Candidates running for a seat on Killeen’s governing body and its top-elected post took the floor Monday night to address issues at the city’s helm during a candidate forum hosted by the Killeen Daily Herald.
The candidates were asked questions ranging from addressing the city’s infrastructure needs and reducing Killeen’s crime rate to governmental transparency and improving the city’s business climate.
Running for the city’s top-elected post are former councilmen Richard “Dick” Young and Scott Cosper and retiree Harold “Hal” Butchart.
When asked what each candidate sees as the biggest challenge facing the city, all three agreed job growth is at the top of his list.
“I see a number of issues facing the city, No. 1 is our business climate,” Butchart said. “Our sales tax revenue is declining and that’s because our City Council is driving businesses out of the city. Look at (Market) Heights and the sales tax revenue in Harker Heights and Copperas Cove.”
Butchart said in order to change the city’s business climate, the city has to become more business friendly.
“Without (new businesses and jobs) we will have no competition and we’ll present no competition,” he said. “Harker Heights and Copperas Cove will certainly take over.” Cosper said his answer to addressing the city’s business climate is to find new opportunities for citizens.
“With the Texas A&M University (Central Texas Campus) coming to fruition in our community, I think that it brings many opportunities for us to collaborate with Fort Hood and the surrounding communities in light of looking for research and development opportunities,” he said. “(Those) could be defense in the military, medical, energy research. We need to work with our chamber of commerce and our economic development appropriation to seek out and target what our economic development priorities are and work together to collaborate and be able to find those opportunities.”
Cosper said marketing the community and highlighting the city’s strong points will help move it forward.
Young said his plan, if elected, is to create a job summit in the city.
“I believe if we continue to do business as usual, we’re going to get the same results,” he said. My No. 1 priority when I take office is to create a job summit. I want to bring in the brightest and best minds from across the United States who know what it takes to grow jobs. I want them to do an in-depth analysis of the city of Killeen so that we can find out where our strengths and weaknesses lie.”
Young said the city should “play upon (its) strengths and improve our weaknesses.”
“When we do that, we are going to have job growth and a bright future for the city of Killeen,” he said.
Seven candidate are vying for a seat on the council: Elizabeth Blackstone, Jared Foster, Jonathan Okray, Randy Doyle, Doris Mims-Owens, Juan Rivera and Gary “Bubba” Purser Jr.
When asked what the biggest challenge at the city’s helm is, candidates responded with the city’s growth, aging infrastructure, public safety and transportation.Blackstone said the biggest issue she believes the city is up against is its continuous growth.
“We need to control growth and make sure that as we grow, we grow to the best for all the people,” she said. “We’ve done a whole lot of work currently on the council. ... We’re trying very much to improve the image of Killeen. People want to stay here when the city is attractive and it looks good to them. Our crime rate has gone down. We work very hard to put more policemen on the street.”
Doyle said several issues top his list: aging infrastructure, public safety and resource conservation.
“I think we really need to have a strategic plan to fix (aging infrastructure) through time,” he said. “I think another challenge that we have is conservation of our resources. The current City Council did the prudent thing by putting a water plant in for the future growth of Killeen, but we have to conserve our resources or we are going to be pumping mud out of that $30 million investment.”
Doyle said he also believes that to ensure public safety, the police department along with other first responders should grow as the city does.
Foster said the city needs to “develop what we want to be when we grow up.”
“When I left this community as an 18-year-old senior in high school, we didn’t have as many people,” he said. “Now, we are pushing close to 140,000. I think now with the additional population and shifting trends ... we need to think about economic diversity.”
Mims-Owens said quality of life is at the top of her list of issues.
“Killeen is a great place to live, work and play and we do have a lot of good things happening here in Killeen,” she said. “But for future references, we need more. We need more parks to help the children when they’re out of school. We need more amusement parks for them to go to for quality of life. We need more areas for the retirees to work, to play and just to have a great time.”
Okray said industry is the biggest issue he sees at the city’s helm.
“I think the addition of the Stillhouse Water infrastructure will be great for all industry because when we have industry, we have great jobs,” he said. “Right now, I see three major industries in Killeen — health, education and the military. One thing we need to look at and see is what if Fort Hood were to decrease in troop strength by 20 to 30 percent. How is that going to have an economic impact? I believe we need more industry.”
Purser said roads in the city are the biggest issue he sees the city facing.
“Our roads are getting congested and it’s very difficult for the city to stay up on roads,” he said. “Roads are very expensive. Right now we have a lot of needs for roads that have to be looked at.”
Rivera echoed Purser’s concern over road infrastructure.
“We need more transportation for businesses to come to the city,” he said. “We complain about not having big businesses, but we need to work ourselves from the inside out. We need to make sure we have addressed the road conditions, and the transportation.
The mayoral forum will air at 6 p.m. Thursday on KNCT. The council forum is slated for 6 p.m. Friday on KNCT.
Contact Natalie Stewart at email@example.com or 254-501-7555