If there is one thing candidates for this year’s Keller City Council election agree on, it’s that the election on May 10 is crucial for determining the city’s future direction.
There are three positions on the ballot this year — Mayor, Place 5 and Place 6 — and incumbent Mayor Pat McGrail said it’s up to the citizens to come out and vote in what he says will be a “watershed election.”
McGrail has been mayor since 2007 and faces opposition from business owner Mark Mathews, who served on City Council from 1988 to 1990.
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“Everything we do at the Council level affects everything else,” Mathews said.
Mathews said he wants to bring fresh leadership to Council and be a representative for the citizens as someone who works hard with the opportunities City Council has.
Concerning the Future Land Use Plan, Mathews said he can’t support moving the community away from its “country, rural green, open atmosphere” to higher-density developments. He said maintaining Keller’s traditional feel means addressing what changing from low- to high-density developments does, and allow for accurately planning where each kind of development should be in the city.
Mathews said he also believes in getting more citizen involvement in the Council and upholding a policy of transparent discussions.
Citizen involvement and transparency is something McGrail also says he believes is important.
McGrail said what the city has accomplished under his leadership is something that speaks for itself.
“The city has received many accolades, recognitions and awards, and I’m very proud of that,” he said. “That doesn’t happen on accident.”
The addition of a fire station in the Hidden Lakes area, continuous low tax rate, improvements to the Keller Smithfield water tower and the regional dispatch center, jail and animal shelter are among his favorite accomplishments, as well as providing city services that he said citizens have come to expect.
McGrail also said he does not support high density development but does support quality development in general.
“If we shut the door and don’t allow any more developments, it will be hard to attract further economic development,” he said. “We need those rooftops to support economic development.”
Place 5 incumbent John Hoffmann faces a challenger in retired businessman Bill Hodnett.
Hoffmann, who has been on the Council since 2011, said he has seen his first-term goals develop and wants to see them through, “including updating the Future Land Use Plan of 1998 and improving communication.” He said that last year the Council improved communication by improving a measure that notifies residents who live within 300 feet of a proposed zoning change or permit request instead of the existing 200-foot distance.
“It’s important to always communicate with our citizens,” Hoffmann said. “It’s our obligation to be transparent and continue to use things like social media and marketing to keep the Keller story going.”
Hoffmann said he believes in utilizing the 90 acres of unutilized park land before buying more and working with other council members and the citizens on the best way to develop it, adding that it is important for the Council to bring ideas forward and go to the citizens to discuss their needs.
He said the principals of development, in the Future Land Use Plan, are not wrong, and that it is important to update the facts and figures of previous plans to reflect the needs of citizens today.
Hodnett said he believes in developing the city’s commercial properties and making Keller more of a “destination city,” including restaurants and entertainment facilities. He said those developments would be the best way to help the city’s economic development.
“If you look at the line that’s always at Freddy’s, you can see that Keller citizens support local eateries,” he said.
Hodnett said he is “not opposed to medium- to high-density residential developments as long as the Future Land Use Plan does not require rezoning to accomplish that development,” and thinks commercial developments are the way to go. He added that he believes in rules and plans in order to constantly know if beneficial progress is being made.
“I succeeded in business over being intense. I don’t believe in or accept failure,” he said.
The Place 6 candidates are Rick Barnes, a professional speaker and consultant, and Ken Lewis, an engineer.
Barnes said he believes in Keller and loves what is going on in the city, and wants to maintain the quality of life he says citizens rave about.
“People move here because of the environment,” he said. “We need to be careful with high-density over-development and continue to bring quality commercial development.”
He said he wants to improve communication with businesses to allow them to grow and help keep citizens’ money in the city rather than outside it. He said he believes in following the Future Land Use Plan, which would mean bringing in more money through commercial business rather than residential over time.
Barnes said having the City Council, Chamber of Commerce and Keller Business Connections all work together would help the city excel.
Lewis said he believes the city’s biggest issue is the divide between commercial and residential development — he said he supports responsible, quality residential development that is a good addition to the community and that following the Future Land Use Plan is essential.
Increasing commercial and retail development will further business growth, as well as improving infrastructure to move traffic in and out more easily, he said.
“I’m all for keeping it in Keller,” he said. “It’s important to pay attention to redevelopment opportunities and remodeling older stores just as it is to bring new ones.”