Registered voters in Canadian began casting early ballots Monday in the May 5 city council election. At mid-week, 65 ballots had been cast in early voting, which ends next Tuesday, May 1.
The four-person race for three open council seats is the only contested race local voters will have to decide on Saturday, May 5. The candidates are incumbent council members Blake Beedy, Gary Prater, and Bob Gober—all vying for re-election—and newcomer Wendie Cook. Early voting by personal appearance in the May 5 election begins Monday, April 23, and ends on Tuesday, May 1.
Early voters may cast their ballots each weekday at City Hall, located at 6 Main St. All voting on Saturday, May 5, will be conducted from 7 am to 7 pm in the Canadian High School foyer, located at 621 S. 5th.
Each of the four candidates responded last week to The Record’s annual candidate Q&A, which is published below. Read their responses to learn more about the candidates’ interests and concerns, and how they they would handle some of the issues the council can be expected to address.
Early voting by personal appearance in the May 5 election begins Monday, April 23, and ends on Tuesday, May 1. Early voters may cast their ballots each weekday at City Hall, located at 6 Main St. City business hours will be extended to 12-hour days on April 23 and April 24, to accommodate early voting.
All election-day voting will be conducted on Saturday, May 5, from 7 am to 7 pm in the Canadian High School foyer, located at 621 S. 5th.
Who are our candidates for City Council?
I have been married to my wife, Hilary, for almost 17 years, and we have four children. We are members of the First Christian Church of Canadian. After graduating from Spearman High School, I went on to Texas Tech University where I received two degrees. I have a degree in accounting and a degree in finance, as well. After graduating, Hilary and I moved to Dallas, where I worked for KPMG, one of the Big Four accounting firms. We lived in Dallas for three years and then decided, after having our first child, we were ready to come home and help run the family business, Canadian Oil & Gas Co. We moved back in 2005, and we have loved living in Canadian ever since.
Thirteen years ago, Tony and I moved our new family back to his hometown to begin Canadian Family Physicians. Raised in Lubbock, I met Tony at Texas Tech where I graduated with a degree in interior design and a double minor in art and architecture, with a special focus on historic preservation. Together, we moved to Dallas during medical school and then back to Lubbock for residency. I worked for a Dallas design firm for seven years, managing both residential and commercial projects across the United States. I have owned a small business for 16 years, working on local restoration projects at First United Methodist Church, which we attend, the WCTU Library, and as a design consultant for the Hemphill County Courthouse. Our greatest joys are our three young boys: Everett is in seventh grade, Collier is in fourth grade, and Thatcher is in kindergarten. My second career began as executive director of The Citadelle Art Foundation, in 2009, and I continue to be proud of the educational and community work our staff provides to Canadian and throughout the region. I am an active member of several statewide boards in historic preservation, education, and arts organizations. I have also served in recent advisory board positions at both Texas Tech and WTAMU.
I am a native of Canadian, and I graduated from Canadian High School and from WTSU. I am married with two adult children. I served as county judge for 28 years, and as justice of the peace for 8 years and 10 months. I also served as a member of the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission and Panhandle Regional Housing Authority, and I am a retired member of the Canadian Volunteer Fire Department.
I’m 47 years old and have lived in Canadian all but three years of my life. I graduated from Canadian High School, and I was employed by my father at Prater Enterprise, Inc. from 1989 to 2010. In 2010, I started my own business—Set Right Trucking, LLC—which is an oil-field trucking business that I still operate. My son, Evan, is 26 and lives in Canadian, where he is employed by Set Right Trucking as a truck driver. My daughter, Bailey, is 23 and lives in Amarillo, where she works at BSA as a registered respiratory therapist while she furthers her education in the field of hospital administration. I have been an active member of the Canadian Volunteer Fire Department for the last 19 years, and currently serve as the assistant chief. I have also served on the Canadian Golf Course board for seven years. I am proud to have been a resident of Canadian for most of my life. If elected for a second term, I look forward to serving the residents of Canadian, and looking for ways to continue to improve and grow this fine city we call home.
CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE Q&A
Why are you running for a seat on Canadian’s City Council? What strengths and experience would you bring to the council that uniquely qualifies you as a candidate?
