The Hood County Tea Party had a respectable turnout last week for the candidates forum that the group sponsored for Granbury City Council candidates. About three-fourths of the seats in the council chambers were filled.
Three spots for the City Council will be on the Nov. 5 ballot – mayor, Place 2 and Place 4. There are 11 candidates.
For mayor, the candidates, in ballot order, are: David Southern, Billy Joe “Scooter” Thomas and Nin Hulett.
In Place 2, the contenders are: John Bratta, incumbent Tony Allen, Phoenix Van Daele and J.T. Winn.
For the year that remains of the unexpired Place 4 term, the candidates are Ken Grey, Tom Baker, Tony Mobly and Rose B. Myers.
Cullen Crisp served as the moderator for the Thursday evening event at Granbury City Hall. Matt Mills was the timekeeper. Tea party president Don Poe gave opening remarks.
Briscoe Dunn read to the crowd information about Mobly’s background as a financial advisor, and Mobly’s pledge to donate his $12,000 annual council pay to local charities. Mobly was unable to attend the forum because of a prior out-of-town commitment.
Crisp posed questions to the candidates that had been submitted by audience members. Topics included tourism, the lake level, the strictness of city ordinances, the Opera House renovation and City Council pay.
None of the candidates said they favored increasing council compensation.
Some of the candidates stated support for certain courses of action, such as reviving tourism and increasing economic development, but provided no details on how to make strides in those areas.
However, some responses by some candidates were detailed and indicated a knowledge of city affairs.
Hulett, Allen and Southern had the advantage of on-the-job training brought through incumbency or prior service on the council. However, they also faced criticism for decisions made during their service.
Allen and Hulett currently serve on the council. Southern was on the City Council for 24 years, and served as mayor for 15 of those years before being defeated by Mayor Rickie Pratt.
Thomas told the audience that he has lived in Granbury for 64 of his 74 years.
In an apparent challenge to a statement by Southern that serving as mayor “takes a lot more time than people recognize,” he stated that the city manager is charged with handling the day-to-day running of the city. There is no need, he said, for the mayor to be at City Hall “every day.”
Hulett credited “the citizens,” who he said helped him step into the role of mayor pro tem after Pratt was stricken by a major stroke shortly after Christmas last year.
In response to the question about stringent city codes that enhance aesthetics within the city, Hulett said that he believes city officials need to “sit down and work through some issues.”
Thomas stated Granbury is “almost prohibitive” in its strict rules for businesses.
“There are a lot of hoops to jump through,” he said. “I’m like everybody else; I want a pretty city, but there has got to be a balance.”
Southern said that the city’s rockwork requirement was put in place “so commercial buildings can carry the bulk of the taxes. Those buildings are worth more.”
The former mayor indicated that the move benefitted individual taxpayers while making the city appealing.
Allen defended his stance regarding the St. Helen’s building next door to the Opera House. His vote to refuse the donation of the building that would have allowed the Opera House to be expanded is perhaps the most controversial action he has taken during his time on the council. He is running for his second term.
However, though Allen’s position was controversial, he was not alone. The donation was voted down because there were two other votes against accepting the gift. Hulett voted against it, as did Mitch Tyra, who was defeated for re-election last year.
Allen said he feared that once construction began on St. Helen’s, problems such as asbestos might be discovered that could prove costly for the city.
“Nothing’s free in life,” he told the audience Thursday.
Despite circumventing St. Helen’s, the price tag for the Opera House renovation nevertheless rose to $3.4 million.
The cost has some people angry at the City Council – a fact that Allen himself has acknowledged.
The councilman’s three opponents said they felt that the decision to refuse the St. Helen’s building was a poor one.
Bratta said the decision was “hard to understand.” He spent almost four decades in education, has a real estate license, attended law school and has a master’s degree.
He said that citizens have “a decision-making body that’s making decisions without doing their homework.”
Van Daele, a cooking coach at H-E-B, said that refusing the St. Helen’s gift was “not a good decision,” and that it “would have helped the city in the long-run.”
Winn, who works in facilities maintenance construction, said that he agreed with Van Daele.
“It seems to me that a lot of money could have been saved,” he said. “I don’t understand (the decision), personally.”
Grey said that he spent two decades in the Coast Guard and that he wants to bring “leadership and accountability” to the City Council.
Baker told the audience about his civic involvement, his service as a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment and his regular attendance at City Council meetings and annual budget workshops.
The statement read on Mobly’s behalf said that he has served on several local nonprofit boards, including a stint as president of the Rotary Club, and that taxpayers will benefit from his experience as a financial advisor.
Myers said that the St. Helen’s/Opera House issue was one of the reasons she began attending council meetings. She said that the lake level is another chief concern for her. She told the audience that she has 20 years of corporate experience in the health care field.
Early voting starts Monday. All early voting will take place at Annex 1, 1410 W. Pearl St.
Polls will be open the following days and times: Oct. 21-25, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 26, 7 to 7; Oct. 28-30, 8 to 5; and Thursday, Oct. 31, and Friday, Nov. 1, 7 to 7.
Granbury City Council candidates have been invited to provide written statements to the HCN regarding their qualifications for office and what they consider to be the primary issues in their race.
The HCN will publish their responses in the Saturday, Oct. 19, issue.
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