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Meet the City Council candidates

by / 0 Comments / 110 View / March 22, 2015

Four seats are up for election on the Belton City Council during the May 9 election, including those of Mayor Pro Tem David K. Leigh and councilmembers Dan Kirkley, Craig Pearson and Jerri Gauntt.

All four members have filed for re-election. Louie Minor, Jr. and Richard Vazquez have also filed for a seat on the council.

The City Council consists of seven members, including the mayor. All positions are “at large” and have a two-year term.

The Belton Journal recently provided each candidate with a questionnaire, which included questions concerning the future of Belton and the candidate’s goals while serving on the council.

Voting for the 2015 election begins with early voting April 27 – May 5. The last day to register to vote is April 9. For more information about the elections, visit www.beltontexas.gov/index.aspx?NID=560 or call (254) 933-5817.

Below are each candidates’ answers to the questions posed to them. Richard Vazquez’ questionnaire was not returned by press time.

Jerri Gauntt
I am a mom to two elementary aged children. I love Belton, and I want them to love it enough to come back here and live and work and raise their families. I am running for reelection because decisions made by Council today will matter in the future and I want to participate in those decisions, so that I can help make Belton a good place for my children to come home to. When they are away at college or traveling, they will hear the question “Where are you from?” I want my children to be proud to say, “I’m from Belton!”

2. In your opinion, what are the biggest concerns for Belton in the next five years?

Belton’s biggest immediate concerns are aging infrastructure, and issuance of excessive debt. We have to properly maintain what we’ve committed to do for our current citizens—we need to be sure we can continue to drive down our streets, flush our toilets, and turn on safe drinking water from our faucets. Until recently, we had not done a great job of maintaining our infrastructure, and now it’s going to cost some money to fix it all at once. We need to be sure we have a way to make repairs that we know we can physically and fiscally maintain. In the future, making sure that we build things right the first time and that we structure rates so that the people who use our resources actually pay for them will go a long way in helping us control our debt.

We have to carefully consider every aspect of any future annexation, and we may need to say no, we cannot annex or we will not annex any other area. We cannot continue to annex property thinking that more housetops will pay off debt. Generally speaking, development far from the core of our community does not pay for the infrastructure required to build and maintain the roads and sewer and water lines needed to get to that development. We need to encourage infill development, where we already have roads and pipe in the ground. I would rather see us encourage a mixed-use development (a neighborhood where people can live and work and shop and play) near downtown than to encourage a developer to put in a subdivision on the very outskirts of town.

Continued development on the very edges of our community is not sustainable.

It is time to reexamine our city Charter, and reconsider districts. We have a lot of citizens who feel they are not represented, we must find out how to include all the citizens of Belton as we plan for growth that will affect every citizen, in every neighborhood.

VOTE! If you do not vote, you cannot be heard. In a local election, every vote really DOES count!

Participate in your local government! You can make a difference in your community, but if you do not speak up, your opinion cannot be heard. Talk to your elected officials, we need to hear from you. Write us, send us an email, call us, or even say something to us when you see us in the grocery store–we are all neighbors here, and it’s a lot easier to talk to your neighbor than to someone in Austin or DC!

Dan Kirkley
I am seeking reelection to the Belton City Council. Being a lifelong member of the Belton community has given me both the advantages of knowing many of our citizens and the realization that our town is a very special place to live. Because I have been the recipient of the blessings that come from living here, I realize that I have a responsibility to participate in the leadership of its continuing growth. So, over the past twelve years, I have served on the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council. Serving our community is an honor and a pleasure because, to me, Belton is truly “HOME.” Also, I take very seriously the admonition Jesus gives us in the Bible in Luke Chapter 12 verse 48 when He says that those… “to whom much is given, much is required.”

I believe our concerns are twofold: Of primary importance is the social structure of our community, in that we continue to work diligently to maintain our home-town spirit and the inclusion of all our citizens while providing the economic growth necessary to sustain our quality of life.
The second greatest concern is the ongoing awareness of, and planning for, our present and future water and other resources needs to assure adequate availability.

My desire to help our growth is to assist in leading us in a fashion that preserves our community values and spirit while providing an atmosphere for sound business and commercial growth which provides employment opportunities for our fellow citizens. Additionally, I plan to continue our efforts to improve the quality of life for our neighbors through projects such as the Nolan Creek Recreation Area and the Martin Luther King Street extension to Loop 121. By working closely with our incredibly professional City Manager and city staff, the City Council positively influences the “Come to Belton” attitude that exists here. Our city staff has demonstrated repeatedly both their professionalism and their love for Belton and our citizens. We even describe our code compliance policy as “compassionate enforcement.” There currently exists the “R U OK” program created to assist senior single home dwellers to check on their welfare at prearranged times. There is, currently, an informal procedure by which citizens receive minor maintenance assistance. I will pursue the formalizing of a public – private partnership entitled “Belton Cares” to assist community members with minor yard and property needs which they cannot do for themselves.

