NEWS HEADLINES

Decatur Choice 2019

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, April 20, 2019
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DECATUR CITY COUNCIL

Three council seats are on the May 4 ballot. Voters will select council members for Place 2, Place 4 and the at-large Place 6 seats. Here’s their answers to our questions on their race.

PLACE 2 CANDIDATES

SUSAN COCANOUGHER

Occupation: Retired

Why are you seeking office?: (incumbent) I am seeking a fourth and final term on the Decatur City Council. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve on the council the past seven years. I have also served on the Main Street Committee, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Home Rule Charter Committee and three years on the EDC board. I will use the knowledge and experience I have gained in the past to serve the citizens of Decatur. I have been fortunate to live in Decatur my entire life. I want Decatur to grow and prosper and continue to be a place people want to call home. There are many opportunities ahead as Decatur continues to grow but along with growth comes challenges. I believe with the renewed interest in city government and the much needed citizen input, we will work through these challenges together to achieve what is best for our community.

Question: How has the city’s EDC performed in recent years? What approach would you like to see?: I believe the EDC has performed well, attracting new businesses to Decatur and helping established businesses grow and expand. This is a list of businesses that the EDC has been involved with in recent years: Fairfield Inn and Suites, Biggar Hat Store, Quik Trip, Trinity Street Coffee Bar, Orschelin Farm and Home, Industrial Diesel Inc., Decatur Heat and Air, Ary Company AC and Heat and Eagles Landing Business Park. The 162-acre business park will attract businesses to Decatur bringing jobs and adding to the tax base. The EDC recently awarded funds to the Decatur Parks Board to purchase play ground equipment for Kenny Renshaw Park. As you can see from this list, the EDC’s approach has been successful and I believe it will continue that success into the future. I would be honored to serve another term and would appreciate your vote.

JAKE HAYES

Occupation: Airline Pilot

Why are you seeking office?: I am seeking office primarily to serve my community. I also would like to help guide Decatur through the growth that is happening and will continue to happen. I want to help encourage businesses to come to Decatur. I want to go through the codes and regulations and make changes to make it easier to remodel homes.

How has the city’s EDC performed in recent years? What approach would you like to see?: I believe that over the last few years the EDC has done a good job. I think that they have made steps to keep some businesses. They have recently invested in a great business Trinity Street Coffee Bar in order for them to expand here in Decatur. Also their investment in the Decatur Conference center has been key to the growth of our community. I would like to see the EDC get more aggressive in bringing businesses to Decatur that would provide good paying jobs for our citizens. I would also like to see better communication out of the EDC to let the citizens know what they are doing in Decatur. I think that the city council should be in constant communication with the EDC and find out what businesses like about Decatur and also what they do not like about Decatur. The council should then make the necessary changes to accommodate businesses if possible, and continue the practices that businesses like.

JUSTIN HORTON

Occupation: Police officer

Horton did not respond by the Messenger’s deadline.

PLACE 4 CANDIDATES

WILL CARPENTER

Occupation: Co-owner of Eighter Liquor

Why are you seeking office?: I am running as I feel led and compelled to serve the City in a civic capacity.

At the community forum, there were concerns about the development process in Decatur and the requirements for sidewalks. What is your thoughts on the current requirements and how should process be improved?: The current system for sidewalks being triggered by permit requests lacks common sense. I feel if you are doing an interior remodel or building a swimming pool, without adding square feet to your living area, sidewalks should not be included. Are they important? Yes, but why put the financial burden on the homeowner? Remodeling a home is expensive and the additional money spent on a sidewalk requirement can break the budget for the project. We should encourage everyone to keep up with their property. If sidewalks are going to be a requirement, then I feel the city needs to take on some of the cost and grants need to be applied for. The process needs to be consistent. It makes no sense to grant a waiver for one resident and require another to put a side walk in.

EDDIE ALLEN

Occupation: Sales manager

Why are you seeking office?: After being on the P&Z for six and half years and being in the public eye, I thought it was time to be on the side of approving things to get some things done for citizens. As a P&Z member, all you do is recommend items to the council. I feel it’s my time to do my part as a citizen.

