VFW Post holds candidate forum prior to Nov. 5 election
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove VFW Post 8577 held its Political Candidate Forum for the 2019 General and Special Elections on Saturday afternoon.
Dozens of people attended the forum to hear from eight of 10 city council candidates and three of four Copperas Cove Independent School District Board of Trustees candidates. Not present were Place 4 candidate Benjamin Beck and Place 5 candidate Gary Kent for the city council, and Place 3 candidate Mike Wilburn. Wilburn is running unopposed.
Of the school board candidates present, Place 4 candidate and current Board President Joan Manning is running unopposed, while Place 5 candidates Harry Byrd and Jeff Gorres are running against each other for the spot currently occupied by Bob Weiss, who decided not to run for reelection.
The forum began with each candidate introducing themselves and sharing why they decided to run.
Place 3 candidate Dario Eubank began first and said he and his wife chose to stay in Copperas Cove because of its school district, after he got out of the Army in 2017. Eubank said he saw that the city was actually working through its plans and that he wanted to see better communication and transparency and better planning from the local government.
Place 3 candidate Jayme Sigler shared that she moved to Copperas Cove just a year ago and lives with her son and her mother. She said she chose to run because she saw problems like a lack of sidewalks, calling it a public safety issue. She said she also saw people who felt their voices weren’t being listened to by the city council.
Place 3 incumbent Councilman Dan Yancey shared about his 40-plus years of experience working in banking and public service. He said he wanted to work to combine his experience to bring a “common sense” approach to the city’s issues and to “work hard to make this city the best place to live and to work in this region.”
Place 4 candidate Matthew Russell shared that he was a conservative Republican and that he had the leadership skills to take the city council in “the right direction to prepare it for the future.”
Place 4 incumbent Councilman Jay Manning said he was “very much about Copperas Cove” and had been involved in some committee since 1982. He added that it is the responsibility for those in representative government to do their homework and vote their conscience, which he said is what he has done in his time on the city council.
Place 5 candidate Dianne Yoho Campbell said she is a Covite and shared her financial and business experience and her time on the Industrial Foundation’s board of directors and with the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation’s marketing team and the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce.
Place 7 candidate Jack Smith shared his family and business ties to Copperas Cove and his volunteer work for the sports and recreation teams through the Parks and Recreation Department. He said he’s been volunteering for numerous different groups since the mid-1990s. He said he would “always look at the facts and vote what I feel is the best for Copperas Cove.”
Place 7 candidate Terri Deans talked about how she, her husband and children ended up in Copperas Cove in 2003, where they were planted and “bloomed” and realized they were finally home. She shared her experience working as a civilian for West Fort Hood’s Operational Test Command until her retirement in 2014. She also said that Copperas Cove had “taken a lot of sucker punches over the last few years” and that it was time to move past those and “get rid of the black eyes.” It is time to elect new people with new ideas, she added.
Place 4 Incumbent and current Board President Joan Manning, who is running unopposed, joked that she just needs at least one vote. She shared that she has been on the Copperas Cove Independent School District board of trustees for the past 24 years. She first ran because she loves education and loves Copperas Cove.
Place 5 candidate and former board member Harry Byrd shared that he couldn’t replace a great man like Bob Weiss, but he was running because he wanted to help continue to carry the school district forward.
His opponent, Place 5 candidate Jeff Gorres, said he decided to run because he saw an “exodus” of talented staff members leaving the district. He said that the district needs to do more to address this problem and any staff concerns.
The first question of the afternoon was from an audience member who wanted to know which of the candidates were the incumbents and how many places on the city council there were, which Yancey answered.
The next question came from John Gallen, who is the secretary for the Copperas Cove Historical Society. Gallen asked for the candidates’ opinion on the preservation of Copperas Cove history and using the Allin House, located in the 500 block on Main Street, as a site for a historical museum in Copperas Cove.
Eubank spoke first and said he is “all for that effort”. He added that the council would have to see how they could financially support that effort, whether through city funds or outside funds.
Sigler said she didn’t know much about Cove’s history specifically but that it’s never too early to preserve history.
“The longer you wait , the more history will disappear if you don’t preserve it, so I think it’s very important to preserve the history, and I do think opening a museum would be a good idea, so that the people that live in Cove and the people that visit Cove will be able to see the history there and learn from it,” Sigler said.
Yancey called the preservation of the Allin House “vitally important.” He said that there might be funding options available because of the house’s historical designation and that the city would need to work together with the Historical Society.
Russell said that when he was on the city council 2014 through 2017, the council should never have allowed the Allin House to be put up for sale.
He quoted Abraham Lincoln, “So goes your history and your tradition, so goes your country, so goes your town.”
“You’ve got to preserve the Allin House, and if we’re going to bring this town back as a treasure, all right, you need to keep it, and we need to use it for exactly what you proposed,” Russell told Gallen.
Manning said he assumed the city decided the money would be better spent elsewhere but said that he would look into it more. He said he appreciated what the Historical Society was doing and trying to do.
