Candidates running for a seat on Killeen’s governing body and its top-elected post took the floor Monday night to address questions during a candidate forum.
League of United Latin American Citizens Council 4297 held a candidate forum Monday night. Residents were given the floor to ask candidates running for the Killeen City Council and mayor questions regarding their runs for the posts.
Running for Killeen’s top-elected post are former councilmen Richard “Dick” Young and Scott Cosper and retiree Harold “Hal” Butchart.
The candidates were asked what they would like to see in the city that isn’t currently here and how they would go about achieving unity among the council.
Cosper said the biggest issues he sees at the city’s helm are job growth and attaining an interstate designation along U.S. Highway 190.
“I think jobs is our number one issue, and I think the way we need to address that is by collaborating with Fort Hood and the university,” he said. “(Another) top issue that I would like for us to do is get U.S. Highway 190 designated as an interstate. I have been working very hard on that for a couple of years already. That has been a huge hindrance to our ability to bring large businesses, corporations and industry to our community.”
Young said the No. 1 problem he sees facing Killeen is jobs and providing a quality of life that keeps people in the city.
“We have to get good quality paying jobs here now, so that we can do a good service to the military and to the civilian population by employing their families, employing them when they get out of the military and providing the quality of life that’s going to make them want to stay here,” he said. “I believe we need to institute a growth policy that is fair for everybody. I want to have opportunities for all. I want to see Killeen be an incubator for small business.”
Butchart said he would work to create unity between the council and the mayor by going back to the city charter and working to create a “mayor-strong council.”
“I think it’s important to promote unity on the council,” he said. “I wish we had an office for the mayor and an office for the council so they could actually meet the citizens. We seem to have a bureaucracy that has taken over, and the elected officials need to take their power back. In doing this, I think you have to be congenial and I think you have to have a sense of humor. I think that has been sadly lacking in the past and I will try and provide that.”
Seven candidates are vying for a seat on the Killeen City Council: Elizabeth Blackstone, Jared Foster, Jonathan Okray, Randy Doyle, Doris Mims-Owens, Juan Rivera and Gary “Bubba” Purser Jr.
Residents asked the candidates what they would do regarding Killeen not owning its own water, what the candidates would do about city offices moving into the Killeen Arts & Activities Center and how they would go about securing grants to invest in parks in the city.
Okray addressed a resident’s concern regarding the city not having water rights, saying “if it ain’t broke, I will not fix it until it is.”
Added Okray: “We do not own our water because, for one, we were never given any right to the water; Bell County was given the rights to the water. So, from that, they created a board which the water is administered to us. ... I’m not going to say that we should build our own because we have already invested $30 million to get water. It’s a system.”
Doyle said what concerns him most in regards to water is conservation.
“All of our water supply is coming from Belton right now, and the current council has done the prudent thing to build capacity for the future,” he said. “What really concerns me most is … Texas is in a severe drought. If we don’t start putting measures in place to conserve water, we are going to have a $30 million plant that is pumping mud. We have to make sure we collaborate locally here to buy up all the water rights.”
Blackstone, in regards to city departments moving into the activities center, said the center is an asset for the people who use it.
“I was not on the council when the building was bought by the city, but I do think it is being used for many diverse things now,” she said. “It has been used for several events and activities. It’s being used, and some city businesses have been moved into that place for a while. It’s certainly an asset to those people who are using it at this time. I do assure you that we are using it as much as possible.”
Mims-Owens said the city is in need of more parks.
“I think that we really do need parks because we have a younger generation in our community who have a lot of children and they need a place to go and a place to play,” she said. “There are grants out there that (the city) could obtain.”
Purser said parks are important in the city because they add to the quality of life.
“Parks are important to our people, to our way of life, to our quality of life,” he said. “Look at what our citizens are getting to do at Lions Club Park and that (should) make all of us proud. We need parks; they’re important. But they have to be thought through to make sure we hit the nail on the head.”
Rivera said investing in parks goes hand in hand with quality of life.
“When I was in the military, the first thing I would look for was the quality of life for my kids, and that was parks,” he said. “(Parks) don’t make money, but they bring quality of life and that’s what we are looking for, something that we have to invest for no return. That’s one investment that you can never pay is the quality of life for our kids.”
Foster said the things that he’s concerned most about are economic development, community image, responsible budgeting and downtown development.
“I really support the revitalization of (downtown),” he said. “I feel like it’s the turn of the key for reinvesting in that side (of the city).”