The Killeen City Council will see four unusually competitive races for its district seats May 6.
The 13 candidates running for the four seats is the first time in eight years that every district race has been competitive.
Three of the seats are being contested by first-term incumbents: District 1 Councilwoman Shirley Fleming, District 3 Councilman Jim Kilpatrick and District 4 Councilman Brockley Moore.
Current District 2 Councilman Richard “Dick” Young announced in February he would not seek re-election.
The candidates by district are:
District 1: Fleming, Holly Teel and Kenny Wells
District 2: Debbie Nash-King and Larry Smith
District 3: Kilpatrick, Pasty Bracey, Harold Butchart and Vantonio Fraley (write-in)
District 4: Moore, Stanley Abrahams, Ralph Cossey Jr. and Steve Harris
The candidates were asked about their plans to tackle the rise in violent crime in Killeen, continuing to monitor the city’s fragile financial condition, acting transparently with Killeen residents and bringing high-paying jobs to Killeen. Here’s what they had to say.
KILLEEN COUNCIL CANDIDATE RESPONSES
1. As a council member, you have a responsibility to watch how taxpayers’ and utility ratepayers’ money is spent. How would you safeguard public funds in an objective and transparent way?
Teel: Safeguarding the taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ money is a very hard job. I would start with the results of the audit. Then I would look at the areas that were not covered and also hold those responsible for the problems responsible. I still believe that we could have save the taxpayers money by contacting the FBI and letting them do a forensic audit. Honestly, the citizens should still call and demand the FBI to step in. They handle this stuff and can find out what happened faster. The only time someone argues is when they have something to hide.
Wells: I would safeguard public funds by requesting that (City Manager Ron) Olson draft a balance sheet and provide it to the council on a quarterly basis. I dare say that no one can currently state the value of assets, total liabilities and net worth of the city of Killeen. More importantly, I understand Killeen city government and know what questions to ask and am not hesitant to do so. We now have an experienced and transparent city manager in place who will assist the council in making sound decisions that serve the best interests of the citizens that we represent.
Nash-King: First, I would ensure that an audit is completed on the city budget. Second, I would read and research all policies and ordinances associated with the expenditure of funds to ensure that they are cost effective for taxpayers. Third, I believe the city should not spend money if it does not have the funds in the budget to pay for it. I would seek to ensure that monies are spent the way that the city says they will be spent. When taxpayers “see” improvements, this is the transparency effect.
Smith: By studying and analyzing how we have spent and safeguarded public funds for the last six years — then doing the exact opposite.
Bracey: As an elected City Council member, it will be my ethical responsibility to be a steward of the taxpayers’ money, assuring funds are dispersed according to Killeen city policies and procedures and analyzing all presentations for funding. No favors.
Fraley: To safeguard the public funds, we have to first acknowledge that they are public funds and not personal funds, transparency has to be a most. Transparency includes not using language as a code, non-politicians and residents should be able to follow along with dialogue and comprehend the financial terms being used. As a councilman, we are in this position to make decisions that are best for our city and residences, not for personal or company gain. Making sure that our residents have knowledge of all decisions that need to be made and the outcome — these are a few ways I would ensure to safeguard public funds.
Kilpatrick: I would continue to review the current budget monthly and conduct monthly meetings with the city manager and executive finance director to discuss any questions/issues. If I still have questions I would take them to the council’s standing audit committee (three council members and the city auditor) for discussion and resolution. I would also request the mayor place the items of interest on the next scheduled council meeting or workshop for public awareness. As I am now, I will be available to all citizens to discuss all aspects of the budget status, the process and the policies.
Cossey Jr.: Proper oversight and routine audits must be an organizational mandate. Effective program and project management is needed with protocols and change management all the way up and down the organizational chain. No one person or small group should have blind control over any finance without regular disclosure and progress reporting. Each year, the government takes just a little more of the family budget. The average Killeen family now pays more in taxes than ever before. A person on fixed income deserves remedies, alternatives, and discounts to keep them solvent. And they should not have to pay for municipal services that do not directly affect their lives.
Harris: True and open dialogue and transparency from the city staff to the council, and from the council to the people is key. The immediate and/or timely availability (not months) of specific financial documents from the staff upon request would be one of my top priorities to implement. I would also look into modifying the amount that departments could spend without notifying the council to avoid spending loopholes. Anything that does not benefit the citizens of Killeen, in regards to spending utility revenues efficiently and responsibly will not be approved by me. Finally, citizens will have a say.
