Early voting for the March 3 Texas primary election is entering its second week, with the Super Tuesday election itself just nine days away.
However, it’s worth taking the time to note the number of candidates who will be running in the May 2 election for Killeen City Council.
Ballot positions were determined Thursday in Killeen’s municipal election, where 13 candidates are looking to fill three at-large council seats.
With all that competition for a spot on the council, it’s surprising that the city’s mayor, Jose Segarra, is unopposed for a third term.
However, while the large field of council candidates is impressive, it is hardly unusual in an even-numbered year, when voters choose the mayor and three at-large council seats.
In 2018, 12 candidates sought the three council positions, and another five — including Segarra — competed for the mayor’s post.
The number of candidates was somewhat smaller in 2016, when seven council candidates vied for the three open seats and three others contended for the mayor’s spot.
But this year’s total of 13 candidates is the highest number since the 2012 — six months after a recall election — when 26 candidates filed for six open seats.
At the time, City of Killeen spokeswoman Hilary Shine said the total was one short of the record for a Killeen municipal election.
Of the candidates who filed in 2012, 16 sought three at-large seats, five ran for two district seats, and five filed for the mayor’s post.
Typically, only four seats are up for election in any given year — either the four district seats or three at-large seats and the mayor’s position.
However, because the city’s fall 2011 recall initiative turned five of seven council members out of office, six seats were up for election the following May.
This year’s field of candidates is interesting, and not just because of its size.
Of the 13 candidates on the municipal ballot, four have run for a Killeen City Council seat before, two of them previously served on the council and one is a current council member.
It’s also interesting to note the range in ages of this year’s council candidates. The youngest person on the ballot is 22, and the oldest office-seeker is 74.
The field is pretty balanced as far as ages go, with three candidates in their 20s and 30s, two in their 40s, six in their 50s, one in his 60s and three in their 70s.
Of course, such factors as age and political experience aren’t the only determining factors in which candidates are best qualified for office — nor should they be.
Candidates should be willing to commit to the hard work of being a council member. That means researching the issues, getting familiar with the facts and engaging with constituents.
Being a council member also means striving to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money and continually looking for ways to better serve residents with the resources available.
Serving on the council also means being willing to listen to fellow council members and working together whenever possible to move the city forward.
This is a crucial year for Killeen.
The city faces budget challenges from inadequate state reimbursement for the disabled veterans property tax exemption, increasingly strained resources for public safety, a growing backlog of streets in dire need of repair, and an underfunded employee retirement plan.
As new City Manager Kent Cagle prepares to share his vision for the city through budget priorities and policy directives, it’s important that he have the support of the council, as well as council members’ commitment to work through differences and come to a consensus on initiatives that benefit the city and its residents.
When it comes to setting policy, it’s not always about the money — though that should be a consideration, since it’s generally the taxpayers who foot the bill for city projects and programs.
Whether a candidate has a boatload of political experience or is entering this race as a novice, voters should pay attention to how well each office-seeker addresses the issues and listens to residents.
Residents can gauge how well each candidate conforms to their own views on March 9, when the Killeen Daily Herald hosts a political forum at the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Invitations will be extended to all 13 candidates in the race, and residents are invited to hear from the people who will be asking for their votes on May 2.
For those who are unable to attend, the Herald will be streaming the event on Facebook Live, so residents can watch the forum online and in real time.
The Herald will host a second forum on March 16, for the candidates seeking two seats on the Killeen Independent School District board of trustees. This event also will take place at 6:30 p.m. at the conference center.
The two events promise to provide valuable insight into the issues facing the city and school district, as well as how the candidates propose to address them.
In the meantime, early voting continues through Friday in the March 3 primary election.
Bell County voters are encouraged to turn out to any of the six early-voting locations and weigh in on county, state and national races ranging from county constable to U.S. president.
Registered voters who choose to wait until Election Day will have the option of voting at any polling site in Bell County. Thanks to a new countywide electronic voting system, voters can go to any of the county’s 41 voting centers and cast their ballots between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
A full list of the early-voting sites and voting centers will be provided in the Herald’s print edition and online at kdhnews.com/centerforpolitics.
So make plans to vote in the primary election and make your voices heard.
Then prepare to tune in to the candidates seeking to represent you on the city council and school board.
Step up, get involved and then vote as if your community’s future depends on it.
In so many ways, it does.