By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (February 17, 2017) – May 6 will offer a full ballot for Stephenville voters. The city council has four seats up for re-election and all four incumbents, Mark McClinton, Place 1; Doug Svien, Place 3; Rhett Harrison, Place 5; and Sherry Zachery, Place 7, filed for a shot at another term. And, each of them will face a challenge.
McClinton was the last of the four to draw a challenger, with Nick Robinson stepping up to challenge the incumbent for his seat in the final hour of the filing period on Friday.
Robinson, 35, moved to the city from Fort Worth in 2007, said he has been tuned into the Stephenville city government for about five years, serving on the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission for a little more than a year.
“I am ready to take the next step and volunteer my time to serve the city and its citizens,” Robinson said.
Robinson specifically mentioned ongoing discussions about a proposed multipurpose center, one of many topics on which his stance could be beneficial.
“I take a more conservative standpoint,” he said.
Robinson is also focused on community service, being recently appointed to serve on the Meals on Wheels of Erath County board of directors and delivering meals to nonprofit’s homebound clients for about nine years.
Robinson works for Danny’s Flooring & Interiors. He and his wife Lauren have three children, who are nine years, five years and six months old.
A couple of hours earlier, a former city employee also stepped up to run for office. Despite retiring in December, Walter Wood said he is still dedicated to serving the city of Stephenville.
The former city finance director remains focused on having a part in improving the city – this time through city council service.
Wood, 62, issued a challenge to incumbent Rhett Harrison, Place 5, saying now that he’s no longer a city employee, it’s time to run for office.
“I thought it over and decided it was time,” he said.
Wood has first-hand knowledge of finance challenges, but also has some insight on the role the council plays in making – or breaking – decisions for the city and its citizens.
“They all mean well and get into office thinking they are going to come in and change government,” he said. “That’s fine and dandy, but you cannot run a government like a business. I’ve been running city finance for the last 10 years and know the budget inside and out.”
Wood is also aware that progress and growth will never happen if the council doesn’t take a new approach.
“We’ve been living off of sales tax, which is capped out,” Wood said. “We cannot continue to live off of sales tax and continue to grow.”
Wood said for a number of needed improvements the council will have to at some point accept the need for tax and/or rate increases.
“There are people on the council who don’t believe in debt, but I wouldn’t be able to own my house if I wasn’t willing to go into debt and pay off my mortgage,” he said.
As a homeowner, Wood said he could survive a $20 annual hike on property taxes to facilitate much-needed improvements.
Wood, like others who recently stepped up to challenge council incumbents, an ongoing concern is the lack of progress on the Eastside Sewer Project. He said it has been on the drawing board since 2007 and renovations and expansion of the sewer system would relieve downtown residents and business owners and lay the groundwork for future growth.
“I am paying the same taxes and prices for milk and water as everyone else,” Wood said. “But, I know what city is capable of more than anyone on the council. Nothing is happening, nothing is being accomplished. I know the finances and believe I can be a positive influence.”
Wood also said that he would like be a voice of support for the 155 city employees who he considers family and who Stephenville’s elected officials work hard at “micromanaging.”
Like Wood, the other two challengers took issues with the recent tabling of items of business related to the Eastside Sewer Project. They also both mentioned the need for other infrastructure improvements and positive growth.