At the community forum, there were concerns about the development process in Decatur and the requirements for sidewalks. What is your thoughts on the current requirements and how should process be improved?: The process 100 percent needs to be improved. It needs to be easier for when citizens try to spend money to improve their property. When the city hampers and prevents development, it puts the burden on the citizens that live here…The city gets hung up on the replat. Other cities don’t require that. When people buy a property in the older parts of town, they don’t know if it’s platted until they go to the P&Z to make improvements and then there’s $10,000 worth of improvements required. I don’t want to be known as the sidewalks guy. I want to make it easier for builders, developers and residents to do business in this city. It’s about customer service. We have to find a way to say yes to people.

PLACE 6 CANDIDATES

RANDY W. PARKER

Occupation: Owner/Broker-Parker Properties Real Estate, Inc.

Why are you seeking office?: (Incumbent) I have served three different times for over 12 years of service. The reason we have a great city is because our citizens work together and volunteer their time to serve on the council, boards and commissions.

At the community forum, thoughts were expressed by Place 6 candidates on the city’s planning for growth and needs? What do you believe are the city’s immediate needs and how do they need to be addressed? What do you feel are long term needs and how must they be addressed?: We have a long-term master plan which is a guideline to meet our growing needs. My primary goal is to attract businesses which will create jobs, increase sales tax revenue and expand our property tax base. As Decatur’s population grows, there is a continuing need to evaluate our infrastructure, utilities and water supply. In 2020, Decatur will retire (or pay off) several of our long-term bonds. We will re-issue new long-term bonds to meet the additional needs of our community. Since, Decatur has maintained a solid and healthy growth plan, we have an “A” rating on the bond market, which will give us a better interest rate.

MELINDA REEVES

Occupation: Retired educator with 38 years of experience. Lamar University administration field supervisor

Why are you seeking office?: My whole life has been in service-oriented professions. I’ve always loved this town. I’ve been praying about how I could be involved. I still have a lot of years left to serve. With the Main Street expansion, I got involved because I wanted a better definition of what it meant. I got on the Main Street board. I went to one of the Decatur Forward meetings. The kids involved I was their principal. I thought how marvelous these young people want to be involved in the community. They are not saying the people in power are not doing a good job. I’ve always been an educator and want to educate people. I’m always going to do what’s right and not always going to do what’s easy.

At the community forum, thoughts were expressed by Place 6 candidates on the city’s planning for growth and needs? What do you believe are the city’s immediate needs and how do they need to be addressed? What do you feel are long term needs and how must they be addressed?: The city does a great job of being fiscally responsible. I don’t think we do anything until we get a plan in place. The master plan is from 2004 and it’s not been fully accomplished. I know from my years in education how to educate, utilize a master plan and seek input from people. People want to give that input to create a plan. Things need to happen. As Randy said in the forum, infrastructure is not sexy, but we’ve got to make sure the infrastructure needs are met to handle the vision for the community. … The city can seek people out. We have something to offer once we get the infrastructure in place. We’ve got to seek additional revenue other than sales and property tax. There’s other places where the city and schools do joint projects. We need to come together to do some creative things. There’s bound to be a way to be creative and we can accomplish more than is being accomplished.

DECATUR SCHOOL BOARD

There are two seats on the Decatur ISD ballot – Place 1 and Place 2. Here are the answers to our questions by the candidates.

PLACE 1 CANDIDATES

STAN SHULTS

Occupation: Regional Manager, Costco Health Solutions

Why are you seeking this office?: To work together with the other school board members and the administration to provide the necessary resources and guidance to make DISD a district that all teachers, students and parents can be proud to be a part of.

Question: Decatur ISD has $6 million in its construction fund. How should the district approach using it? Fund construction at the high school for career and technical courses; refurbish older campuses; or wait to call a bond package?: Any candidate running for school board that is not an incumbent has limited insight into exactly what is most needed right now by the school district as far as facilities are concerned. This is a complicated issue that the board has been wrestling with for some time and they are in the best position to know what is needed. Having said that, we are at a critical stage at the high school with space for our CTE programs, which are vital to the success of many of our students and ultimately our community. I believe that both short-term and long-term goals need to be established. The short term needs seem to be apparent and I would lean toward immediately implementing the renovations at the high school to overcome the current spacing issues. This would leave enough funds in the construction account to take care of short-term needs at our other campuses particularly at McCarroll Middle and Intermediate Schools. It would also act as a cushion until we know what our state legislature is going to do concerning public education and property tax reform (this should happen by the end of May). Long-term needs have to be established by a facilities committee which has been discussed by the board and appears to be in the works. Growth is inevitable, as are growing pains, and we will have to face those financial issues soon to maximize the best use of our tax dollars. We have to plan now for what we know is coming to our district in the foreseeable future.

