Candidates for the Killeen City Council and the Killeen Independent School District board of trustees had a chance to go face to face with their constituents Monday at a “speed” election forum at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9191 hosted by the Killeen branch of the NAACP.
The forum used a “speed dating” format, with the council and school district candidates assigned to their own tables and about 40 residents getting three minutes per candidate to ask whatever questions they came prepared with.
Eleven of the thirteen candidates for the council seats were in attendance, with District 1 candidate Holly Teel and District 4 candidate Steve Harris not present for the event.
Six of the seven board candidates were present at the forum. Place 4 candidate Stephania Williams was not in attendance due to an illness.
Each of the candidates were allowed a two-minute opening statement. For council and school district candidates alike, crime was a hot-button issue — but council candidates also took time to focus on economic growth, balanced budgets and supporting local veterans.
School district candidates highlighted a number of issues, including a potential fifth high school, less paperwork for faculty, increased salaries for teachers, student safety, better career opportunities for students, increased campus discipline, transparency among administration and more active school board members.
Tasha Rodriguez, 56, a constituent in District 4, said the event offered a more personal look at the candidates — even if she won’t be able to vote in three of the four district races May 6.
“My biggest issue is crime,” Rodriguez said. “It’s one of those issues everyone has to tackle.”
Early voting for the two races begins April 24 and ends May 2.
TaNeika Moultrie, executive committee member of the Killeen NAACP, said it was crucial for the residents to register to vote and turn out at the polls May 6 or during early voting.
“If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” Moultrie told the audience.
The Bell County Chapter of the Democratic Party were in attendance offering voter registration services.
The deadline to register to vote for the city elections is Thursday.
Former Killeen Mayor Tim Hancock, a constituent in District 3, said he wants to see more renovation and development of Killeen’s schools and downtown area on the north side of town.
“We can’t forget about the north side. We need to revitalize, and rebuild north Killeen.” he said.
Hancock added he was encouraged by the turnout of people at the forum as it allowed voters to speak one on one and get to know the candidates in a less formal setting.
Joseph Welch, executive director of support services with the school district and member of the Killeen NAACP, said the format allowed residents to make politics a personal issue.
“A lack of voting engagement is one of the things that hurt us,” Welch said. “Here, I’m able to sit down and ask the pertinent questions. We have to light that fire and get people out to vote — Killeen is a diamond in the rough, but people don’t see it.”
School board candidates who attended the forum were: Place 4 incumbent Marvin Rainwater and Place 5 candidates Lan Carter, Gerald Dreher, Lonnie Farrow, Bob Snyder and Carlyle Walton.
City Council candidates attending were: District 1 candidates Shirley Fleming and Kenny Wells; District 2 candidates Larry Smith and Debbie Nash-King; District 3 candidates Jim Kilpatrick, Hal Butchart, Vantonio Fraley and Patsy Bracey; and District 4 candidates Brockley Moore, Ralph Cossey Jr. and Stanley Abrahams.