Kathy Cruz: Wake up, Hood County! It’s election time

October 20, 2012

Wake up, Hood County! It’s election time

Editor Roger Enlow and I had a debate going this week about whether the voting public knows anything about the local candidates who are on the November ballot.

I harrumphed that just last week, there were two Page One stories about the issues in the Place 3 and Place 5 council races that are on the ballot. And the candidates for the new Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace position had been featured before in a candidate Q&A.

Roger argued that people rely on the last issue of the paper just before the start of early voting to find out important details about the candidates. He pointed out that he knows Hood County voters pretty darn well because he’s been at the Hood County News for years.

He’s right on that score. He’s been here forever. I mean forever. Since before he and his wife, Karan, had kids. Now they’ve got grandkids. Four of them.

The dude is old.

But anyhoo, I acquiesced to Roger because, well, one should respect one’s elders.


Let’s start with the Place 3 Granbury City Council race. Mitch Tyra, who was elected in 2009 in a runoff, is running for a second term. He is being challenged by real estate investor and Planning and Zoning Commission member Gary Couch.

Tyra currently is in the insurance business. He has been very outspoken during his time on the council, frequently posing questions and challenges.

He has strong viewpoints about fiscal responsibility. After taking office, he immediately set about lowering the controversial council pay. He has opposed heavy-handed government regulation, and any city real estate dealings. He (along with two others on the council) earlier this year voted down accepting the donation of the St. Helen’s building to expand the Granbury Opera House. Tyra has said that while he supports the Opera House and realizes its importance to tourism, he would like to see city government have no involvement in its operations.

Tyra’s vote on that issue may have been his most controversial stance since taking office – and it was a vote that Couch disagreed with. Couch criticizes Tyra’s “leadership” on several decisions related to the Opera House. The project has experienced lengthy delays.

There were other issues, too, that Couch says he would have handled differently than the current council – such as the boat slips near Hewlett Park across from the Conference Center.

Actually, there aren’t any boat slips there, just ugly poles sticking out of the water. They’ve been there three years. The city’s legal battle with the company that was hired to do the boat slips continues to rock on. Couch said he would have ended it before it started by hiring another company to do the work the way the city wanted it done, with documentation at the ready in case the original company filed suit.

Couch and Tyra each agree that something needs to be done about the city’s high electric rates. The candidates in the Place 5 competition realize that, too.

Laurel Pirkle, an insurance agent and longtime resident of Granbury, is running for a third term. He said he has been actively involved in the community for years, and not just through service on the City Council.

Pirkle acknowledges that the City Council has made mistakes along the way. Regarding Tyra’s criticisms of the past administration – an administration that Pirkle was part of, Pirkle said that public money at times has needed to be spent in order to advance the public good.

Pirkle has two challengers. One of them is Keith Tipton, a former bed and breakfast owner who spent almost 40 years in medical sales. At a candidates forum last week hosted by the Hood County Tea Party, Tipton criticized the council’s move several years ago to deplete the city’s utility fund by a half million to buy the infamous million dollar parking lot near the square. Tipton has an interest in city government, and has run for City Council before.

Interestingly, former City Manager Harold Sandel is Pirkle’s other challenger to re-election. Pirkle was part of the unanimous council vote two years ago that ousted Sandel. At that time, there was widespread discontent among people whose livelihoods were tied to the tourism industry. Sandel’s leadership, rightly or wrongly, was criticized by some tourism stakeholders.

Sandel said he bears no grudges, and is running for City Council because of his love for Granbury. He said he has 27 years’ experience in city business – 17 in Granbury, and 10 as city manager. He said he did not agree with the council’s parking lot purchase, and favored building a parking garage. Of the current contract with the city’s electric provider, he says he’s never seen a contract yet that couldn’t be adjusted.


Regarding the Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace race: This is a newly created position, and neither of the candidates have been JPs before.

Roger “Cotton” Howell, a county maintenance department employee, won the Republican primary. Although Hood County is heavily Republican, it is not all Republican. There is a Democratic Party here. And Howell has a Democratic opponent: Nick Cangiamilla. He’s in the insurance business.

Howell says that, if elected, he will run a tight ship with minimal staff and equipment. Cangiamilla says he will donate half his salary back to the county. Howell says he served in the U.S Marine Corps and as a church elder. Cangiamilla says he has more than 10 years’ experience in law enforcement and is “one of the most conservative Democrats you’ll ever meet.”

Early voting starts Monday. Election Day is Nov. 6.

Now maybe Roger will get off my back. If the geezer remembers he was on it to begin with.

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