Approximately 120 people gathered in Schreiner University’s Event Center on Thursday evening to hear the five city candidates make their cases for election on May 5.
Walt Koenig, president and CEO of the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce, moderated the 90-minute session, which included opening and closing remarks, as well as answers to eight questions. The candidates stayed on message, stressing their experience, facts or opinions.
Mayoral candidates Bill Blackburn and incumbent Bonnie White, Place 3 council candidates Gary Cooper and Judy Eychner and Place 4 candidate Delayne Sigerman took turns answering questions about their visions for the city, the most important issues, solving the affordable housing shortage, how economic development should be handled, the need for a convention center, the city’s financial status, building consensus and improving the city’s image with potential businesses.
The city’s water supply was named four times in answer to the question about top issues, followed by three each for affordable housing and being more business friendly. Tourism, economic development, transparency in government, infrastructure improvements, and cooperation with other entities were mentioned once each.
Sigerman said affordable housing “was and is still a priority” for the city, and there are at least three groups of different ages who are seeking to move here for jobs, to retire or needed to downsize.
Instilling a business-friendly attitude toward prospective investors is a top priority, said Eychner, citing building code review and the city’s perspective about new businesses.
“We need to open that up, and change our reputation,” she said.
Cooper said a pressing issue is “development, preservation, and protection of our valuable water rights and natural resources.”
He advised close attention to those agencies which have jurisdiction over water rights. State and federal officials like our water, “they like it a lot,” he said.
“It is critical that people be able to develop expediently here,” White said. “We don’t want anybody else to be able to say, ‘I don’t want to do business in Kerrville, it’s too hard.’”
Blackburn picked water as his top priority.
“Looking at what we need to do (about water) as we grow is going to be critical,” he said.
Koenig thanked the audience, which quietly listened to the responses, for “caring enough to learn about the issues that face our city, and the opportunities that we’ll be seeing going forward.”
He also thanked the candidates for running for office.
“It’s a hard thing to do, and they’re fighting for a job that’s virtually unpaid, to serve our community,” he said. Council members only receive $25 per meeting to help offset related expenses.
Early voting for the city election starts April 23 and runs weekdays through May 1at the Cailloux City Center, 910 Main St.