Killeen City Council members had mixed reactions to a former city council candidate’s controversial letter to the editor alleging discriminatory actions on the part of the council.
Chairwoman of the Killeen Senior Advisory Board and former council candidate Patsy Bracey, 76, of Killeen, wrote a letter to the editor on Wednesday, published in Saturday’s edition of the Herald, which asserted that the seven-member Killeen city council favored one race and culture.
“I have great concern for the appointed leadership of my community,” Bracey wrote. “We have inexperienced city council members with little or no knowledge of the city ordinances. They seem to be supporting only one culture and race. This is very disappointing to me, since Killeen is a very diverse community. Addressing community situations seems to be for one, not all. Other cultures have stated fear of approaching the council for possible discrimination.”
The letter concluded, “What can we do as a community to resolve this? Think about what and who you voted for to lead this community next time you vote.
“I am so disappointed, as well as other Killeen citizens.
“Shame on you, City Council.”
Of the seven Killeen city council members, six happen to be people of color, although Bracey didn’t reference a particular race in her letter.
The Herald received the letter early Wednesday morning and did not receive any further correrspondence from Bracey prior to the letter’s publication.
After the letter started generating buzz around the community Saturday, the Herald contacted Bracey for clarification on her remarks, but she declined further comment.
Late Saturday evening, Bracey issued a retraction statement, apologizing to the council for her letter, which she referred to as an editorial.
“After reading the editorial several times, I realized it was written on emotions and conversations with other citizens,” she wrote the Herald. “I should not have ever written the editorial and regret doing so. I am asking the city council to forgive my remarks and citizens will have to address them with their own statements, not through me. It was never intentioning (sic) done, strictly on emotions. I am sorry for any feelings I have hurt and deeply saddened that I spoke in such a manner.”
Several council members addressed Bracey’s initial council criticisms Monday.
Mayor Pro Tem Debbie Nash-King said she was “disheartened” by the Bracey letter.
“Killeen is a diverse city and I have always represented all cultures,” Nash-King wrote. “The editorial was very disheartening because she knows me personally and I have never discriminated against anybody, including her.
“The council also has never discriminated against her because we have appointed her to several city volunteer positions,” King wrote. “It appears to be a statement from a person who plans to run for a future political position. It is my opinion; these words are used as a device to divide the city instead of bringing the city together. Her words were very mean spirited toward the council because we are the voice for all of residents of Killeen.”
Councilman Ken Wilkerson took a lighthearted approach to Bracey’s comments.
“God bless her heart,” Wilkerson wrote. “There’s really nothing to comment about. Sounds like she’s just having a bad day and decided to write to your editor.”
Councilman Steve Harris, who is seeking re-election to his District 4 seat, said he values Bracey’s perception and freedom of speech.
“In public service, the perception of citizens toward their public officials is a natural and crucial ingredient to the success of the city and the city official,” Harris wrote the Herald. “Some perceptions are positive while, others are negative. In the end, it is the overall perception of all things done, both good and bad by a council member or the entire council that creates a final and overall perception. In the case of this individual’s perception, and her claim of other constituents having the same perceptions is eye-opening and must be taken seriously.
Harris continued, “In the past, no one truly disagreed there was a “good ole boy” system in Killeen. Now, the idea is being floated that we have moved from one good ole boy system to another — Why is this? With the comments also coming from an African American lady, racism cannot be the assumed reason. For people to try and attack her for her personal perception would demonstrate intolerance of freedom of thought and speech.
“All I know is this, with my experience of being a teacher and coach in KISD, and a special needs aide in my early years in education in Temple, over the past 26 years, my heart and mind is trained and grounded in being for ALL people of ALL races, genders, ethnicities and so on. My heart and mind is grounded in supporting what is best for our community — our city.
“If this perception is a genuinely heartfelt one, then the council needs to work to make sure that perception is no longer being displayed as such. Also, we still have one more election to take place, citizens who have these perceptions need to weigh their options carefully.”
Councilwoman Nina Cobb said she hopes residents remember the Killeen City Council is tasked with making decisions for 158,000 residents, not one race.
“There will be many times that citizens will use their rights to express how they feel out of passion for the issue dear to their hearts,” Cobb said. “That’s why we are America. I respect the freedom of speech. However, let me assure you and every citizen that it will always be my direction to be fair and just to all people, even when I must stand alone. I will work with facts and the doctrines that are in place to govern this city.
“I am proud to serve on this council with a fair mayor, fellow councilmen, councilwomen and a city staff who work hard for each of you. We do work and we research so fairness is always serve. Yes, the next statement may not be a great political answer but I pray. When I read the commentary this youthful but seasoned councilwoman went to where I always go to is prayer.”
Cobb continued, “My conscience on the end of the day is all I have and it is good to know that others have one also, to make things right and apologize. Be patient, this city is being led by a wonderful team of men and women who care and seek fairness at all times. We will make mistakes, you may disagree with our decisions but realize we are responsible for making decisions for over 158,000 citizens and it is not taken lightly. It is my hope that fellow citizens take what my parents share with me over 40 years ago when I made a mistake with words.”
Bracey reached out to the Herald on Monday requesting her final statement apologizing for her comments be published in the daily paper in advance of the city council’s reaction comments.
“Citizens and City Council members please be aware, comments made by me in the (letter to the editor) were written based on emotions and recent comments made to me from citizens, never intended to cause any inflammatory remarks personally, racial or other wise against the city council,” Bracey wrote. “I am a Black woman, it would be foolish for (me) to attack the Black council. Someone else is upset over the “ Black”, council and want to use my comments to start a war. Comments were emotional written.”
The Herald also invited Council members Mellisa Brown, Jessica Gonzalez and Rick Williams to comment on this issue, but they did not reply by deadline Monday.
Herald Deputy Managing Editor Dave Miller contributed to this article.
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