With the field of four narrowed down to two, Keller residents soon will choose between two men who are GOP precinct chairs with staunchly different campaigning strategies.
One, Ed Speakmon, says he’s “not one to get into the gutter politics,” while the other, Mitch Holmes, says he’s addressing a political divide in Keller in his campaign because ignoring it didn’t work for him last year.
In the May 7 general election, four candidates ran for the expiring City Council Place 3 seat after Tom Cawthra chose to not seek re-election. Speakmon received 43 percent of the vote and Holmes got 33 percent. Because none of them received a majority of the vote, the top two vote-getters, Holmes and Speakmon, will face off again June 18 in a runoff election.
The last runoff election for a Keller City Council seat, in December 2014, cost the city more than $21,000.
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Holmes, 57, is the associate director of campus development at Gateway Church in Southlake, a local GOP chair and he was a Keller City Council member from 2003-11. He resigned from his council seat after he “got a really nice offer” to work in West Texas for the Colorado River Municipal Water District. He said he has 30 years of experience in municipal infrastructure. Holmes lost in a race for a seat on the Council in May 2015 to Debbie Bryan, 45 percent to 52 percent.
Speakmon, 68, is a former Marine and retired auto repair businessman. He’s also a local GOP chair and known around town as “Mr. Christmas” for his elaborate Christmas lights and decoration displays at his home.
On the issues
Holmes said some of the most important issues to him include economic development, transparency, traffic and updating master plans.
He said he likes what the city has done with Old Town Keller and its rezoning of North U.S. 377, but he called into question Keller Town Center.
“Keller designed its town center too much by politicians and not enough by professional developers,” Holmes said. “It’s not what it was master-planned to be.”
Holmes compared it to Southlake Town Square, and questioned why Keller Town Center, which “was supposed to be pedestrian-friendly,” now has a fast food chicken drive-through, a gas station and is anchored by a grocery store.
“It has now developed into an everyday shopping center,” he said.
Holmes wants the city to proactively address traffic congestion at the intersection of Main Street and Keller Parkway — which is near where a new Sam’s Club is going to be built — and at the intersection of Rufe Snow Drive and Keller Parkway, which is near where a future Kroger Marketplace will be built.
Holmes said he stands “for much-improved transparency,” referencing an email group he believes some City Council members and Speakmon use to discuss citywide issues with the same group of residents who led the recent recall effort against Mayor Mark Mathews.
Holmes said he believes his experience makes him a better candidate than Speakmon, who questioned some of Holmes’ voting record during his past stint on Council, saying Holmes voted in favor of high-density developments and fast food restaurants in the past.
Speakmon said some of the most important issues to him, and things he’d like to get done if elected, center around high-quality economic development and high-density residential development.
“I want to help make better decisions to bring better economic development,” Speakmon said, adding that he hopes to bring more sit-down restaurants rather than fast food eateries, a sentiment that has been echoed by many Keller residents and leaders recently.
He specifically wants to see some dog-friendly restaurants to go in near the coming-soon dog park near the Keller Pointe on Rufe Snow Drive.
Speakmon also is concerned about high-density housing in the city, a common issue at Town Hall, because “we don’t have the roads to handle” more traffic, and it would put more kids in already overpopulated schools.
“I don’t think we should be finishing out the city with high density,” he said, while adding that he lives in high-density zoning and he doesn’t have a problem with it “if it’s done right.”
Speakmon says he’s “not a career politician” and the Christmas decorations are a passion of his. He also decorates his home for other holidays, including Memorial Day, Independence Day, Halloween and Easter.
Holmes said he returned to Keller in 2011 after his West Texas project was done, and quickly found that a “petty political faction” had gotten involved with Keller City Council since he left. He said he’s been “ashamed” and “embarrassed” by some of the things the group — and the city leaders it supports — have said and done.
“There’s an elephant in the room and they’ve been feeding it peanuts for years, and it’s time to quit playing like it’s not there,” Holmes said.
Holmes says this group is the same one that tried to recall Mathews in the May 7 election — Mathews survived with 54 percent of voters choosing to keep him in office — and Holmes believes the group supports Speakmon.
Speakmon, when asked if he is supported by or affiliated with the recall group, said that Holmes “is reaching to find something that will make voters angry and I do not play that game,” adding that he is on a lot of email lists and “as a precinct chair, the only affiliation I have is to the Republican Party.”
Speakmon signed the petition and received more than $500 in a donation from Bill Heydenburk, a 2015 City Council candidate and the only person who contributed to the recall effort, according to campaign finance reports.
Now, as he campaigns to serve on council alongside Mathews, Speakmon said he doesn’t “have any animosity” toward Mathews, whom he had helped get elected.
“I can let bygones be bygones,” Speakmon said.
Newly elected council member Eric Schmidt signed the petition, and council member Debbie Bryan publicly supported the recall as well.
Holmes supported Mathews in the recall, and believes having several council members who publicly opposed the mayor can hinder the city’s progress, saying that council members affiliated with this group “do not have the latitude to think independently.”
Speakmon said more than once that he wants to focus on issues rather than politics, adding, “I always take the high road.”
“We need to come together in the city. I never have understood the ‘north and the south,’” said Speakmon, whose home is south of Keller Parkway. “It’s all one Keller. I don’t understand the division.”
Speakmon also was supported financially by fellow GOP Precinct Chair Marie Howard and the Keller Fire Fighters Committee for Responsible Government, and he received the most financial contributions of all the candidates in the May election, more than $5,500.
According to the city of Keller, Homes signed a Candidate Modified Reporting Declaration, and the city did not have any finance reports by the deadline before the May 7 election.
Holmes is campaigning on a promise of “One Keller,” hoping to unite Keller and get the “petty political faction” to go away. He said the close results in the recall election — 54 percent to 46 percent — aren’t reflective of the entire city, but just the much smaller portion of the city that votes.
“I have been involved in Keller politics a while and petty political factions come when the voters are asleep,” he said. “When they wake up and vote against them, they go away.”
Holmes said the political group has a disproportionate influence at the leadership level, where “it’s pretty split down the middle,” though, he said, those who represent the political faction only represent about 1,500 of about 43,000 Keller residents.
Early voting has been set for the runoff election for June 6-14 at Keller Town Hall, 1100 Bear Creek Parkway. Below are the hours to vote early:
- June 6-10: 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.
- June 11: 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.
- June 12: 11 a.m. - 4 p.m.
- June 13-14: 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.