The community of Belton is a extraordinary place to live. Get to know your neighbors, meet our city staff and become involved by serving on one of our commissions or by volunteering on one of our committees or activities of our Parks and Recreation Department. And, Don’t forget to vote on the 9th of May.

David K. Leigh
I believe that we need a balanced council with representatives from many walks of life. I feel that my experience on the council, my involvement in local organizations, and my leadership in business give me a unique perspective that aids the council and staff in building a consensus on critical policies.

The city of Belton, central Texas, and the IH 35 corridor are undergoing significant changes with continued growth pressures. Our ability to manage the infrastructure of increased traffic, population, and water utilization represent some significant challenges. The foresight to anticipate additional costs for new infrastructure, the focus to maintain the current infrastructure, and discipline to maintain and a favorable tax structure to stay regionally competitive.

One of my goals when I first started on council over 10 years ago was to bring balance in our tax base. Belton had places to live and work, but there was very little retail and few restaurants. . . We didn’t have a place to spend our money. Most of the retail spending was outside the city of Belton and that ‘bled’ potential revenue from our community. I’ve worked to help bring focus on retail while maintaining our housing and industrial development efforts. We have since seen a revitalization of downtown, expansion of WalMart and HEB, redevelopment along Main St and Lake Rd. . . and even a theater.

I hope to continue working with the city to partner with our local businesses as they bring quality developments in residential, commercial, industrial, and retail.

I’d like to see us continue to preserve and secure water rights for our existing and future citizens. We are blessed to have an abundance of natural resources with our close proximity to Stillhouse Hollow Lake and Lake Belton. As more families and businesses continue to move into the Central Texas region, these resources will be tested. It would also be nice for us to continue to build upon our ‘quality of place’ with an expansion of our hike and bike trail as it connects downtown, Nolan Creek, and UMHB.

I have enjoyed my time serving the citizens of Belton and look forward to new challenges. We have seen our families and businesses grow and I truly love partnering with Belton in so many ways. I get a chance to travel quite a bit lately and many times people ask what I do. As an engineer, I get to do some cool high-tech stuff and it never fails that they ask me a second question. “Where are you located?” When I tell them ‘Belton’ the most curious follow up question almost always gets asked, “Why Belton?” And that’s when I get to tell them the really good part of my story . . . about the people, the history, the family atmosphere, the lakes . . .

Louie Minor, Jr.
I decided to run for Belton City Council because of my passion for public service. I have served my country and community at the federal, state and local government. I want to continue my service on city council.
The biggest concerns for Belton in the next five years are to ensure that all of Belton grows and develops evenly.

I plan to help the city’s growth through partnerships with the Belton Economic Development Corporation and the Belton Chamber of Commerce to bring in high paying jobs to Belton residents.

I hope to propose passing a nondiscrimination ordinance in Belton. Also, would like to improve low income housing.

Overall, I want to create a Better Belton for everyone.

Craig Pearson
I love Belton and I love serving and representing the citizens of Belton. I am a product of Belton and want to continue to give back to the community that has so richly blessed me and four generations of my family. I have learned a great deal and thoroughly enjoyed serving over nine years on City Council and almost three years on the Planning and Zoning Commission. Some of the toughest decisions I have ever made, including 26 years in the Army commanding from platoon through brigade level, have been in those positions. I want to continue to use that experience for the good of this great city we are so blessed to call home.
Belton is a wonderful place to live and work and the secret is out. Growth is occurring. We must continue to manage the growth while maintaining our historic character and sense of community.

The economy is good, but not great, and our tax base is relatively small. We must continue to work hard to keep our tax rates low through careful budgeting while actively seeking to secure grants, pursuing partnerships and making strategic investments to expand the tax base and not the tax burden on the individual citizen.

Our infrastructure is aging and quality of life projects are important to our citizens and for attracting commercial and residential growth. We must continue to invest as much as we can afford in aging infrastructure (water, sewer, roads, sidewalks, etc.) and quality of life needs as defined in our most recent citizen survey (hike and bike trails, water recreation, athletic fields, etc.)

Stability, continuity and cohesiveness are attractive to businesses and developers. We must continue to 1) Update, resource and execute the Strategic Plan and the Comprehensive Plan of our city (Thoroughfare Plan, Parks and Recreation Master Plan, Capital Improvement Plan, the various Master Plans, etc.), and 2) Emphasize collaboration and cooperation between the City Council, the Belton Economic Development Corporation, the Belton Chamber of Commerce, the Texas Workforce Commission, BISD, local colleges and universities, and many other stake holders and contributors to our community.

If I am honored by the voters with another term I intend to champion the completion of the update and expansion of the City of Belton Comprehensive Plan that was last fully updated in August of 2006. It includes all the major plans and guidelines for the city. The staff and commissions have recently completed the revision of some pieces, are working on the others and have added some much-needed new ones. My goal is to continue to incorporate community involvement throughout the process and to help bring it to complete fruition by the end of my next term.

Life is Good in Belton! Let’s continue to:
•    Manage growth while maintaining our historic character and sense of community
•    Keep tax rates low
•    Invest as much as we can afford in aging infrastructure and quality of life needs