By RUSSELL HUFFMAN
STEPHENVILLE (February 20, 2016) — The wait is finally over and it looks like the gloves may come off in Stephenville’s upcoming city council elections after yesterday’s filings at city hall.
One clear winner was former councilman Brady Pendleton, who filed for Place 4 to run against Mayor Pro Tem Russ McDanel. But McDanel is giving up his seat to run for Place 2, which is being vacated by incumbent Boyd Waggoner. That leaves Pendleton without an opponent and no expenses for new election materials.
That’s right, two current councilmen are giving up their places to run for another place on the Stephenville City Council. Waggoner will now be pitted against incumbent Jerry Warren while McDanel’s opponent will be first-time campaigner Carla Trussell.
Recent months have seen a divide happening between Waggoner and Warren after a harmonious start. That changed after Warren published his “Show and Tell” column/advertisement placing blame at Waggoner’s feet, but Waggoner said that information was incorrect.
Waggoner has fired back with letters to the editor – the most recent showing Warren published “incorrect” information when he suggested people check with the city finance officer Walter Wood. But, according to Waggoner, Warren apparently didn’t even talk to Wood himself before going to print.
“As to why I switched from Place 2 to Place 8 – to oppose Jerry Warren. I felt like Mr. Warren was increasingly furnishing false and inflammatory information to the public in his political advertising, and had become a significantly negative and inaccurate member of the council,” Waggoner said. “As an example, Mr. Warren claimed in a recent paid political ad that the city was spending ‘around $1 million’ on studies. He was wrong by $730,000, according to the city accountant. He also recently advertised that when three members of council (and listed us by name) voted in favor of a $40,000 matter (which the entire council, including Mr. Warren had previously unanimously approved in the budget) that all three of us had voted for a “total 100% ripoff” of the city.”
Warren has been very public about his feelings the council is spending way too much money on “studies.” Waggoner is pointing out Warren has been busy feeding the public misinformation – perhaps as to appear a “budget hawk” prior to elections.
Waggoner has used Stephenville’s Thoroughfare Plan Update as an example of Warren changing courses. While Warren has called the update a “rip off,” he did vote for it as part of the current city budget.
“In general, I felt Mr. Warren has proven to be such a significantly negative and inaccurate factor on the council that it was time for him to go,” Waggoner continued. “I don’t know enough about Mrs. Trussell to have an opinion about her future service on the council, but I do know enough about Mr. Warren to have an opinion about his service.”
Disagreements have also been boiling between McDanel and Trussell via social and news media. Trussell has been vocal about the city’s spending and basically by herself spearheaded a social media campaign against Stephenville purchasing a property to serve as a multi-purpose center.
“I think the citizens need a conservative choice,” Trussell said “I am concerned with the amount of money the council has spent on studies. I want to see us address infrastructure and street repairs. We have an aging sewer system we need to work on.”
Attracting business and increasing Stephenville’s tax base and better utilizing the current city staff are part of Trussell’s goal.
“We have recently hired an engineer that is qualified to do some of the studies,” Trussell said. “I think we should think outside the box when it comes to spending money perhaps offering our city engineer a stipend in addition to his salary when it comes to studies.”
McDanel has been watching the divide between Waggoner and Warren grow and when he learned Waggoner was leaving his seat, McDanel had a tough choice to make. McDanel has served in Place 4 for the past eight years.
“I respect Mr. Waggoner’s decision to face Mr. Warren head on, but that move also left the challenger (Trussell) for Place 2 unopposed,” McDanel said. “I have worked with Mr. Pendleton in his prior service on the council and I am familiar with the opinions of Mrs. Trussell via media commentaries. As the clock was running out on the filing deadline, it was apparent that no other candidates were forthcoming For that reason, I moved my candidacy to challenge Mrs. Trussell for Place 2.”
McDanel added, “After eight years on the council I am confident that the number of the chair I am sitting in does not matter. What matters is continued emphasis on economic development, strong police and fire protection, infrastructure improvements and listening to the people.”
Pendleton wasn’t the only candidate who won’t face opposition as no one came forward to contest Mayor Kenny Weldon or Councilman Alan Nix.