April 27, 2019
Temple Daily Telegram | Jacob Sanchez
West Temple has been without a City Council member for more than three months.
That will soon end as voters decide between three men vying to represent District 4.
AT&T engineer Joey Agee, retired U.S. Foreign Service officer Gussie Daniels and retired banker Wendell Williams are running for the seat.
The winner of the May 4 election will replace Mike Pilkington — who resigned as councilman in January after reports surfaced about his December 2017 driving while intoxicated arrest in Corpus Christi.
A candidate must secure a majority of the vote to win the District 4 seat on the City Council. If no candidate receives enough votes, a runoff election will be held.
Construction crews and wooden building frames dot West Adams Avenue. A mixed-use development and other subdivisions are planned for West Temple.
The Belton Independent School District — which encompasses most of District 4 — will open Charter Oak Elementary School in the fall and Lake Belton High School next year.
There is no doubt that West Temple is one of the city’s growth corridors. And that topic will certainly be on the minds of District 4 voters.
For Williams, growth can be a double-edged sword. It brings opportunities, but it can bring potential problems, he said.
“We’re not going to stop the growth. But hopefully, we can stay even with it or maybe a fraction ahead of it in providing the infrastructure, the quality of life items, and budgeting properly and doing it in the correct way,” Williams, 71, said.
Williams worked in local banks — including most recently as the president of the Central National Bank — for the past 35 years. On top of that, he has served on the boards for the Temple Economic Development Corp., Temple Chamber of Commerce, Health and Bioscience District, Ralph Wilson Youth Club, Temple Jaycees and the Temple Business League.
“My experience in the business world has taught me a lot of that, and I would think and hope that’s some expertise that I can bring to the City Council and be a part of the team to solve those potential problems that come from the opportunity,” he said.
Daniels, a first-time candidate, said he did not know how to manage Temple’s growth. However, the former teacher said the city needs to examine how its population book is affecting schools and traffic.
“I am not sure of anything that the city or the Council can do about beyond be aware of it,” Daniels, 78, said, adding he needs to research more into growth management.
Agee, 42, echoed Williams: Growth is coming and is here. But that may not always be the case, he said.
“It’s the law of gravity — what goes up must come down,” Agee said. “We have to be planning ahead for a downturn so that our citizens aren’t paying for the lack of planning ahead of time.”
Agee — who previously ran for this seat in 2016 and lost to Pilkington — wants the city to continue to plan for its future regardless of what could happen.
“I don’t want us to bask in the glory of our great economy right now,” he said. “I want us to really think ahead and find ways to build and grow that will come into effect and really benefit the future generations of Temple.”
As Temple grows, maintaining and improving infrastructure will be a priority.
Like his approach to growth management, Daniels wants to gather information to determine where to focus the City Council’s infrastructure efforts.
“I would think that you would have to look at which areas are the most serious and which can be delayed, and that would require you to dig in and get some information and some facts about what is happening,” he said.
Because of his time working overseas as a foreign service officer, Daniels is familiar with helping guide development in communities. He said he would approach infrastructure in a similar fashion.
“I would need to see what the needs are, the means are, how much money we’re talking about, what we are going to do now and what we’re going to do a year from now,” he said. “The best way to deal with it was to talk to the people and find out what they would like to have.”
When it comes to infrastructure, Agee said the city already has plans in place. However, Temple can only do so much with its resources, he said.
“We have to leverage our ability to go and do the work that needs to be done while utilizing the budget that we have,” said Agee, who serves on the city’s Building and Standards Commission and the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.
As Temple moves forward with its infrastructure plans and grows, Agee said all residents have to understand there may be growing pains.
For example, with Belton ISD opening Charter Oak Elementary in the fall, the expansion of Poison Oak Road will not be ready.
“Just like a kid that’s starting to hit their growth spurts, we are hitting a growth spurt,” Agee said. “There are going to be some growing pains. There are going to be some things that we as citizens will have to put up with knowing that in the long run it will get better.”
Temple fell behind on some infrastructure projects, such as the Poison Oak Road expansion, under previous leadership, Williams said. But, he said, the City Council and City Manager Brynn Myers have the right approach to improving streets with its plans to redo Kegley Road, Poison Oak and Pea Ridge Road.
“We got behind the curve. It’s now catch-up time,” Williams said. “But it takes time to design the road, get the right of way, move the utilities and then build the road. It can’t be done overnight.”
For Williams, infrastructure goes beyond streets. He said it covers a wide range of aspects that include public safety, city services and quality of life. Having an extensive trail network, parks, festivals and a vibrant downtown set Temple apart, Williams said.
Approach to the budget
Whoever wins the District 4 seat will dive head first into the city’s budgeting process, which begins in the summer. The city currently has a $147.6 million budget and a tax rate of 66.12 cents per $100 valuation.
If elected, Agee said he will have to strike a balance between relying on city staff’s recommendation for the budget while also being a good steward of tax dollars.
“I’m going to rely on those recommendations, but then I’m going to take a step back and look at the different angles,” he said.
The city cannot just budget money and not use it, Agee said. Temple needs to stay as close to its budget as possible and plan accordingly, he said.
The largest source of revenue for Temple is the sales tax. The current budget estimates the city will bring in $22,530,000 — or 30.4 percent of revenue in the general fund.
Because of that, Williams said the City Council must ensure Temple continues to have a strong economic development effort to keep attracting new industry and business.
“They generate new sales tax revenue that helps pay for what’s going on within our community,” he said.
As chairman of the Temple Health and Bioscience District, Williams said the board of directors lowered the tax rate each of the five years he served.
“But we still maintained the level of services,” Williams said. “You have to look for innovative approaches to provide services in an effective manner. That doesn’t mean you’re going to cut taxes every year. It means you’re going to be a good steward of that money.”
Like Agee, Daniels wants to listen to city staff as the City Council considers its future budgets.
“I tend to look at a budget in terms of what is needed at the moment, what can be deferred, what are the sources of income, how long is it going to take to achieve what you’re after,” Daniels said.
That approach is how Daniels likes to tackle a subject, he said.
“I generally don’t go into a decision … based upon preconceived notions,” Daniels said. “I will be the person who will admit that I don’t know everything about everything.”