Abrahams: We need to create a balanced budget and stick to the budget by eliminating wasteful spending. In an effort to be transparent, we must establish annual audits similar to that required of corporations and report those audited financial statement to the public just as a publicly traded business would report to their shareholders.
Moore: I will be continually be financially responsible, ethical and available 24/7 to the city manager, staff and citizens. We have included a transparency portal on the city website for review and read all financial documents before voting on any actions over $50,000. As your councilman, I have the experience and availability to meet with the city manager, finance director and internal auditor to evaluate the monthly and quarterly financial reports and briefings of the healthiness of the city. I have the accounting integrity and vision of the overlay projects to be aware of when we are at risk of dropping below the budget 24 percent revenue and balance budget short and long term projects.
Fleming: As a councilwoman, I would always work with the city manager and staff on a weekly level, watching out for the expenditures of the division heads, making sure that the citizens are aware of how their taxes and fees are spent throughout the city, watching the budget items, contractors that we hire — we have to always be transparent.
I will always insist our monies be spent to benefit our community. I continue to follow our policies and procedures, our ordinances and our city charter.
Butchart: I would push for a full forensic audit (not a managerial audit), to learn who and why the decisions were made to overspend the city budget the previous three years in a row. I would affix blame, then take appropriate action to ensure this does not happen again with the full results of the forensic audit released publicly because it was the taxpayer’s money that was overspent and the taxpayers who paid for the audit. The dark hole and veil of secrecy in City Hall communications needs to be permanently eliminated for the good of all, to restore trust, faith and confidence in the government closest to us.
2. What experience do you have in financial management and how will you use that experience on the council?
Teel: My experience with finances comes from a family of business owners. I also was a small business owner. I have seen what works and what did not work. I come with my own life experiences, my own knowledge of working with and handling money for my own business and a few other high-dollar companies. What I do not know, I always research first and learn. I would rather make an educated guess then just making an uneducated choice. I also study business management and took a few classes in accounting.
Wells: I have owned and managed Wells Laundry for some 40 years and built it into a financially strong business. Additionally, I have served as treasurer and chairman of the board of our VLA theater, the Texas Coin Laundry Association and the national Coin Laundry Association. The high bond rating that the city currently enjoys was earned when I served previously on the council. I will use the experience developed from these offices to restore our city government to financial stability and respect.
Nash-King: My prior experiences as an Army commander for all dental clinics on Fort Hood taught me how to financially manage a large budget. My job was to review all requested funds from each department and ensure that the requested funds were needed to meet the mission of that particular clinic. In order to provide quality services for the residents of Killeen, I would request a financial report from the city manager each month to ensure that the city continues to stay within the budget at the current tax rate.
Bracey: Having a Certified Federal Funded Medicare Home Health agency, I learned the importance of assuring the government money provided care to the patients. This has given me a challenge and opportunity to handle large amounts of money.
Smith: I ran a small business, worked as a contractor at Fort Hood, was a paying agent in Baghdad and was an Army officer for eight years. This very diverse experience allows me to be able to forecast future expenditures and plan for them accordingly.
Fraley: The financial management experience I would draw from is when I was a part of the start-up of two sports programs. These experiences taught me that when working with a budget the whole staff and team has to be on board not just the CEO. If the coach doesn’t stick to the budget then it’s out the window — there was a lot of little unforeseen events to prepare; like if a player gets hurts and has to stay a night or two in the hospital in an away city, who would stay, how would we get home, and food. Also, playing for seasons to come and draft issues, etc. From my experience the whole team has to be 100 percent in compliance with the budget or else it doesn’t work.
Kilpatrick: I have managed budgets in excess of $27 million the last 27 years of federal government service, with numerous internal and external audits. I have always received outstanding comments and reviews on accountability and management of all funds. I did this not by “micromanagement” but by systematically checking and reviewing all transactions on a scheduled basis. I have used this method for the past 21 months on the City Council and played a major role in balancing our 2017 budget.
Cossey Jr.: I have work several years in financial positions through my adult life. Most recently I was hired as a financial analyst by a multi-billion dollar corporation. There I produced forecasts, reports, schedules and was instrumental in developing a logarithm to analyze financial data from several currencies into a common “reporting currency” to enable apples to apples comparison for sales and expense forecasting, budgeting, and reporting. I am relevant in the City of Killeen by being the sitting chair for the CDAC and Arts Commission. These organizations make recommendations to the City Council on grant applications for funding special programs and events.
Harris: My personal financial experiences range from the following: personal budgeting experience; former head men’s/women’s cross country coach at the University of Mary-Hardin Baylor where I was responsible for writing budget proposals and the purchasing of athletic equipment and uniforms; small business which included managing books and paying taxes to the state of Texas; two years of serving on the city council from May 2013-15 in which the financial experience needed to identify responsible and irresponsible spending and financial proposals is present.
