Thursday night marked the second of two candidate forums sponsored by the Van Alstyne Chamber of Commerce. With nine candidates on the ticket for Van Alstyne’s May 11 election, the voters have a plethora of names to select from for just three spots, exactly why the Chamber invited the public and candidates out for a night of questions and answers.
The event, like the one before it on April 4, was held at Grayson County College-Van Alstyne. The event was moderated by Roger Luttrell and the format was basic – a question and answer session with every candidate answering every question. Unlike the previous forum, and most others, candidates were not held to a time limit.
Running for mayor are Timmerle Kelly and Teddie Ann Salmon, one of whom will replace outgoing Mayor Kim DeMasters, who chose not to seek re-election. The Place 4 City Council seat of A.C. Mosby (who resigned from Council due to health reasons) is up for grabs, and vying for the spot are Russell Moore, Pat Patterson, David Mata and Robert Lewis, Sr. Lewis did not attend Thursday night’s Forum, nor did he attend the first, while Patterson missed the first event but was in attendance for the Chamber’s final offering. Place 5 incumbent Billy Plake is running against Melvin Barker and Adam Wise.
Questions were submitted by Van Alstyne residents. Some of the questions were basic, such as “Are you for or against the May 11 Special Election?” With the exceptions of Salmon and Patterson, who admitted they were either uninformed on the issue or had unanswered questions, all were in support of the vote to move a percentage of sales tax funds to a street maintenance sales tax fund that will be on the May 11 ballot.
An especially pointed question involved Van Alstyne City Manager Frank Baker as candidates were asked if they were elected would they support Baker. Patterson said, “I will try to work with anyone,” while chastising city staff and questioning Baker’s qualifications and his pursuit of continuing education classes. Others were more pronounced in their support of the city manager. Plake said he was part of the team that hired Baker and fully supports him, while Barker added, “Kudos to him if he wants to continue training.” Wise said he could work with Baker as long as “he’s treating citizens right,” while Kelly said she was proud of Baker for the job he has done, and Moore said the city manager “does it by the book.”
A question about city ordinances brought up an interesting factoid: none of the candidates were fully up to speed on the ordinances as they are not posted anywhere on the city’s website. Wise said he would like to change an ordinance requiring re-modeled buildings downtown to have pricey fire sprinkler systems installed, though it appears that it is a state requirement, not a city requirement. Moore added that all local ordinances meet the state minimum requirements.
One resident-submitted query asked, “Do you believe you have the time to work effectively, and can you get off work to attend meetings?” All were answered in the affirmative with Wise stating that he would move from the seat of his truck to take a stay-at-home position within his company.
The final question of the night was, on the face of it, an add one: “What is your position on maintaining a professional police department?” There had been rumblings of a very small group in Van Alstyne that in the recent past had wanted to abolish the police department, as unlikely a notion as it is a possibility. Patterson said VAPD Chief Tim Barnes was “doing a heck of a job,” and like all others at the Forum was in favor of retaining the department. Most of the candidates on the panel, especially Salmon, voiced what many in the crowd were surely thinking when she stated that she did not even realize that was an option but that she was fully in support of the department.
Early voting in Van Alstyne runs May 1-7 from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at City Hall, 242 East Jefferson St. Election Day voting will be held May 11 at the Van Alstyne Community Center.