AARP Chapter 1359 holds candidate forum
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The AARP Chapter 1359 of Copperas Cove held a candidate forum for all 13 candidates in the City Council and CCISD Board of Trustees races Monday afternoon at Grace United Methodist Church’s Fellowship Hall.
Each candidate was allotted three minutes to speak and share with members of the public the position they are running for and information about them and their campaign. At the end, refreshments were available as well as the option for residents to approach candidates and ask questions. A more in-depth candidate forum will be held Saturday, October 13 at 1 p.m. at the V.F.W. Post 8577 in Copperas Cove, with each candidate allowed time for an opening statement before fielding submitted questions from the public.
Incumbent Mayor Frank Seffrood is facing competition from Azeita Taylor and Joey Acfalle. Seffrood, who has lived in Cove for 44 years, said that the city has a lot of challenges but that the city officials need help, not criticism. Copperas Cove needs to be unified or it won’t progress, he said.
“If you don’t progress in the community, it’s sort of like having a pup that you don’t feed,” Seffrood said. “It’s going to bite the hand that’s got food and could die because of lack of attention. Our city is getting a lot of attention.”
Seffrood added that he wanted the city to continue receiving attention and asked for residents to “bear with us” as city council continues to do their best.
Taylor, who was not physically at the forum due to being out of state, FaceTimed in via her husband’s phone and shared that she believed Cove is in a transitional time period, referring to the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation and interim City Manager position.
“All these entities have a new leadership and I believe it is time we also change the leadership of our council,” Taylor said. “Changing the face of our city into one that better exemplifies to everyone, that better represents who we are as a city and where we’re going now as a city.”
Taylor shared a verse from the Bible about putting new wine into old wineskins and added that this applies to the city council.
“I think looking at our city now, we cannot move forward with the same leadership we have,” Taylor said.
Taylor’s background includes a degree in Emergency Management and experience from being a business owner in the community.
“I believe I have a good thumbprint on where our city’s going and I have a vision and a purpose in mind, a strategy to continue to keep our city and turn our city into a more cohesive unit between all the entities in our city,” Taylor said. “I think it’s important that the EDC and the city and the Chamber and even CCISD all work together to have a more cohesive unit.”
Mayoral candidate Joey Acfalle shared that he and his wife chose to stay in Cove in 2010 after being brought to Fort Hood. His experience includes being a member of the Economic Development Corporation board, 30 years as a paralegal and working with non-profit and for-profit organizations.
“In the Marianas Islands, we believe in one thing and that’s One Family, One Community, One Whole,” Acfalle said. “With your help and the rest of the community, I will continue to go ahead and move forward with our community in needing us to go forward.”
Acfalle said he was interested in working to continue bringing businesses into Cove which would bring jobs and increase the tax base and incomes.
As a paralegal, Acfalle said his forte is “learning about the legal aspects within the state law, county rules and regulations and the city policies, helping our community go ahead moving to that direction to go ahead and see what’s the best fit for everyone from our generations to come to our seniors who are here today and of the future.”
City council place 1
For Place 1, Cheryl Meredith and Joann Courtland are facing off.
Meredith, who is a retired escrow officer, was elected to City Council previously, leaving in 2015 due to term limits. She and her husband moved to Copperas Cove in 1984, after receiving orders for Fort Hood.
“My desire to run for city council is my way of giving back to a community that has given so much for us,” Meredith said. “I want to represent my neighbors, my friends, the members of my church and anyone else that is here.”
Meredith promised to listen to citizens and lend her voice.
“I want to vote for what’s best for our town, not just in the short term but in the long term, in 10 and 20 years,” she added.
Her decisions will be guided using her “steadfast resolve, beliefs, explorations and examinations of the facts,” she said. If the end result does not benefit the town and the citizens, she said she will choose to disagree and not endorse that action.
