Big Country Ballot 2020: Abilene City Council Place 3 & 4
As we wrap up our coverage of the candidates on the ballot in Taylor County, we are taking a look at the contests for Place 3 and Place 4 in Abilene’s City Council. One incumbent faces two challengers, while the other is unopposed.
The Abilene City Council features one city councilwoman out of six seats. As she runs for a second term, Place 3 Councilmember Donna Albus emphasizes what a learning experience it has been and looking forward to Abilene's continued success. "There are so many wonderful projects going on in our town. There are so many of our historic buildings that have been given new life and that's exciting to me.” Albus reflects.
Councilwoman Albus describes Abilene as a community of people that care about each other and face challenges head-on. She says that will help as Abilene’s residents and businesses recover from the affects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Albus says people should wear masks, and that businesses are thinking outside the box. “Something like Covid, there’s no way it’s going to get Abilene down.” Albus adds that she is grateful to serve in a place where the city leaders, chamber of commerce and DCOA all work together for common goals like completion of the downtown hotel project and continuing street repairs.
The Place 3 Councilwoman received criticism last year after voting to not censure fellow Councilmember Kyle McAlister in response to racist remarks McAlister made on social media. But she stands by that decision, "We've all told jokes that in this day and age probably wouldn't fly and I just did not see any sense in censuring him for doing something that I've probably been guilty of myself,” she said.
Albus faces two challengers this time around: Anthony Jojola and Sheria Ford Davis. Both candidates entered the race for Abilene’s Place Three seat as political newcomers. And they are focused on getting minority groups and younger people involved in local government.
Challenger Anthony Jojola, who is 25 years old, launched his campaign to engage younger members of the community in leadership. Jojola says he wants to see more action from the city council to help lower middle class neighborhoods that get overlooked. "I just want to see my city change in ways that are going to benefit everybody. I'd like to put my thoughts toward plans to give them a better quality of life." Jojola says.
Jojola says City leaders did an acceptable job responding to COVID-19 based on the information they had early in the pandemic, but if he is elected he hopes to provide more support for local businesses to recover. "I did see local shops did close up for a while. I would just provide those additional funds. Make sure we're not putting our business owners in a difficult situation." Jojola says Abilene needs to find new sources of revenue that will help the city grow and prosper.
Sheria Ford Davis serves on the citizens advisory board for people with disabilities. After initial contact, Sheria Davis was unable to schedule an interview to give her views on Abilene’s government or her perspective on the race.
Meanwhile, Place 4 Councilmember Weldon Hurt faces no competition as he runs for re-election. He ran unopposed in 2017, when he took over the seat vacated by councilman Jay Hardaway. Hurt says he has enjoyed most of his first term, even with unforeseen challenges, and hopes to continue completing projects that benefit the city. "I don't really have an agenda. This community and city, and this area, has been so good to me. I just wanted to continue to give back another three years,” Hurt said.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic Hurt has been vocal about his opposition to Governor Greg Abbott's executive orders mandating face masks and restricting and closing certain businesses. Hurt says local leaders must be able to make decisions that are best for their communities. And he adds that Abilene revenue will likely be down by a total of five to six percent this year. "We have a lot of available jobs out there right now but we have people drawing unemployment and they are making more money by staying unemployed. Things that are out of our control in our region have really affected our unemployment." Hurt says after the election helping Abilene’s economy will be top priority. He says he looks forward to completing the downtown hotel project and working with the new police chief because, "changes are hard, but changes are good."
While Hurt’s seat is assured, we’ll find out Tuesday night whether there will be any changes coming to Abilene’s City Council chambers. Voters will decide among the incumbent Donna Albus and her challengers Anthony Jojola and Sheria Ford Davis in the Place Three city council race, and between Mayor Anthony Williams and his challenger Cynthia Alvidrez.
Abilene’s 15 polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m on Election Day.