Abrahams: My experience comes from the military as a logistics specialist where I was required to maintain budget and inventory.
Moore: I have a bachelors in business degree an additional 39 credit hours of business ethics/integrity and business-related courses that makes it clear when short term and long term projects overlay. I continue to refresh my knowledge and the effects of overall impacts of the city healthiness. As your councilman I had 100 percent attendance and am available, knowledgeable, dedicated, ethical to the city healthiness and operations. I am a thinker with the vision of the council and citizens’ vision in mind.
Fleming: I had my our trucking business where I reported my everyday, updated monthly financial reports to TxDOT in Austin. I worked in Germany as an accountant specialist, responsible for daily deposits of $500.000 or more. I attended business college and have over 30 years experience in the area of finance.
Butchart: I was a senior Army Officer with great financial responsibility during many assignments overseas and in the U.S. and am a member of the Habitat for Humanity board of directors for six years.
3. Assuming you have no additional money, what is your plan to attack Killeen’s violent crime concerns?
Teel: Educate the public on crime — if the public is not informed, then we have no chance. You cannot educate only one group and not educate all the public. Yes, it’s hard to admit, we have problems. Even harder to admit when it can cost the city money. Well, once again I am going to say this, educations is the answer to everything! Holding rental owners and apartment complexes accountable is the first step, by going after the true reason the quality of life is down in District 1 in some areas rental properties that are not kept up.
Wells: I highly respect our first responders at all levels. That said, the community and crime has changed. Therefore, policing must evolve to respond to our violent crime epidemic. I will work with our city manager to hire a new police chief that has experience and commitment to address violent crime among young people. Most violent crime is drug related. Programs must be adopted to reduce the demand for drugs. This will reduce the related crime. Citizens must get involved. Neighborhoods with vigilant neighbors have far less crime.
Nash-King: The city already has certified and trained police officers to protect our city. I would ensure that the police department has the resources and officers needed to protect the city. The city has the Crime Stoppers, Citizen Police Academy and the Explorer program. I would work with these organizations to see where they could be used in some of the less threatening situations that occur. I would work with the City Council, city manager and the police chief to find solutions to reduce crime in the city. I believe that monthly police forums and safety classes for residents will be a great benefit.
Smith: People do not travel to Killeen to commit crimes, they already live here. So we need to make it uncomfortable for those criminals to live here. Anytime there is an interaction with law enforcement then the officer and judge will max out the penalty. Earn the reputation that if you have a record then you will toe the line when you are inside the city limits.
Bracey: Researching funds available for crime prevention, presenting these ideas to the council.
Fraley: Assuming that there is no additional funds my plan to attack the violent crime concerns of our residence , would look at using our local resources such as parks, community buildings, tracks, gyms, softball fields, bowling alleys, etc. Using these resources to equip, entertain and educate we can provide more options and support for our residences. We all know violence stems from lack or misuse of resources.
Kilpatrick: Violent crime generally stems from two major areas: Illegal drug-related activities and family violence. My opinion is both are related to economics. Increasing opportunity for good paying jobs with opportunities for upward mobility will assist us in lowering both. We have to be very proactive in advancing our economic growth in the near term. In addition we have to get the citizens involved in monitoring their neighbors and preventive reporting of suspicious activity, this will require more community event activity by the KPD.
Cossey Jr.: Crime, in particular violent crime has to be addressed in several ways, which are: crime prevention, law enforcement, and education. Crime prevention includes a fair but firm judicial process that dictates clear consequences to the crimes committed and shows our dedication of a “no-tolerance policy” towards violent criminal behavior. Law enforcement does not simply mean policing, but fairness and equality of the enforcement. To achieve that we need to honor our local hero’s in the low enforcement community by recognizing their sacrifices and duty.
Harris: My primary focus would be to find ways to maximize community and police/law enforcement cooperation; as, this would be the quickest and, possibly, the most financially feasible thing to implement time wise. I would work with the council to take a look into the monetary operations and spending practices of the city in general and the police department to determine if any modifications can be made in a way that does not result in any lay-offs.
Abrahams: We need to empower our citizens by creating neighborhood watches and developing a program to train citizens in self-defense.
Moore: I have had two community meetings and one on one group with the internal chief of police to gain information on prevention and make citizens aware of the do’s and don’t. There are some universal hot points citizens must always keep in their mind about lighting, garage doors, locks, money left in cars and getting to know your neighbors and surrounding streets for normal behavior and activities. I will continue to educate, make aware and take action in neighborhoods.