THOMAS J HOUCHIN

Occupation: President and Owner of 5K Land Services.

Why are you seeking this office?: I wish to serve the staff, students and parents of Decatur ISD to make our schools as safe, successful and fiscally responsible as we can be.

Question: Decatur ISD has $6 million in its construction fund. How should the district approach using it? Fund construction at the high school for career and technical courses; refurbish older campuses; or wait to call a bond package?: How to spend the $6 million should not be taken lightly. The board as whole cannot decide on how to spend that money without understanding all the upcoming expenditures. The board needs to evaluate all of the buildings, the buildings operational capacities, and conditions and incorporate the demographic study for projected growth. A diverse committee must be in place to assess the needs of the district’s facilities and get a refreshed version of actual growth numbers. A choice of options seeking community input on how to best spend taxpayers money should be contemplated. Board members have to also keep in mind the recent legislature changes when making decisions on how to spend the $6 million. Once all of the needs are determined then curriculum needs to be considered like the high school CTE programs and possibly a full time Pre-K that is currently being discussed by the legislature. All of the factors that should be included then need to be prioritized, and a plan put in place for the district with the input of committees and the community.

PETE RIVERA

Occupation: Planning and design consultant

Rivera didn’t respond to phone calls.

PLACE 2 CANDIDATES

CHERI BOYD

Occupation: Artist

Why are you seeking this office?: (Incumbent) It is a privilege to be given a chance to play a small role in shaping an environment that fosters the successes of our students. I seek re-election because I believe that working together is the path to a better tomorrow.

Question: District leadership has been a topic of discussion for past year with Decatur ISD. What is its successes and how must it be improved?: The most enjoyable thing about serving on the school board is seeing students and teachers recognized for outstanding achievements in academics, the Ag program, fine arts, and athletics. The accomplishments we have witnessed are a cumulative effort of the tireless work by our teachers, administrators and staff putting our students in the best possible position to succeed. Our dedicated staff diligently works to prepare students to enter the work force, trade schools, as well as top universities in and out of state after graduation. The best reflection of any school district is the students. The district leaders not only celebrate the successes of our students, but continue to focus on creating a safe environment for all. We always look for ways to improve safety and security through additional measures such as increased video surveillance, another SRO at the high school, mandating locked doors, doorbells with security cameras at every campus, and implementing technology to assist in emergency situations. It is imperative that leadership at all levels put personal feelings aside and work together for the betterment of all students and staff. No one person can do this on their own. It is the board’s responsibility to put the leadership in a position to be successful and to challenge or support them when appropriate. That distinction is very important and one I did not fully understand until I served on the board. Working together is the best way to promote what is best for our students and teachers.

CHRIS LOWERY

Occupation: General Manager of Lowery Wholesale, LLC in Paradise since 2010. Owner of Lowery Wholesale, LLC since 2016.

Why are you seeking this office?: I am seeking office because I am passionate about all people in the district. Students, teachers and administrators should be treated equally and held to the same standards. The focus of the district must be completely centered on the academic and safety needs of our students. I want to make sure our tax dollars are spent in the best way possible to ensure all students and staff are equipped with what they need to achieve personal excellence.

Question: District leadership has been a topic of discussion for the past year with DISD. What is its successes and how must it be improved?: The success of our district has been apparent in the great accomplishments of our students this year. Our Eagles could never have soared to the heights they reached this season athletically and academically without the campus leadership they have had behind them encouraging them to achieve their goals. However, there have been some difficulties between the current board and the superintendent that have lead to challenges to work together harmoniously. I honestly think those weaknesses need to be brought to the surface. How can problems be fixed if they are not addressed? There can be resolution, but not without sacrifice. The board and the superintendent must come together to repair public trust through transparency. They need to stop the division that currently exists in an effort to support the superintendent. I would encourage a willingness to listen to stakeholders and work to implement those suggestions so that everyone feels valued and respected.

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