The city’s budget is a key issue for candidates running for Place 2 on the Gladewater council.
Incumbent Ferrell Alexander, 59, is challenged by Scott Owens, 66, for the seat in the November general election. If elected, Alexander would start his second term next year.
As the former Gladewater police chief, Alexander said he knew he had skills to bring to the council when he initially decided to run.
“It seemed like there was no direction on the council,” he said. “I knew the city government as chief, and I know how budgets work.”
He balances serving on the council with working as a full-time real estate agent for United Country H5 Auction & Realty in Longview. Alexander believes that the biggest accomplishment by the council since he was elected has been balancing the city budget and bringing the city into a surplus.
“That first year, we had $13 as a contingency,” he said. Alexander said he is proud the council balanced the budget by being fiscally conservative and without increasing taxes.
Last year, the council was able to grant a 2% raise for city staff and make some needed equipment purchases, Alexander said.
Owens, a 46-year Gladewater resident and former City Council member, said he would like to find the best use for the city’s revenue. He served on the council for about 10 years, he said.
He added he has more than 43 years of experience in management, working at Pegues-Hurst Ford in Longview as a parts and service director. He said that experience would be an asset to the council.
The two candidates agree the city’s budget and infrastructure are the main issues facing Gladewater.
“Crumbling infrastructure, improvements in that area take money,” Owens said. “We need to use whatever resources we can get.”
Alexander said the city has not been able to make needed infrastructure improvements because the funds have not been available.
“You can’t build streets with $13,” he said. “If we don’t have a clear way to pay, we don’t do it.”
Alexander said the city needs to be ready for the U.S. 271 widening project by the Texas Department of Transportation.
“We need to continue to be fiscally conservative,” Alexander said. “It’s taken two years just to get where we can feel comfortable and to make sure bills are paid.”
Owens said he would like to let residents vote on changing Gladewater Economic Development Corp. funds and use them “totally for infrastructure improvement” thereby “freeing up city funds for other things.”
By contrast, Alexander would like to work with GEDC to help bring business to the city.
“We need to continue being a place where people can come to do business and live,” Alexander said. “We have a wonderful, walkable downtown which is a big draw, and the lake, which is a big draw, so there’s lots of opportunity to grow.”
Alexander said the city needs to be able to meet the needs of the city and build up reserves without putting the city in a bind, which requires budgeting.
Among other goals, Owens would like to increase clean up and enforcement throughout the city, employ an animal control officer and eliminate the burn fee.
“If you contemplate leadership ability, I think you’ll vote for me,” Owens said.
“I’m glad of the progress we’ve made,” Alexander said. “I’m proven, people know me, I’m honest.”