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East Texas early voting opens Monday

From Staff Reports
April 27, 2013 at 11 p.m.


Gregg County election workers began installing voting booths across the county Friday, readying for the opening of early voting Monday for the May 11 general election.

Voters will let their voices be heard on an array of municipal issues from bond elections, charter changes and legalizing alcohol sales to selecting mayors and school board trustees.

Longview voters will decide on two propositions to change the city charter - one to increase residency requirements from six months to one year for a candidate to file for office.

The other proposition proposes to charge a $100 filing fee to run for office or 25 signatures on a petition. While the NAACP has voiced opposition to both proposals, a majority of City Council members and the mayor have said they believe serious candidates will be able to muster the money or the signatures. Council members Richard Manley and Kasha Williams voted against calling the charter elections.

The issue most likely to pull the largest number of voters to the polls is a proposition to legalize the sale of alcohol for off-premises consumption citywide.

Longview's Proposition 1 would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell beer and wine for off-premise consumption in all areas of Longview.

Central, South and East Longview allow the sale of alcoholic beverages, while the rest of the city is dry.

Members of Longview United for Growth, the group that gathered signatures to call the election, call their proposal going "damp" since it would not allow the sale of liquor citywide.

While there has been no organized opposition to the proposition, a similar effort in 2007 was narrowly rejected by Longview voters. The 2007 election pulled 15 percent voter turnout - compared to 5 percent voter turnout in the 2012 election.

Two Longview councilmen whose seats are up for re-election - Richard Manley and Sidney Allen - are running unopposed.

<strong>Lakeport</strong>

Lakeport incumbent Mayor Johnny Sammons faces a full-court-press challenge from H. Chris Brimmer.

The election gives voters a clear choice to keep the status quo or vote for change, since Brimmer argues the city is not efficiently run.

Sammons, who joined the City Council eight years ago and was subsequently appointed mayor, has defended the efficiency and performance of his administration.

Brimmer says Sammons and much of the City Council have been de-sensitized to voter needs by a succession of unopposed re-elections, and he's conducted a door-to-door campaign to support his bid for office, promising change.

On the City Council, Albet Taylor is unopposed for Seat 2, and Del Knox is unopposed for Seat 3.

<strong>Tatum</strong>

Like Longview, Tatum voters will decide on a proposal to allow the sale of alcoholic for off-premise consumption across the entire town, which is dry.

A spokeswoman for Tatum city hall said there had not been active campaigning for or against the proposition.

<strong>Hallsville</strong>

Mayor Jerri Medrano, who steered Hallsville through and out of some its most scandalous times, faces a challenge May 11 from insurance agency owner Steve Eitelman.

Both candidates voiced similar goals in seeking the office: to lead and guide development in the Harrison County city.

Eitelman said Hallsville lacks a clear plan for the future in land and water usage and zoning.

Medrano, a third-generation Hallsville resident, said there are projects she still wants to see completed, such as replacing old water lines.

The winner of the mayoral race may work with new aldermen.

Five candidates, including two incumbents, are running to fill two at-large aldermen positions.

The five vary in experience from an 11-term incumbent to a man who moved to Hallsville two years ago with a vision for making a difference.

James Mizell has served on the Hallsville City Council for 22 years. The 75-year-old stands on his decades of experience in city government, working with infrastructure development.

The second incumbent seeking re-election, Doris Coleman, was elected to the Hallsville City Council two years ago after living in the community since about 1960.

The 83-year-old said she doesn't consider herself a politician but a "servant of the people."

Gary Nash was asked to serve as president of Hallsville's new beautification and development committee after losing in a City Council bid this past May.

Nash said this year was the opportunity to finish what he started and said the council needs people to help answer the questions raised by population growth.

Rod Wilson, the second-newest candidate to Hallsville, has lived in the Harrison County city since 2005. Wilson, who works as a regional sales manager for a catalyst company based in Canada, said he travels regularly for work, but is looking to find a way to give back to his town.

Wilson has played an instrumental role in the development of two community gardens in Hallsville, one north of U.S. 80 and the other on Medrano's property.

Oil and gas specialist Bill Ball said he views giving back an important part of American culture. Ball said the freedom offered by living in a small city was one thing that drew him to the community in 2011.

<strong>Gilmer</strong>

The two candidates for mayor of Gilmer share more than a backyard fence line. Each man said has served the community for years.

Sitting Mayor R.D. "Buck" Cross said his 10-year tenure has been marked by tightening down to get the city out of debt, and he looks forward to making improvements.

His challenger, Steve Dean, said his goal was to make Gilmer a place where his children and grandchildren will want to spend their lives - something he is not sure of now.

Cross said he is satisfied with the five terms he has served, pointing to the city's improved financial situation since he took office.

Eighty-year-old Cross served as a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper and Upshur County sheriff before being elected mayor.

At 70, Dean is the junior in the race and has served seven years on the Gilmer City Council.

In his retirement, Dean works in a lumber wholesale business, manages a small vineyard and operates the Flight of the Phoenix aviation museum at the Gilmer Municipal Airport. He also helped organize and has served as emcee for Gilmer's annual Yamboree.

Gilmer voters will also decide on 15 propositions - all changes to the city charter - including one to increase the number of council members from five to six and another that would allow the mayor to vote on all issues before the council. Currently, the mayor can only vote in order to break a tie on the council.

<strong>Gladewater</strong>

Gladewater voters will choose between two candidates for the vacated Place 5 seat on the City Council.

The seat has been empty since Harold Wells became mayor.

Mark Carpenter and Elijah "Sonny" Anderson are vying for the spot.

Carpenter, who has owned the Carpco Efficient Energy Co. for eight years, moved to Gladewater in 2005 from the Houston area. He said the city's aging infrastructure is one of several issues facing city officials.

Carpenter serves as director of the Gladewater Recycling Program and is a board member for Habitat for Humanity in Kilgore. He believes his business experience helps qualify him for the job.

Anderson has lived in Gladewater since 1962, serving his community through New Hope Baptist Church as chairman of the deacon board and various youth activities.

He spent 28 years working at the Stroh's Brewing Co. before retiring in 1999.

Anderson said he has the time and wants to give back to his city, agreeing infrastructure improvement is a key challenge before city leaders.

Delbert Burlison is running unopposed for Place 4 on the Gladewater council, and John "J.D." Shipp is unopposed for Place 7.

<strong>Kilgore</strong>

Kilgore voters have one councilman - Place 2 Harvey McDlendon - running unopposed, but the race for the mayor's chair is crowded.

Incumbent Ronnie Spradlin is challenged by haymaker Marc Mathison and retired pastor Donald H. Gramm.

Mathison contends that city hall is inefficiently run. Gramm believes many city ordinances are overbearing, while Spradlin defends the current administration.

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