Courtland is a 1985 graduate of Copperas Cove High School and attended Tarleton State University and Amarillo Aeronautical University before joining the military, where she served as a Military Police Lieutenant in the Reserves and as a Chief Warrant Officer as a helicopter pilot on active duty. Her father and brother have both served in the Army and her husband is still serving after 32 years. Courtland is also the director of Operation Stand Down Central Texas, a non-profit organization that helps homeless veterans and their families in Central Texas.
“I was raised to believe in service,” Courtland said. “Service to our country and service to our community.”
Courtland said she is running for city council because this is her home and her community.
“I would like to bring back that community first approach to family-oriented quality of life issues,” she said.
She has ideas for developing stronger relationships with the city, school district, EDC and Chamber of Commerce and believes that investing in infrastructure and businesses and cooperating with neighboring communities can enable progress across this entire region, she said.
City council place 2
For City Council Place 2, incumbent James Pierce is running against Fred Chavez.
Chavez, an Air Force veteran and Cove resident of 19 years, is the Planetarium Director at Central Texas College and has nine years of Economic Development experience, having helped with EDC initiatives such as the Shops at Five Hills, Cinergy Cinemas, Constitution Courts and more, all of which helped him learn life lessons, including the importance of working together with other city entities.
“We have been over the last several years, disjointed, fragmented. There’s been a tribalism going on much reflected in the national scene,” Chavez said. “Y’all, we don’t want that here. We do not want to be stuck fighting each other over decisions made in the past and preventing each other from going into the future.”
Chavez also stressed the importance of having more than just a Plan A.
“There have been decisions made where we did not have a backup plan. We can’t do that. The first, second, third order effects matter. They affect people,” Chavez said. “There are people in this community that feel they are disenfranchised, they don’t have a vote, they have no access to let their feelings or emotions out other than a Facebook.”
Chavez promised that if he was elected, citizens could find him at Lil’ Tex at least once a month sitting and available for citizens to voice their concerns to him.
Pierce, who is an Army veteran and Cove resident of 10 years, shared that he too was available for citizens to get in touch with and share their concerns, through Facebook, email or telephone. Pierce shared that prior to being elected, he served on the Parks Advisory Board and currently serves as the Council Liaison to the Quality of Life Advisory Board and to the Economic Development Corporation. Pierce said he believes in term limits and that if he was re-elected, he would not run for a third time.
Pierce’s two main priorities are the city’s Parks and the Fathom water company.
“They’ve been neglected for too many years,” Pierce said of the city parks. “The more people that come to our city and check out our parks, they’d be more apt to stay here.”
Pierce finished by saying he intends to fight Fathom and either reform it or terminate it.
CCISD Board of Trustees Place 1
Copperas Cove Independent School District Board of Trustees Place 1 incumbent Inez Faison is facing John Gallen.
Faison, who was appointed to fill an unexpired term in 2007, has served on the board for 11 years and has lived in Cove for 30 years after being stationed at Fort Hood in 1988.
“Serving on the CCISD board is very rewarding and very challenging at times, especially in the last six months, but I never wavered from the task of providing the leadership necessary to educating our students,” Faison said.
As a trustee, Faison joins fellow CCISD board members and staff in the the “mission to provide quality education for all of our students,” she said.
While in the Army, Faison worked as an Engineer Officer and a Finance Officer. She currently serves as the Executive Director of the Housing Authority, which provides low income housing to residents. She also serves as the Managing Agent for the Exchange Sunshine Home, which is low income housing for seniors ages 62 and older. Faison is the past president of the Noon Exchange Club, a former member of the Boys and Girls Club and a current member of the Altrusa organization, Central Texas Foundation, Killeen Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Copperas Cove Crusaders AAU basketball organization.
Regarding the future struggles the district faces, Faison said she had hope.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, don’t have a magic wand,” Faison said. “I just know that every morning I step out on faith, faith that as long as there’s light, there’s hope.”
Gallen, a 30-year resident of Cove, said that when he was stationed at Fort Hood by the Army, his family chose Cove because of the schools. In addition to his wife being a retired teacher and his son and two of his daughters-in-law being teachers, Gallen is a retired Special Education teacher who spent 20 years teaching at Copperas Cove High School.