“Many of the buildings go the way that we do, but the stories people can tell, the history of when the cotton bales were, those people are dying and moving on, and the stories I think are as important as what the facilities are,” Manning said.
The next question came from James Pierce Jr. and dealt with the transparency in the search for a city manager in both Killeen and Copperas Cove using the firm Strategic Government Resources (SGR). Pierce said that there was no transparency in Copperas Cove’s search, while Killeen receives and shares updates with residents throughout the process.
Jayme Sigler answered first and said that she thought transparency was important and she wasn’t sure why Killeen got updates and Copperas Cove did not but struggled to finish her answer. Theresa Deans jumped in and shared that in Sigler’s defense, this process was ongoing before Sigler even moved to Copperas Cove.
Someone in the audience rephrased the question to be about how come there wasn’t transparency, to be answered by incumbents.
Yancey shared that the process the city council went through was recommended by SGR.
“They put the time schedule in. To my knowledge, they did updates, it might not have been as many as Killeen, and I think that the idea of a citizens group that Killeen did was a good idea, and I think that’s something that as that comes up in the future could be incorporated,” Yancey said.
Russell said he left the council before the search for a new city manager began but that “all of the citizens knew the new city manager was sitting next to all of the council on the dais for over a year and a half.”
“Thank God Ryan [Haverlah] doesn’t take 18 months to fill vacancies in city staff or we’d all be in a problem,” Russell added.
He said that the problems were bad transparency and bad leadership.
Manning said he was glad the city council went through the process.
“Citizens of Copperas Cove deserve the right to search through everyone to see who rises to the top,” he added.
West End Development
The next question, asked by Robin Spencer, was about the candidates’ thoughts about helping the Economic Development Corporation develop economic development on the west end of town.
Most council members were in agreement that less regulations or more reasonable regulations would be key.
Manning shared that several businesses chose not to set up in Copperas Cove due to various ordinances hindering their ability to do business.
“Copperas Cove, I think we sell ourselves short in thinking we don’t have a lot to offer people because we don’t see a lot of activity,” he said, adding that reasonable regulations will bring people to Copperas Cove.
Campbell shared that she had just had a discussion with a real estate developer about a grocery store on the west end of town and was told that many grocery stores told the developer they were afraid of H-E-B. Campbell said she thought that H-E-B should add a smaller market store on the west end of town.
“Economic development in general, it’s multi-faceted responsibility, so if you’re a business you have to provide a good product and a good service at a reasonable price and provide excellent customer service,” Campbell said. “If you are a citizen of Copperas Cove, and you live here, you need to also buy here. You need to shop here.”
Campbell said it’s the citizens’ responsibilities to shop local, and it’s the city’s responsibility to make sure to have ordinances that are business friendly.
CCISD Board Meeting
The one question posed directly to the three CCISD board candidates also came from Spencer. Spencer asked whether the board of trustees would request to receive their meeting agenda packet earlier instead of on the day of their workshop meeting on the second Monday of the month, so they would have more time to read over what was in the packets before voting on the items during their regular meetings held on the second Tuesday of the month.
Current Board President and Place 4 incumbent Joan Manning, who is running unopposed, shared that the board does receive their packets sooner than the day of the workshop meeting. They receive their packets the Thursday afternoon before or the Friday afternoon before at the latest. She added that she agreed that receiving the packets the day before having to vote on an item would not give board members enough time to learn about the items to be voted on. Manning added that she calls the superintendent and school district frequently with questions about the packet.
Place 5 candidate and former board member Harry Byrd shared that he agreed that the board couldn’t make decisions for the district after just 24 hours. He went on to say that the parents and teachers of the district need to work together towards goals. Half the problems for the students would be resolved if parents “take back our house”, Byrd added.
“We are blessed with a good school board, regardless of whether I win or not,” Byrd said. “I’m here to tell you, we are blessed with a good school board and we do have a superintendent that cares about the students of Copperas Cove.”
Place 5 candidate Jeff Gorres said that the purpose of the school board is to provide oversight.
“Thursday at noon to get a packet of a hundred pages to decipher and digest the amount of information that is required for me the make an intelligent and informed decision upon effecting everybody? Unrealistic and irresponsible, because it only allows me one workday to come back and ask those follow up questions on why we’re doing something, why we’re funding something or if I’ve noticed a disparity within that.”
Gorres added that in his job working on Fort Hood, he is required to make major decisions to executive leaders seven to 10 days out.
“You need to have a little bit more time to digest and be informed. I would ask that the public be informed as well, so that they can get involved.”
Texas law requires all governmental bodies, such as municipalities and school boards, to post notice of a scheduled meeting at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled time in a place readily accessible to the general public, per the Open Meetings Handbook from the Texas Attorney General’s Office. CCISD posts its notices and agendas to its website by the Friday before the board meeting.
Early voting will continue until November 1. Election Day is Tuesday, November 5.