Northeast Tarrant

Hurst mayor facing two challengers; 2 vying for Place 4 on council

Longtime Mayor Richard Ward is facing challenges from the city’s former finance director and a retired engineer in the May 7 election.

Anita Thetford, who was Hurst’s finance director for 20 years until her retirement in 2010, and Joel Downs, a retired engineer, are running against Ward, who is seeking his seventh term.

The Place 4 council race is also contested with Trasa Cobern, a history teacher at Trinity High School, facing challenger Jeff Childers, a senior analyst.

Anna Holzer, who currently serves in Place 4, is not seeking re-election.

Ward, 80, said he looks forward to another two-year term because he wants to stay involved in projects such as working on revitalizing Texas 10.

“I enjoy serving as mayor. If someone reports a pothole and the mayor calls, the pothole gets fixed. It is a service-oriented job,” Ward said.

He added that if someone is interested in bringing a new business to Hurst, he can direct the person to the right department.

Recently, the City Council appointed Clay Caruthers as city manager after Allan Weegar announced his retirement in February.

“He is a very bright young man, and I want to work with him, especially in his first year,” Ward said.

Ward said that over the years, Hurst has been very successful in attracting new businesses. Work is also underway to improve Texas 10, and Ward said he wants to be involved in that project.

Downs, 68, who ran twice for the City Council, said he is in the mayor’s race because he is concerned that Hurst has borrowed money over the years for projects that could have been paid for without accumulating debt.

“We could put off purchases until we have some money in hand,” he said.

Ward said Hurst’s debt is “ridiculously low.”

“We are right in line for a city of our size. Hurst is in great financial shape,” Ward said.

Transparency is also important to Downs, who said he wants to make sure that residents understand the budget.

“It is a complex document that reads like a corporate prospectus,” he said.

Downs said he wants to see a budget that is easy to read and helps people understand how much revenue is coming in and how much is being spent.

“I want to make it understandable to anyone who balances a checkbook to make an informed decision when a bond election comes up,” he said.

Downs said he doesn’t favor Hurst using red-light cameras and said the city doesn’t need them. “They are a bad deal for cities. I never believed they were anything more than a revenue stream,” he said.

Thetford, 74, worked for the city for 29 years, spending 20 as the finance director.

She said she is running for mayor because she admires the sacrifices and “self-dedication of the City Council. She ran for office four years ago.

“I want to be a part of the government which has a primary impact on where we live,” Thetford said.

Thetford has lived in Hurst for almost 50 years and said she is an active volunteer in the community.

Thetford said she has an in-depth knowledge of the city and “a great deal of respect” for Ward. “I want to be responsive to citizens. As mayor, I want to work on their behalf and to bring their ideas for improvements to the City Council.”

Thetford, a certified tax assessor-collector for Texas and a certified government finance officer, said the city is “financially sound.

She said that Hurst’s debt should not be highlighted as a problem.

“The city has a very low debt rate as part of the property tax rate. “It is important to say that the city’s debt obligations are also repaid using other resources such as sales tax and hotel/motel tax receipts, which are paid for by people who do not live in the city.”

City Council Place 4

Childers, 44, said that he is interested in helping to improve Hurst and that he wants to be involved with the Transforming Hurst project in southeast Hurst, which includes creating an arts district.

Childers said he also wants to work on a means of getting public transportation to residents who need it and who have difficulty in getting around.

“This could help the community as a whole. We need to look at public-private partnerships,” Childers said.

Childers said that he also wants to continue emphasizing community service and that he wants to focus on Hurst as a “destination city and not a pass-through community.

Cobern, 40, teaches U.S. history at Trinity High School. She also has a connection to the popular reality TV show Duck Dynasty, where her father, Si Robertson, stars as Uncle Si.

When she talks to people about her campaign, Cobern said everyone comments on how they enjoy living in Hurst.

“It’s really interesting being a political candidate running in a city where there are no major beefs with what is going on,” she said.

Cobern is also interested in helping out with revitalizing the Bellaire area in southeast Hurst.

Other issues she is concerned about include looking at expenses such as water and sewer rates. She said they are higher than they should be.

She also wants to see an emphasis on homeownership, more businesses and jobs in south Hurst.

Cobern said it is also important to get “young” families involved in the City Council and other activities.

Elizabeth Campbell: 817-390-7696, @fwstliz

Hurst City Council

Term: two years. Salary: $15 per meeting.

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