SALADO — Despite a proposal to allow liquor stores, a complicated plan for the donation of a wastewater treatment plant and preparations for an $8 million to $10 million bond election, voters in Salado are worried about things more esoteric.
From chats outside of Salado’s municipal building to questions posed at an April 10 candidate forum, Salado voters want to know if their future mayor could unite the city.
They want to know if the mayoral candidates can communicate to the divided interest groups throughout the village, build a consensus within the disparate neighborhoods as well as on the board of alderman and present a coherent vision of the city moving forward.
Danney McCort, 69, a retired engineer who has served as Salado’s mayor for the last two years, said that one of the most difficult aspects of municipal government is working within the confines of the budget.
“We are constantly trying to upgrade our roads but we have a very limited budget,” McCort said. “Everybody wants their roads repaired but they want it done on peanuts.”
He added that he believes Salado future lies in developing the west side of Interstate 35.
“We are going to have to develop the west side to bring jobs here,” McCort said. “Young families need a place to work.”
McCort said that the future of Salado is tied to the proposed sewer system.
“People are saying that they want bowling alleys and all things like that, but it won’t happen without a sewer system.”
At an April 10 candidate forum, McCort added that communication with village residents will continue to be a key area. He promised to have regular meetings with both the alderman and village residents.
Hans Fields, 75, a retired engineer and school teacher who has served on the board of aldermen for the last three years, has made road repair one of the main issues in his candidacy.
“A lot of our roads are terrible,” Fields said. “We can repair two-tenths of a mile per year.”
Fields said he believes that the proposed sewer system is not the most pressing issue.
“Do voters want to pay taxes to put in a sewer system for downtown or fix the streets?” Fields asked.
He added that he is “running on a platform as the voice of the people of Salado.”
“I send out an email to a list of people and they tell me what they think on the issues,” Fields said. He added that his email list is “about 90 people,” but that the people in his email list forward his emails on.
“One person told me that he sends out what I send him to 20 of his friends,” Fields said.
Rick Ashe, 51, a lieutenant with the Temple Police Department and former two-term mayor of Salado from 2004 to 2008, said infrastructure repair is a key issue in Salado.
“We need the infrastructure to support our businesses,” Ashe said. He also said that a sewer system is a key component for the city’s growth, and that it needs to be extended to the west side of I-35.
“We can’t really grow right now because we’re landlocked by Jarrell and Belton,” Ashe said. “But the advantage is that the west side has been kind of ignored.”
Ashe said he plans to expand communication by working with the various volunteer committees throughout the village.
“Salado is a bit different — it’s run by volunteers,” Ashe said. “An old joke used to be that if you got 10 people in a room, you had five different committee meetings.”
He added that in previous years, the board of aldermen would regularly meet with the heads of the various committees throughout the village.
“That’s something to start up again,” Ashe said.
Skip Blancett, 67, a retired U.S. Navy chaplain and the current chief of programs for Fort Hood’s Education Service Division, is the only candidate on the ballot who has never held elected office. His campaign has been less focused on the nuts and bolts infrastructure issues and more about communicating with voters.
“The mayor has the vision for the city,” Blancett said. “He doesn’t get in the weeds to make it happen — that’s the city manager’s job.”
He added that while he doesn’t have the experience of his opponents, he brings “fresh eyes and love for the village” to the position.
“You probably think I’m an evangelist,” Blancett said. “But that’s just passion. I bring to you communication and leadership on a global scale and a passion that can’t be bought or sold.”
Blancett said he considers building consensus and unity to be two of his greatest strengths.
“So what (am I) going to do build consensus?” Blancett asked. “What people are hungry for are people who care, people who understand.”