. Army.
Since retirement from the Army, Christ has been an independent contractor building commercial and residential properties in the area.
Christ has been married for 40 years to his wife, Linda, also a retired Army officer and they have one son, Mike. Christ has lived in Harker Heights for the past 27 years.
Laurie Williamson-McElhiney has been a resident of Harker Heights for over 30 years. She has two children who graduated from Harker Heights High School and owned a business in Killeen for several years until her late husband passed away. She became store manager until her retirement.
McElhiney is remarried to a military officer who spent 44 years in the military as an Apache pilot and is now a retired veteran.
Jackeline Soriano Fountain served in the U.S. Army for 28 years and retired in 2007 where she served as a garrison command sergeant major at Fort Hood.
Fountain was recruited by the Pentagon Federal Credit Union to manage their Fort Buchanan Branch in Puerto Rico.
Fountain and her husband, Terry, who is also a retired command sergeant major, have been residents of Harker Heights for the past 18 years and have a son and daughter in addition to two grandchildren.
The Herald asked the candidates about their backgrounds, families and lengths of time in the city.
It also posed four questions: (1) What makes you the best candidate for the Place 3 seat on the council? (2) What do you think are the biggest issues facing Harker Heights, (3) How would you view your role as an elected official and (4) What comments would you like to make concerning the growth of the city?
Q: What makes you the best candidate for the Place 3 seat on the council?
Christ: I would make the best candidate because of my deep understanding of city government: 17 years in city government, city council, planning and zoning commission, parks and recreation board plus 25 years continuous participation in the city’s athletic programs.
Williamson-McElhiney: I have had extensive involvement and experience in the city and have the public’s interest at heart. I am dedicated to the people of this city and pledge to help it keep the rural feel while growing into a big city. I have the dedication, motivation and time to give to the citizens of Harker Heights.
Fountain: I would make the best candidate because my duty as garrison command sergeant major brought me face to face with hundreds of challenges facing a small town. Dealing with those challenges has prepared me to help Harker Heights face the future.
Q: What do you think are the three biggest issues facing Harker Heights?
Christ: The three biggest issues are: growth, planning and building the community.
Williamson-McElhiney: Overpopulation versus infrastructure, where our tax dollars are going and budget transparency, plus excessive building affecting the camaraderie of the community.
Fountain: Maintaining and increasing the value of homes and businesses, continuing work by the City to alleviate our drainage challenges and maintaining public safety.
Q: How would you view your role as an elected official?
Christ: I would view my role as a decision maker, team member, and representative of the people. I know the role of an elected official and have successfully served the citizens of Harker Heights for over 25 years.
Williamson-McElhiney: There needs to be balance in the council and I can be that balance. Someone needs to pay attention and look out for the interests, values and opinions of the public. I can provide an honest vision and trust with the community.
Fountain: I view my role as an elected official as a representative of the resident’s interest and values.
Q: What comments would you like to make concerning the growth of the city?
Christ: I think our growth is at a good pace and honestly we have little control of how it grows. If you look back over the past 4-5 years, the growth level has tapered off in the number of building permits for commercial and residential. There is a limited space for the city to grow and we will have to plan wisely to utilize it.
That may mean some may have to be single-family dwellings while others are multiple family dwellings plus other requirements for commercial.
Eventually, we may have to annex some of the property in the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) using the agreements we’ve had with Belton, Nolanville and other cities. We want to continue to do the things that keep the city as good a place to live as we can.
Williamson-McElhiney: I think that if we continue to progress without thinking into the future, we’ll be backed up like (U.S. Highway) 190 in Copperas Cove. Knights Way (FM 2410) is becoming a problem and we must keep up with our infrastructure. I want us to grow into a beautiful city and continue to hold on to what we have now! We don’t want to look like Rancier does now in Killeen. If I look to the east of the high school on FM 2410, I see some evidence of what Rancier looked like 25 years ago and we don’t want to look like that in the years to come. My other concern is that we need to address the safety of the high school kids as they cross 2410 and other streets near Harker Heights High.
Fountain: The pace of the growth in Harker Heights seems acceptable to me. We don’t seem to be out of sync in handling the varieties of expansion that come our way on a daily basis. It’s for our own good, however, that we always be aware as to what may be too fast or slow.
Our major source of input should be the residents of this city and commit ourselves to their trust as we try to make the right decisions concerning the issue of growth in the future.
Early voting begins April 24 at City Hall, 305 Miller’s Crossing. Hours are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 24, 26-28 and May 2. On April 25 and May 1, early voting is from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.