What do you want from your elected officials?

That’s an important question for Killeen-area voters to ask themselves as they head to the polls Monday for the start of early voting in the May 7 election.

Monday’s Killeen Daily Herald forum for mayoral and council candidates was revealing in several areas.

While all candidates demonstrated a genuine desire to serve and a commitment to the city and its residents, some differed on how they viewed their roles as prospective office holders.

A recent Herald poll found 80 percent of respondents wanted “hands-on” council members, especially regarding the city’s finances.

But there, candidates were split on their prospective duties.

Incumbent Jonathan Okray advocating being the most hands-on, saying he wanted to look at the city’s budget “line by line,” and former councilman Steve Harris said the council should be very knowledgeable about the city’s finances “and not just at the surface level.” Candidate Gregory Johnson said he wanted to see monthly financial reports within 60 days and also urged the city to adopt zero-based budgeting.

Others called for somewhat less direct involvement, with former Councilman Terry Clark suggesting expanding the city’s finance department and candidate Tad Dorroh characterizing the council’s role as that of an oversight board, in which the council sets expectations with the city manager, who directs the department heads accordingly.

The council candidates differed on the issue of city contracts as well.

Harris and Dorroh took the strongest stands, with Harris arguing that city contracts should not be open-ended and should be rebid when they are up. Dorroh said local employers should always have first rights in the bidding process.

Clark sidestepped the question of no-bid contracts, citing his lack of legal expertise. Okray argued contractors should be properly registered with the city.

On these and other issues, Killeen voters have to make a choice — whether to cast their ballot for candidates who represent continuity and stability or to vote for those advocating a new approach and an openness to changing city policy and procedures.

How voters choose will affect everything from financial accountability to transparency and perhaps most importantly, the selection of the next city manager.

Killeen-area residents have similar choices in the Killeen ISD school board race. Voters must decide whether they want to be represented by a board dominated by teachers and administrators or one that reflects a broader cross-section of the community.

District residents also face a choice between re-electing incumbents on a board that has struggled to address the challenges facing the district or to hand the reins to less-experienced challengers who are pushing for more community interaction and stronger board oversight.

Who is best qualified to take on the hard decisions and make the difficult choices?

The decisions made at the ballot box will affect the future of our community for the next two years and beyond.

As such, it’s important to have the necessary information. The Herald’s Election Guide can be found in today’s edition, providing a side-by-side look at candidates responses to questions on the issues, as well as a list of polling locations and times.

More information, including candidate videos and profiles, as well as a recording of last week’s forum, can be found at kdhnews.com/centerforpolitics.

It’s important to be well informed, but it’s also important to take the opportunity to cast your ballot. In the last mayoral election, just 6 percent of the city’s registered voters went to the polls. Just 3,493 residents voted in the mayoral race — a contest that was decided by 98 votes.

It’s imperative that voters turn out in better numbers this time around. Get involved. Make a difference in your city and school district.

Going to the polls is the best way to show you care.

Contact Dave Miller at dmiller@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7543

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