Fleming: I have been instrumental in holding neighborhood watch meetings and allowing citizens to continue to be heard and involved. Through the community I work together with our police force and would hold fundraisers and apply for state grants to assist in fighting crime and violence in our community. I have organized over 15 neighborhood watch captains to work with their neighbors. Neighborhoods pulled together to buy the city signs that are now displayed at both ends of the streets.
Butchart: The best way to address crime is change the existing leadership culture at the top by a new police chief, not from here and switch to modified community policing with manned storefronts and more police presence in high crime areas with the permanently assigned district officers on the same beats and with bicycles and out of their police cars actually speaking to and getting to know the citizens they serve. A functional crime lab would also help.
4. What are your top three priorities and how will you accomplish them?
Teel: My top three priorities remain the same: A true forensic audit, what the people want. Crime because it harms the quality of life. Jobs — without jobs we all lose.
Wells: My top three priorities are to reduce violent crime, financially stabilize our city government and get back to building a city and restoring respectability to the Killeen City Council. I am confident that my presence on the council as a consensus builder and leader will move the city in a positive direction toward achieving these goals and the goals of other council members. The council and mayor must set the agenda to improve the quality of life in Killeen.
Nash-King: My first priority is the quality of life for Killeen residents: I strongly feel that providing the essential public services, jobs and a safe environment for residents in an effective manner will address that. My second priority is community development: The city should provide quality services for senior residents and develop activities for youth. My third priority is public safety: Provide adequate funding for first responders. I would work with the council and city manager to analyze the funds that are needed to provide personnel, reliable vehicles, and updated equipment within the regulations for First Responders. Training is also an ongoing need for our first responders.
Smith: Balance the budget — The demands of taxpayers are the priority, not city workers and special interests that do not live inside the city limits and therefore are not subject to taxation and rate increases which they demand every year.
Improve the business climate — Place a performance requirement on organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, Killeen Economic Development Commission, and Heart of Texas Defense Alliance; if they do not perform then eliminate their budgets and find a private firm that will. Crime — Violent crime is one thing but electing officials in this city that are not susceptible to bribery or coercion is the first step in safeguarding our taxes and ensuring those monies are expended appropriately.
Bracey: Top three priorities: Promote and improve the integrity and accountability of the city council and the city of Killeen as it related to citizen’s trust. Assist in researching resources funding available to the city for recruiting and maintain police, fire department and EMS. Establish sub-police stations in each district and possibly discouraging violence in the community.
Fraley: My top three priorities are: Reducing crime without locking up residents’ city support with youth practice, game facilities, and mentoring programs; transparency and community awareness.
Kilpatrick: Economic Development: develop comprehensive two-, five- and eight-year market strategy plans to target what business is most suitable and have a high probability to locate in Killeen. Increase citizen involvement in government, volunteering, service to community and fighting crime: continue to find more venues to make citizens aware of community activities. Increase Senior/Youth activities and events: encourage city/public partnerships to obtain more resources for more activities targeting seniors/youth. Continue to advance public transportation (the HOP) to get seniors/youths easy safe access to Parks/Recreation, shopping, activities/events, etc.
Cossey Jr.: Economic development, fiscal responsibility and sensible legislation that promotes growth in our city.
I’m all about communication, process and quality control. I am pragmatic not emotional about these things. It must make sense, and not just be what we’ve always been doing.
Harris: My top three priorities are reinstating and maintaining financial responsibility and transparency, community safety and the balanced growth of business and community developments. Some of the ways I would work to implement the financial and safety aspect was mentioned earlier but in regards to the balance growth of businesses and community developments would involve doing my best to zone and preserve usable land that would attract and accommodate larger businesses. If we continue to zone so much of our land as housing or allow MUDs to exist in our ETJ then, we lessen the chances of having adequate space and locations to accommodate them.
Abrahams: 1) Lower crime rate, but increasing neighborhood watch and work on building a solid foundational relationship between the citizens of the community and the first responders. 2) Balance the budget by eliminating wasteful spending, concentrating on key financial items that have the largest impact instead of focusing on things that make little financial difference in the community. 3) Bringing high paying jobs into the community. We need to create a plan that will attract larger companies into the area and create jobs.
Moore: Transportation (water, sewage, and improvement), SAFE: police, fire, children and seniors prevention, and financial responsibility.
