The voters have spoken.
Across Killeen and in surrounding communities, residents have registered their choices for Killeen mayor, City Council and Killeen ISD board of trustees.
The winning candidates — largely incumbents — are to be congratulated on their respective victories at the polls.
Now the hard work begins.
Once the new city council is sworn in, members will face the important task of shaping a city budget for the coming fiscal year. And they’ll have to do so working with an interim city manager who is overseeing the municipal budget process for the first time.
As such, it’s time for council members to adopt the hands-on approach that so many local residents have called for in their elected leaders.
In addressing the new budget, the council must prioritize the areas important to Killeen’s residents — such as public safety, streets and recreation — while carefully scrutinizing areas where spending can be trimmed.
More importantly, the council must move quickly to appoint a qualified, committed resident to the seat vacated by Mayor-elect Jose Segarra, who stepped down in order to run for the mayor’s post, as required by the city charter.
As Segarra represented District 2, the appointed council member must reside within that same district in order to be considered for the seat. But beyond residency, it’s crucial that the new member be responsive to the residents’ concerns and committed to both financial accountability and transparency.
This is especially important in the wake of concerns from several council members and residents regarding city contracting practices and timely financial reports.
Also, the council must quickly set in motion the process for selecting a new city manager. During the election campaign, virtually all of the council and mayoral candidates agreed on the need to find a well-qualified candidate from outside the Killeen area.
Getting serious about prioritizing the qualifications wanted in a city manager and selecting a reputable search firm will send a strong message to voters that their elected members are committed to moving the city forward.
Similarly, members of the Killeen school board must send a message that they have heard district residents’ concerns and are committed to addressing them.
Over the past year, the district has been dealing with the fallout from a state agency’s investigation that found Killeen ISD was out of compliance on special education testing guidelines for seven consecutive years.
A subsequent audit of the special education program raised further questions when the district apparently made edits to the original document behind the scenes before going public with the final report.
In the interim, the district paid attorneys to fight the release of the audit revisions, at taxpayer expense.
Though the district has adopted initiatives designed to address the program’s problem areas, many parents of special-needs children continue to express frustration that their concerns are not being dealt with.
Having earned the voters’ endorsement, the re-elected board members — Corbett Lawler, Susan Jones and Shelley Wells — must take steps toward better transparency in all district transactions and communications.
In addition, board trustees must work to ensure parents’ concerns are not only heard but promptly addressed.
Both at the KISD administration offices and at City Hall, it’s time for action and accountability. Given the challenges facing the city and school district, business as usual simply won’t do.
In exit interviews outside several polling sites Saturday, Killeen-area residents told the Herald they wanted to make sure their voices were heard.
The officials they put into office should be prepared to listen — and act accordingly on their behalf.