VFW post holds mayoral candidate forum
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove VFW Post 8577 held a mayoral candidate meet and greet and forum Saturday morning, with two of the four candidates in attendance.
Despite the rain, more than a dozen people showed up to meet mayoral candidates Joey Acfalle and Ron Nelson and listen to their answers during a question-and-answer forum.
Candidates Bradi Diaz and Brandi Weiand did not attend, but Diaz issued a statement which was read by Robert O’Dell during the opening statement portion. Weiand did not respond to the VFW’s invitation to attend the forum, according to moderator Tom DuChateau.
Acfalle is a United States Marine Corps and Army veteran who retired in 2014 and has lived in Copperas Cove since 2010. He is on the board of directors for the Copperas Cove Economic Development Corporation and is a member of the Noon Exchange Club of Copperas Cove. He ran for Coryell County District Court Clerk in the Republican primary in 2018 and for Copperas Cove mayor for the November 2018 election. Acfalle said he has motto of “One family and one community.”
Nelson is a software developer with more than 25 years of experience in a variety of roles, including programmer, technical team lead, and VP of IT Engineering. Since 2011, he has been an independent IT consultant, focused on healthcare delivery improvements and data security. He has lived in Copperas Cove for the last four years. He said he got the sense of people who feel that their voices are not being heard and believes the mayor should be the face of the city.
The forum lasted for over an hour, with questions touching on Fathom, the Business 190 median project, transparency and relationships between the city and other entities, among other topics.
John Gallen, with Friends of the Library, asked how the candidates would feel about the creation of a Copperas Cove Historical Society and museum with the possibility of using the Allin House.
Nelson said he thought that was an awesome idea and would love to see it started up. He said that there needs to be more history on paper of Copperas Cove.
Acfalle was in agreement and said he would have questions about where the funds for it would come from and where would the city find historians for it. If the idea were brought up to city council, he said he would work with them to go ahead and implement the creation of a historical society.
Another question asked what hopes or aspirations the candidates have for when they become mayor.
Acfalle said he would like to see improvements made in the city for the next generation to enjoy.
He referred to the city’s motto- “The City Built for Family Living”- and asked where residents can see what the city has to offer that demonstrates that motto.
He suggested a bowling alley, skating rinks and a community center for children to be able to use and questioned how the city could be apart of implementing these ideas, from infrastructure purposes to bringing businesses to the area to support the community.
Nelson acknowledged that he was the new guy, having only lived in Cove for four years, but pointed toward the fact that a good portion of the community are also people who moved in from other areas.
“What I’ve spent a lot of time on is looking, listening and learning about the community, picking up the history,” Nelson said. “My intention is to understand the history of the town more and more and more by talking to people, by attending the meetings.”
Nelson said his running for mayor was propelled after the death of the late Mayor Frank Seffrood.
He added that he wants Copperas Cove to be known as the place to look up to.
“Even though I’ve only been here a short time, I’m proud of this little town,” Nelson said.
Council member Charlie Youngs asked the candidates to explain their plans for funding any upgrades to the city.
Nelson said that he is against the idea of raising property taxes, but wants to boost sales tax revenue.
“Anything that we are buying outside of Cove, we need that business here,” Nelson said. He mentioned the pet store and Home Base and added that the city needs a store like Michael’s.
“We’re spending the money anyways, we might as well spend it in Cove,” Nelson said.
Acfalle shared that as a board member of the EDC, he deals with businesses interested in coming to Copperas Cove.
He stressed the importance of increasing the tax base, not the tax rate, which means bringing in businesses and bringing in jobs.
He also touched on the growth of the city and how the city is nearing capacity within its current boundaries. The city should be looking into ways to increase its land, he said.
Central Texas College student Cayla Siddiqui asked the candidates how they would regain the citizens’ trust, following the decisions by city council to utilize Fathom for water billing and in moving forward with the Business 190 median project, both projects she said citizens were adamantly against.
Acfalle questioned whether the one percent audit of Fathom customer accounts was enough. He floated the idea of looking into what would be needed to cancel the contract with Fathom or proceed and make changes. He also shared that he disagreed with the idea of a center median through Business 190.
Nelson said that the way he would try to gain trust is by proving himself to the citizens.
“I’m happy to do the right thing for Cove,” Nelson said. “I want Cove to have the right leaders.”
He said he is not a fan of the medians and thinks there should be another solution.
One question asked the candidates what their plan is to bring together a diverse group of individuals sitting on council to do what is best for the city and the issues that come before the city.
Acfalle referred to his personal motto- One family, one community.
“We are here to go ahead and serve the community,” he said.
He added that the diversity comes from each citizen speaking up and having access to city council. He said he would look into what the citizens have to say rather than just listening to what directors have to say.
Nelson said he thought leadership meant setting a culture and a way to behave.
“There has been I feel a certain amount of neglect of the citizens in not being heard,” Nelson said. “The mayor has to be out there and hear all of this from everybody, and quite honestly the people who are more likely to show up at the meetings are those who are against something but I have to hear both sides, those who are for something and against something.”
Former council member James Pierce Jr. asked the candidates how they would ensure transparency of the government and ensure that individual council members go through the city manager to do business.
Both Acfalle and Nelson referred to the Open Meetings Act, which stipulates that meetings must be open to the public. Acfalle said he would request the city manager keep him informed and added that he would try and figure out when council members do not follow the proper protocol and ask them why.
Nelson said that there are laws and procedures in place to ensure transparency and to ensure council members do not go behind the city manager’s back. City employees should feel comfortable enough to come forward if a council member is going behind the city manager’s back and interfering, he added.
Another question asked about their plans to grow and foster relationships with Fort Hood and other community entities like the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation and Copperas Cove ISD.
“We should be a community and all of these groups I believe are supporting the community, the EDC, the school district, everybody, the commerce, they’re all trying to do the right thing,” Nelson said.
Acfalle said he wants to change the way people view Copperas Cove as a transition city.
“This is not a transition city,” Acfalle said. “This is a city that supports our military families here in this community.”
In their closing statements, the candidates thanked the crowd for showing up and participating.
Acfalle said he hopes to go out into the community and be vocal on its behalf.
“It’s time for me as mayor, once elected, to voice and make it known that Copperas Cove is here, and we are here to grow, one family, one community at a time,” Acfalle said.
Nelson said he was sad to see that the number of people who showed up was small.
“We need more members of the community to feel like they can come out and be part and make change and know that somebody is truly listening,” Nelson said.
He added that he believes Cove could become the interesting place for people to go to.
Early voting for the special mayor election will begin Wednesday, April 10, and continue through April 23. Polling hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on April 10, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 22 and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 23. Election Day is Tuesday, April 27, with polling hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. All voting will be at the Coryell County Justice Center at 210 S. 1st St.