Three seats for the governing body of Killeen are up for grabs, and seven candidates are vying for their stake as an at-large member on the Killeen City Council.
On the ballot for the May 10 municipal election are the three incumbents looking to reclaim their seats, along with a former councilman, an environmental supervisor at Fort Hood, a local businessman and a substitute teacher.
Here is a look at the candidates, starting with the three incumbents: Elizabeth Blackstone, Jared Foster and Jonathan Okray.
Elizabeth Blackstone, 65, said she is seeking re-election to the council to continue the progress she’s had a hand in as mayor pro tem over her tenure in the seat.
“The skills I have that will serve me most is that I have been a council member for the last two years,” she said. “I have a lot of listening and a lot of people skills. I have a lot of knowledge that I have learned in the past two years on the city council.”
Blackstone, a retired educator, said she believes her experience on the council gives her an edge and the tools necessary to keep the city moving forward.
“I have some knowledge that would benefit moving forward,” she said. “I am a lifelong Killeen resident. So, I have a read affinity for Killeen, and I want to see it grow in the right ways.”
Blackstone said she also believes women should be represented on the council.
“I have been the only woman on the council for the last two years, and I think because women make up over 50 percent of the population that we should have some representation on the council,” she said.
Jared Foster, 31, said keeping up with the city’s continuous growth is the biggest challenge he sees as a councilman.
“We are no longer a small town; we are a town of almost 140,000 people,” he said. “I think current staff and current council, for the last couple of years, have been really good about seeing the need to adopt a planning process. We’ve been a big town, and there are a lot more needs.”
Foster, operations manager at Killeen Power Sports, said some of the challenges in keeping up with the city’s growth are infrastructure upkeep and oversight.
“I’m excited about the fact that planning is a part of the culture now, and we see the value of that,” he said. “We have a great mission and a great load of work to do. Killeen is a fantastic town with a lot of unlocked potential.”
Jonathan Okray, 48, led the recall initiative that unseated five council members in 2011. He said his desire to serve the city led him to seek re-election.
He said one of the city’s biggest challenges has been addressed during his tenure on the council — the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s 85 percent rule. The TCEQ requires a city to begin planning for future water usage once it reaches 85 percent of its peak treatment capacity, which the city came close to in 2011.
Other challenges on Okray’s list, he said, include current and future infrastructure needs.
“Our road infrastructure is going to need improvements, and also maintenance on those roads and structures that will come down the road,” he said. “There is going to be a balancing act that we are going to have to do as we move south. We can’t forget what we already have. (We) need to consider what we have invested into the northern part of the city, so we need to keep and maintain that.”
Randy Doyle, 48, said he’s always had an interest in local politics, which led him to run for the seat.
“I don’t necessarily consider myself a politician; I consider myself more of an ambassador,” he said. “I have been working with the city staff for many years. (I want to) find these issues, have respectful, candid debates (and) make sure that we do something that is going to be good for the community and the region. I just want to be a part of the solution.”
Doyle, a supervisor of the environmental support team at Fort Hood, said some of the things he would like to concentrate on, if elected, are infrastructure, making sure emergency responders are adequately staffed to meet the city’s growing needs, bringing in entertainment venues for the area’s younger population and recycling.
“I think what we need to do is have a strategic plan in place (for recycling) because there are some legitimate issues out there,” he said. “The only way we are going to find a solution is to sit down with (residents) and come up with potential solutions. It needs to be an incentive program, a pay as you throw. It should be cost neutral; not every citizen should have to pay for everybody’s trash.”
Doris Mims-Owens, 64, said she is seeking a council seat to “make a difference.”
“I know the community and I feel I can make a difference,” she said. “I’ve served on numerous boards for the citizens of Killeen, and I just have the right heart. I know I can make a difference because I love what I do, and that is helping the citizens of this great community.”
Mims-Owens, a substitute teacher for the Killeen Independent School District, said if elected she would tackle the city’s water shortage issues and the lack of a homeless shelter.
“We do need a place for the homeless to stay, and we are facing a water crisis,” she said “We need to look at what we can do to make sure our water is stabilized here in the city, because people are moving in all the time.”
Gary Purser Jr.
Gary “Bubba” Purser Jr., 57, said his knowledge of the area and involvement in the community would make him an asset to the council.
“I have been involved in the community. I have invested in the community and watched the community through its ups and downs and its growth,” he said. “I think that the knowledge that I have gained would be beneficial to help the city continue on the path of prosperity.”
Purser, co-owner of Shafin Purser Inc., said Killeen, like any other city, faces challenges. He said in order for the city to maintain its growth and continue growing, infrastructure needs to be put in place to sustain it.
“Obviously, without being able to service our customers and our citizens with water, and I’m talking about future people who will come to Killeen,” he said. “We have to put infrastructure in place so we can afford the opportunity of growth.”
Juan Rivera, 63, was elected to the council in 2007 and re-elected in 2009.
Rivera, who owns Insurance Agency Mall in Killeen and chairs the Hispanic American Chamber of Commerce of Central Texas, said his previous experience on the council gives him a good understanding of city operations.
“I understand how and where to go to get a good budget for our city,” he said. “I believe there is still a long way to go, and I would like to contribute to my community.”
The biggest challenge Rivera said he sees is the city’s economy as it continues to experience growth.
“Our city is growing and that’s a big impact right now,” he said. “The best way for growth is within small businesses, and bringing those businesses up for them to survive.”
He said although he supports bringing in big business to the city, he doesn’t support doing so at the expense of smaller businesses.
Contact Natalie Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7555