Seven of the nine candidates for three openings on the Bandera City Council attended a League of Women Voters candidate forum last week and strived to show those in attendance why they were best suited to help move Bandera forward without destroying its small-town charm.
“We need to expand our tax base without changing the nature of the city,” said Thomas McEachin, an English professor at Laredo College who is one of three council incumbents seeking reelection in Nov. 5 balloting. “This is a great city, and great things are going on.”
The atmosphere at the forum was generally pleasant, as none of the candidates slung mud at any other candidate and pointed criticism of city operations was all but non-existent.
Former councilwoman and former mayoral candidate Cindy Lou Coffey did say in her opening statement that she felt some existing council members lacked the experience that she could provide to help the city advance in different areas, though no specific council members were called out.
Jerry Russe, a Bandera business owner who has been critical of how even-handed the city’s code enforcement officer has been in implementing building regulations, repeated claims that those regulations were not being enforced fairly and said the permitting ordinances need thorough review.
Candice Witt, a realtor and like other challengers a first-time candidate for public office, said the city needs to address an us-versus-them mentality that has infected decision-making and find a way for everyone to work together.
But Witt also said the personality of the city must not change.
Witt’s husband, Gunnar Witt, is a U.S. Department of Defense firefighter who also is seeking election to council. He said his training has helped him to think “outside the box,” which he felt would help the city.
Two incumbent councilwomen, personal assistant Rebeca Gibson and business owner Lynn Palmer, also took part in the forum.
Palmer, who served on council for six years early in the 2000s, said she had a lot of confidence in the staff that had been put in place for Bandera.
She worried, however, that tourist activities and other products that the city has to offer visitors may not have kept pace with the amount of promotions the city does, and she hopes steps can be taken to correct that.
Gibson is seeking her third term on council and said she was glad to talk about issues at the forum, issues like how the establishment of adequate development codes and zoning regulations can control the influx of major chains into Bandera.
Two candidates who did not attend the forum were financial adviser Debbie Brown and former Bandera employee Alan Calaway. Bunny Bond, a league member who coordinated the forum, said those candidates had professional conflicts that kept them from attending.