Southern challenges Hulett for mayor

August 7, 2013

Former Mayor David Southern is jumping back into the political ring, challenging Mayor Pro Tem Nin Hulett for the top spot on the Granbury City Council.

Both filed their candidate paperwork with the City Secretary last week.

Hulett, the newest member of the City Council and the one chosen by his peers to be mayor pro tem, has been handling mayoral duties for the past eight months, ever since Mayor Rickie Pratt suffered a major stroke shortly after Christmas.

So far, Southern and Hulett are the only ones who have filed for mayor in the Granbury city elections. The filing deadline is 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 26. Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Southern, who was mayor for 15 of the 24 years he served on the Granbury City Council, said he is running on several key issues that include the lake level, the effect of the low lake level on the city’s desalination plant, completing projects that were in progress when he lost re-election to Pratt three years ago, building a new police station and placing a police officer in every school.

He stated that he considers Hulett’s wife, Jan, a personal friend, and that he intends to run a clean campaign.

Hulett said that the lake level is of great concern to him, as well, ranking “high” on his list of priorities. He said that voters are ready for a “professional, business-type leader” and that his 32 years with General Motors provided him with that kind of experience.

The handling of the Opera House renovation project was one of the issues that Southern included in a written statement to the Hood County News announcing his candidacy.

In the statement, Southern criticized the current council over costs for the Opera House project that were greatly increased above the originally planned $1.2 million “because a short-sighted council refused to consider a gift of the building next door and additional fundraising efforts of the group who initially offered $700,000.”

The council’s refusal to accept the gift of the St. Helen’s building to allow for expansion of the theater was very controversial, with strong feelings on each side. Hulett was among those who voted to stick with the Opera House’s original footprint.

“I’m not pleased with the dollar amount, but going forward, I think we’re going to have something that we’re going to be proud of,” he said, adding that earlier problems with the project are now “water under the bridge.”

Hulett added that he believes that incorporating the St. Helen’s building would have involved unforeseen costs once renovation got under way.

Southern said that when City Hall was built 11 years ago, the plan was always to someday move the Police Department from that building into a building of its own. That time has come, he believes.

Hulett and the rest of the council are currently considering as part of its 2013-2014 budget a request by Police Chief Mitch Galvan to fund a study for a new police station.

Southern stated that he wants the city to partner with the school district to have an officer in every school.

Hulett said that he does not have particular topics that he considers campaign issues, but said that “we have a lot of issues that we’re facing right now.”

Another criticism of Southern’s is the pace of the long-planned airport expansion.

“I think it should have moved faster than this,” the former mayor said. “I don’t know if that’s because of lack of effort at the city, or lack of effort at the highway department.

“Many times, I had to go with (City Services Director) Keith (Callahan) to Austin to push the project forward. It should have been under construction by now.”

Hulett said that the airport project has been “moving at a lot faster pace” of late, and that the city is about to acquire the land needed for the expansion.”

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