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Gilmer mayor faces first challenger in 8 years

By Richard Yeakley
Feb. 26, 2013 at 10 p.m.

GILMER - Gilmer Mayor R.D. "Buck" Cross, who hasn't faced a challenger since 2005, is getting a race for re-election this May.

Steve Dean, a Gilmer native who owned Dean Lumber, filed this week to challenge Cross, who has been mayor since 2003.

"I am not running against the mayor, I am running for the city," said Dean, also a well-known announcer at the annual Gilmer Yamboree festival. "I would like an opportunity to serve.

After returning to his hometown from West Texas in the 1970s, Dean served on the Gilmer City Council. He even ran for mayor, but lost overwhelmingly to the incumbent at the time.

Two election cycles ago, he said, he asked his neighbor Cross across their shared back fence whether he was running again. After that discussion, Dean held off his plans.

Tuesday, he said his interest in being mayor isn't because he's unhappy with the job Cross has done. But he says he sees an opportunity to build on success.

"Gilmer had a rough spot back in the late '90s," Dean said. "We wound up in debt, and so we spent a good 10 or 12 years now addressing that, and our city manager has done a great job of getting that debt under control and getting our resources lined up so that debt could be managed. ... The thing I am interested in is to have an opportunity to let the folks make some decision now that the city is in better shape financially."

Dean has served in the Chamber of Commerce and economic development initiatives, along with Texas and regional forestry coalitions.

Cross, who is running for his fifth two-year term leading Gilmer, said the city was heading in the right direction and pointed to reduced debt as a reason to keep him in office.

"When I took over as mayor, we were bad in debt, something about $25 million to $28 million, Cross said. "We got the debt paid down."

Today, Gilmer's future looks brighter, and Cross said he wants to be in place to continue pushing for growth.

"We are also getting in position to pay off a lot of our bills ... I think the people should keep what I call the wining team," he said. "The city is in pretty good shape, and of course our city manager has a lot to do with that. Between us and the City Council, I think we have done real well."

Cross said he intends to campaign, but because he has not faced a challenger in so long, he is still developing his strategy.

Before being elected mayor, Cross was Upshur County sheriff for three terms.

The election will be May 11, and any Gilmer resident interested in filing to run for mayor may do so until Friday at Gilmer City Hall.

"I am not running against the mayor; I am running for the city," Dean said. "I would like an opportunity to serve."



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