Editor's note: This week, we conclude our series of interviews with the candidates for Copperas Cove City Council. Nine of the ten candidates were kind enough to sit down for extended interviews with Copperas Cove Herald editor David Perdue over the last few weeks to talk about why they decided to run. For our online edition, each interview will be published separately.
For Place 5 City Council candidate Gary Kent, education is a cornerstone to success in life.
“Something I was told as a young kid, your only limitation is your own imagination,” Kent said during a recent interview about his city council run. “A lot of things in life you can obtain can be taken away from you, but an education, once obtained, can never be taken from you.”
It’s a philosophy he’s taken to heart, having earned four college degrees and currently taking classes for a master’s degree.
“Knowledge is power. It’s what I call L-E-E-D: leadership, experience, education and determination. I bring those things to the table. That’s important to me because the citizens of Copperas Cove deserve to have a city council that is well-versed in many areas.
Kent has lived in Copperas Cove since 1993. His life experience includes service in the Army; two previous terms on the city council; an unsuccessful run for mayor in 2015; and a career in law enforcement, including being the former police chief in Nolanville.
He’s concerned about the future of Copperas Cove, especially what he calls the mass exodus of businesses from city.
“You go down 190 and our city...it’s beginning to look like a ghost town. I can’t even remember when it was like this. You know, it’s scary.”
However, Kent doesn’t think think that the direction or leadership of the city council needs awholesale change. Rather, it needs a few tweaks.
“A lot of the city council members I had an opportunity to serve with…(they’re) pretty smart people. But, things have changed, (and) we’ve got to change with (them) to be able to put Copperas Cove back at the top of the list.”
Part of that change comes back to the idea of knowledge having power.
“Copperas Cove is unique. We have CTC, we have Texas A&M, we have Mary Hardin Baylor. We have a lot of people who are well-rooted in education...and education is one of the key things in bringing in technical jobs. I want to help bring in jobs that don’t depend on people walking through the door every day. We’ve got to have a world view. If we don’t, we’re going to have big dreams but we’re not going to have the ability to sustain them.
During the last year, new leaders were appointed by the Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation, and the city council approved Ryan Haverlah as the new city manager. Kent believes new leadership is only as good as the ideas they put forward to keep the city moving forward.
“New blood doesn’t necessarily mean new ideas. (They) need to have a mindset of doing what’s best for the city, for the citizen,” Kent said.
Moreover, he thinks elected officials need to listen to the voters more.
“A lot of time politicians forget who put them in those positions. We know how to go to the community for votes, but its very important to go back and hear feedback...to find out what are the citizens’ views on certain issues. Because without it, we just have us against them. I’m strictly for the people, and hearing out what it is and how they feel.”
Kent feels that it’s important to get more information to people so they can make informed choices and get more involved in city government.
“We have the (city) website, but we’ve got to get it out there on 190...to inspire people to come out and vote. It’s like with the military. We always have to let our military brothers and sisters know they are important, that their vote counts. I know that when I was in the military, I was like, just go to work, come home...but it’s much more than that. The city should have a system where we are encouraging the people (to vote).”
Having been on the council before, Kent knows that being a lone voice of dissent won’t take the city where he wants it to go.
“One person can’t speak for the whole council. You have to build consensus. And I’m a person who is very good at working with others to do what’s best for the city.”