NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - A total of eight candidates would like to serve on Nacogdoches City Council.
At a candidate forum sponsored by the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce there were questions on transportation, replacing retiring city manager Jim Jeffers, the city's role in hospital and school interests. Candidates were even asked for one good idea.
Mayor Shelley Brophy, seeking a second term, wants citizen engagement and says she's the leader who will listen.
“It needs to be leadership with a collaborative and cooperative nature to work with city community partners,” said Brophy.
At-large candidate Matt Moore, a retired engineer, says the council is lacking leadership in long term planning.
“We just don't. Basically, what we do is we just approve what staff recommends. Literally, that's almost all we have done," expressed Moore.
At-Large candidate Jeff Willoughby couldn't attend the forum, but in a statement said he pushes for better streets, more attention paid to violent crimes and a push for economic development.
The common thread for the candidates running for the Northeast and Northwest wards is they're young professionals. Most with growing families.
"Having two kids makes you that much more invested," said candidate Matthew Gallagher.
Candidate Rikki Leigh Willoughby asked, “What’s the future for our kids going to be in twenty, thirty years?”
Gallagher is a social worker devoted to serving the under privileged. His Northwest Ward constituency is much the opposite.
"The ward represents a large degree of the university and as a graduate I think it would be beneficial to have someone who recently has gone thru that process and continue to advocate for the university, form stronger partnerships than what we already have, exists."
Northwest Ward opponent Amelia Fischer said, "Nacogdoches is also on the brink of some really exciting economic opportunities."
The attorney returned to Nacogdoches after law school to fulfill a life-long dream to practice with her father. Fischer believes strong economic development will benefit all of Nacogdoches.
"All the issues that I care about, the heart of it is economic development. And I think we need to be aggressive, but also smart so that we create sustainable economic growth," said Fischer.
Incumbent for the Northeast Ward, Garth Hinze says economic growth must be accompanied by careful planning.
"Great economic opportunities and great growth opportunity, but those don't happen on accident. And so, my passion is casting a vision and then making sure we set the appropriate milestones to track along on that vision," said the owner of several pharmacies.
Two women are wanting Hinze spot on the council. They are business owner, Rikki Leigh Heard Willoughby and Jordan Johnson, who is currently pursuing a doctorate thru Emory University.
"I realized that in graduate school a lot of my training actually positions me quite well for public service. So, I'’ve experienced committee service and grant writing editorial management. That sort of thing, so it seems like the moment," said Johnson.
Willoughby is a business owner and works for a family's insurance company. She's inspired by community minded parents.
She says it's now her generation's turn.
“Opening the eyes of some of these younger folks and inspiring them to get involved which is the whole reason why I'm running. I really want to inspire my age group to be involved in that and to support their community," said Willoughby.
Nacogdoches may very well be at the crossroads of another generation of leadership.
The election is Saturday, May 4. Early voting begins Monday, April 22. Voting takes place at the Nacogdoches County Courthouse Annex.