Gallen served on the city council from 2001 to 2007 and has been involved with CCISD since his retirement, serving on the CCISD Site Based Committee, the CCHS Hallmark Committee, the Strategic Planning Committee and currently on Vision 2021 Strategic Planning Team and School Health Advisory Council. He is also involved in the Copperas Cove Retired Teachers Association and served on the Region 12 Service Center TBCB Committee for Alternative Certification of Teachers and Principals. He was also awarded the Texas State Board of Education 2018 Heroes for Children award.
Gallen said he is running to continue to serve the community.
“I want to bring a new energy and a different perspective to the school board,” Gallen said. “We will face many challenges in the coming years and I hope to bring good problem-solving skills and leadership experience to the board.
CCISD Board of Trustees Place 2
For Place 2 on the CCISD Board of Trustees, incumbent Harry Byrd was absent but selected Gary Kent to speak on his behalf and read his statement.
“As a CCISD school board member for Place 2, I am committed to be the keeper of the key for the integrity of the system and strong voice for our students, educators and community,” Byrd wrote. “Our students deserve the best instruction. Our educators deserve comparable pay and benefits. Our community deserve the best schools and facilities in our country. If elected, I will continue to work and strive toward maintaining and achieving these goals.”
Joseph Leary, Jeff Gorres and Shameria Ann Davis are running against Byrd.
Leary is a CCHS alum and teacher. Leary earned a football scholarship to Rice University but came back to Cove at every opportunity because he loves the town so much, he said. He taught fifth grade at Martin Walker Elementary School before teaching Health and Team Leadership at the high school. Leary has also coached in four sports and assisted with others.
His main goal in life is to find ways to help children, he said.
“I love doing what I do, and I want to help more,” Leary said. “I want to do anything I can to help the children in this community because they’re going to be our adults in the community. They’re going to be the ones taking care of everything and making everything better, being on the city council, so that’s what I want to do.”
Gorres, a military veteran and 22-year resident of Cove, said he was running for Place 2 because he had heard from many in the community regarding the current school district board of trustees.
“Are we prioritizing our limited resources to maximize education and supporting the education of our children?” Gorres asked.
Gorres mentioned the district’s message of its financial situation and loss of funds and brought up the money spent on the new administration building, transportation building and additional marquis signs as well as $7 million set aside for acquisition of land for new construction.
“All this while those supporting our children, our schools- our paraprofessionals, educators, custodians, maintenance technicians, bus drivers- have not received an increase in wages for many years,” Gorres said. “We have to retain and recruit the best available to support our children. Experienced and recognized educators are leaving for better opportunities in neighboring districts.”
Gorres said he believed that it was possible to prepare for the future while offering better compensation to employees.
He added that two important questions voters needed to ask themselves are on how much growth and administration overhead the district needs and whether the administrative oversight is focused properly and effectively.
“I know as a Copperas Cove School District family, we can do better,” Gorres said. “I’ll promote and encourage academic excellence and strive to ensure oversight and accountability when faced with the facts of our limited resources. We need to make education the priority.”
Dominique Parker spoke on behalf of candidate Shameria Ann Davis, an Army veteran of 17 years in the Reserves and Active Duty. She has her master’s degree in Public Health from American Military University and is a Corporate Wellness Consultant with the Texas Association of Counties.
She has owned a home in Cove for four years and is very serious about education awareness and community engagement, Parker said.
“She embodies desires to make a significant impact, is dedicated to serving the needs of families in Copperas Cove and plans to be consistently tied into the district in which she lives,” Parker said.
Davis has two children who attend school in CCISD and she is an active member of the Parent Teacher Organization at Fairview/Miss Jewell Elementary School, as well as a standing member of the Parent Advisory Council Committee and Site Based Decision Making Committee.
“[Davis] strives to be an example of leadership and a voice of the children,” Parker said. “She is committed to community service and has a track record of serving where there is versatile value in good work. “