HARKER HEIGHTS — The city’s political climate changed dramatically over the past six weeks.
Oscar Dominguez announced Thursday afternoon he is suspending his campaign to become the next mayor, citing “unforeseen challenges and opportunities have arisen” that would take him away from the community for at least another year.
Though no longer an active candidate, Dominguez will remain on the ballot, under Texas law.
Dominguez’s withdrawal from the race was the latest in a series of twists surrounding the mayor’s post. Last month, then-Mayor Mike Aycock resigned from office because of a delinquent-tax issue, but he temporarily remained a candidate in the May 10 election. Robinson, the mayor pro tem, became the city’s mayor, as prescribed in the city charter.
Aycock withdrew his candidacy on the final day of filing. The same day, Robinson, who had been term-limited for his council seat, filed for the mayor’s post, as did Dominguez
“I respect his integrity and appreciate his support,” Robinson said of Dominguez. “I appreciate him being forthright about his decision.”
The same day political newcomer Dominguez filed to challenge Robinson for the mayor’s post, another new office-seeker, David Brown, filed for a ballot spot against former Councilman John Reider, who was unopposed for Robinson’s old council seat.
Aycock resigned as mayor because he was unable to fully discharge the city’s portion of his home property tax obligations before a Jan. 31 deadline. He owes the Bell County Tax Appraisal District nearly $55,000 in back taxes, including more than $2,000 to the city, according to tax records. Aycock’s delinquent debt disqualified him from holding office, according to city charter.
Here is a look at the candidates in the May 10 election:
Despite not having an active election opponent, Robinson said he is still pressing forward with his campaign.
Robinson is a 20-year Army veteran and has served on the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Harker Heights City Council for 14 years.
“I am the right man for the job. I’m very familiar with the operations of the city and I have the confidence of our citizens and I want to continue what we are accomplishing in Harker Heights,” he said. “We are a successful town. We have things to do in the future and I want to be a part of that.”
Because Harker Heights only has a finite amount of space to grow, and limited annexation opportunities, Robinson said smart decisions need to be made during the city’s build-out period over the next 20 years.
“We need to spend money and build for the long term, for the future,” he said. “You can see signs around town about sewer work — although not glamorous, it’s vital for our residents.”
If elected, Robinson said he wants to continue ensuring proper infrastructure is in place, to continue to be a good steward of taxpayer dollars and do the projects that are needed to move the city forward in the right direction.
“I want to keep and build on the good reputation that we have earned as a quality place to live,” he said. “I can be the agent to make our town better, which is what I want to do.”
Reider, a lifelong Heights resident, has been in commercial real estate and property management for 39 years, to include acquisition, planning and development. He also has four years experience on the Planning and Zoning Commission and has served on the council for 12 years.
“I really want to work with David Mitchell, our new city manager. I had the opportunity to work with David early on in his career when he was our city planner,” he said. “I look forward to the possibility of working with him toward the goal of making Harker Heights even better than it is today.”
He said his experiences in real estate and property management have given him “invaluable insight into the past growth and future planning and development” of the city.
“One of the greatest challenges a council faces is the ability to have sustained growth while maintaining the integrity of our wonderful community and protecting the rights of our citizens,” he said.
Reider said the biggest challenge he sees the city facing in the future are water rights and access.
“As we grow into our population cap — estimated to be between 45,000 and 50,000 residents — we will have to look hard and plan carefully for adequate water and wastewater accommodations,” he said. “This requires planning 10 to 20 years into the future, estimating use projections, providing funding and conservation to ensure that we have adequate, affordable water/sewer access for our citizens.”
Brown has lived in Heights since 2003. He was a member of the Infrastructure Committee for the 2007 Exploring New Heights II citizen focus group and is currently serving on the Harker Heights Public Safety Commission.
“I am a committed public servant,” he said, adding that he worked for the city of Dover, Del., and served his country in the Army, worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs and Central Texas College. “I am a civic-conscious volunteer and a lifelong learner, and it’s time for me to take the next steps, which is why I am running for this elected position.”
He said he graduated from numerous military and civilian leadership courses and completed courses with the Red Cross, FEMA, U.S. Fire Service and is a graduate of the Harker Heights Citizen’s Police Academy.
“Our city is not failing, it’s thriving, which is in great part to the leadership from Steve Carpenter, previous councils and mayors. Our city has been in good hands,” he said. “I hope to be another person in that line that continues to do the best they can to serve the citizens so they continue to have a really great place to live.”