Fleming: I feel that crime, water, and jobs are my top three concerns. I have already addressed crime reduction and job creation. We must work with our experts who deals with our water problems and make sure we have enough water to last us in the future. Water is critical to the city’s well-being and survival. The WCID 1 has a board that the city is paying to allow us to use water, but in the future the city of Killeen needs to own its own water and operate and control their own water system.
Butchart: My priorities are better cooperation and interaction with the Fort Hood Command Structure. Recruitment of new industry in Killeen by development of the airport to compete with Austin and draw technology companies to develop at the airport and tax breaks and incentives to encourage industry to develop here. Killeen has one of the highest, if not the highest crime rates in Texas and a murder rate that is outrageous for a city of our size. Our traffic gridlock is caused by a lack of an experienced and dedicated full time city traffic engineer.
5.What would you do to attract new businesses or industries that bring high-paying jobs to Killeen?
Teel: We need jobs; that is a fact. I would look at other things like education statistics, and this would tell me what type of companies to reach out to. If we do not have skilled or educated workers, then companies will not come. Fact is they want talent first — technically trained workers. They look at the quality of life, more than they do at tax breaks, currently. That includes schools that are bilingual and offer education to all, nursing homes, grocery stores, art centers, museums that are diverse in arts, history and more.
Wells: As I respond to this question, I am spending a few days with three manufacturing CEO’s from the Midwest. My answer is based on conversations we have had related to attracting manufacturers to Killeen. There must be tax incentives, reasonable labor and raw material cost and a market for manufactured products in close proximity. Providing high-paying jobs is unfortunately not a priority as manufacturers must be competitive in our global economy. The solution I envision is for local people or groups to establish employee-owned companies to produce and market products, services and information worldwide.
Nash-King: The city must have a solid infrastructure in place to support big business/industries. I would work with the council and city manager to ensure the Killeen Chamber and Economic Development has adequate funding to recruit high-paying business/industries. The city can work with Killeen Chamber to give more incentives for small businesses to open business in the downtown Killeen area until infrastructure and resources are put in place for high paying businesses/industries.
Smith: Given that this community has so much to offer outside investors I believe the reason that those investments have not been made is due to the fact that our elected officials have a reputation for playing favorites with local land owners. Why would any company want to invest in a community where the local government plays games with contracts and denies a level playing field to outsiders? Start electing people with integrity who are not selling themselves off to lawyers and developers.
Fraley: I believe in order to get hiring paying industries in Killeen we have to cleanup Killeen, these higher paying industries and companies have a responsibility to their employees whom in most case are parents. As a parent before my family moves we look at the crime in the community, school ratings, Local Economy, and local leadership to name a few. However, in Killeen these are some of our troubled areas, our city has a lot of natural highlight already hence the large number of entrepreneurs here. To get these higher paying industries we need to Killeen up the little things that would make a company want to bring their employees and their families here.
Kilpatrick: Target medical industry (research, technology, light and medium manufacturing, etc.) to compliment the 5 hospitals, 9 medical clinics, 3 Colleges/Universities in our immediate area to locate in the Killeen industrial park. Provide incentives, within our limited capabilities, to existing and new firms/companies which show growth each year in higher tech and skilled positions.
Cossey Jr.: If we are to attract large companies that will provide higher paying jobs, then we need to accomplish three things at the city and county level:
1. We need to adopt the latest in technologies to make city administration better and smarter.
2. We should continuously re-negotiate and build up our partnerships with the Army, and neighboring cities.
3. Strictly monitor funds used for EDD to achieve our desired goals
Harris: Along with the aforementioned response of land zoning and preservation for larger businesses, I would talk to already existing small and larger businesses around in our area to find out why they did not come to Killeen and what things can be done to attract businesses their size. From there, I would consult with the city staff, the chamber and the EDC in giving them directions for what I would like for them to do to attract larger and better paying businesses.
Abrahams: First we need to lower the crime rate as businesses tend to avoid troublesome areas. We need to clean up downtown and work on infrastructure and traffic concerns.
Moore: Presently, I am on the EDC as a member. We have received the I-14 designation for 190 I would continue to assist the chamber and EDC as a team to bring in more businesses and industry-related employment.
Fleming: I will continue to work with the Economic Development Board, the Chamber of Commerce, veteran organizations and other resources to increase efforts to reach out and attract businesses from in and out of the area and encourage entrepreneurs to start up new enterprises right here in the great city of Killeen. Also, a lot of small businesses are struggling, so why can’t we have a revolving account where small businesses can take out loans? That will help them know the city is thinking of them.
Butchart: I would personally visit industrial CEOs and invite the other elected city representatives to do the same. If we don’t sell our own cities great economic and human potential — who will? Vote for a better Killeen and break from the past!