BB: When I ran for City Council two years ago, I felt that it was time for me to give back to the community that I love. I still feel the need to serve the community, except this time, I am coming with the experience of being on the council. The learning curve for serving on an elected board is pretty steep, and I feel that my experience will help Canadian accomplish the goals that we have set for our community. I humbly ask for your vote in the upcoming election.
WC: The blessings of this community are the results of years of hard work, planning, and forward-thinking of those who came before me. It is, therefore, my civic responsibility to honor Canadian’s legacy through public service by utilizing my hopeful grit for Canadian’s future. As an elected official, I will focus on resident and business needs, listen to concerns, and commit to researching issues for well-informed decisions. For several years, I have worked on many city projects, including the Comprehensive Plan, which developed a list of citizens’ priorities for their future. As a result, I helped to establish the Cultural Arts and Recreation Enhancement Commission, and continue to serve as president. As a goal of the Comprehensive Plan, I spearheaded the formation of the locally designated Cultural District, and I continue as a committee leader in the state recognition application process. Additionally, I own a local small business and am a licensed professional with thorough knowledge of building standards. A visionary by nature, I understand the need for long-range planning and have written business strategies during both of my careers. At The Citadelle, I’ve managed the nonprofit for nine years, building it into a regional hub for art, tourism, and education. I am responsible for employee management; budgets and financial plans; insurance; curatorial duties and loans; along with marketing and donor relations. I have excellent fundraising and grant-writing skills, and continue to author and teach comprehensive, state-recognized art education, leadership, and tourism programs. Additionally, I have extensive knowledge of city, county, EDC and Chamber budgets, through my collaborative project work. I’ve served on multiple boards in advisory roles, and I know how to work together toward common goals and solutions. My representation on many state boards brings resources for economic growth to our city. I am an action-minded professional, open to new ideas, and diverse thoughts, which provide out-of-the-box solutions. I bring the creative problem-solving skills necessary to solve Canadian’s challenges.
BG: My prior experience as county judge enables me to understand how governments work and function. I am currently serving on the PRPC board of directors.
GP: I am running for a seat on Canadian’s City Council to do my best to make a positive difference for the taxpayers of Canadian. To make educated and informed decisions to benefit the community, as a whole, would continue to be my goal. My experience as a business owner for the last eight years, as well as my participation in budget planning for the Fire Department and golf course, will continue to serve me in the future. I feel I am open-minded and willing to listen to the concerns of those I represent, and I take those concerns seriously. Having served my first term on the council has been a great opportunity that I appreciate and look forward to continuing in the future.
County officials last year signaled their willingness to negotiate an interlocal agreement to dedicate additional tax revenues to what have historically been city-funded expenditures. The council turned down the county’s initial offer, but both entities have agreed to discuss such cooperative efforts further. As a council member, what projects or budgeted expenses would you like to see the county contribute to, and why?
BB: The interlocal agreement that the city and the county have been discussing over the last year is one area in which my experience of being on the council will help me determine what is best for our citizens. The county already budgets $250,000 every year to help pay for the new water-treatment facility. In the coming year, I have discussed with most of the commissioners and the judge about the county paying for, or possibly taking over the Fire Department. We have also discussed the county budgeting money for the city to help with roads or infrastructure, as well. After this election, the budget talks will begin again as to how we can improve our community and lower taxes. The interlocal agreement is one area that I am excited about helping the citizens of our community. The reason we turned down last year’s offer from the county is because it came at the very last minute, and we on the council were unsure if it was going to be a one-time offer or one that was meant to continue for the future. The way the Texas laws are written, as far as setting our budget, made it hard for us to accept it without fully understanding the commissioners’ intent for the future. I feel that the City Council and the county commissioners are on the same page this year, and I am hopeful we will be able to find a better way to use our tax dollars.
WC: Surveyed citizens delineated 10 goals during our Comprehensive Plan, most of which are “quality-of-life”-oriented goals. Not acting on those citizens’ goals would be a waste of tax dollars and resources and would not provide help to Canadian’s best assets—its people. Canadian cannot be complacent and maintain a growth-minded, competitive future. The city’s recent efforts for an improved water-treatment facility, along with the plans for street improvements, are certainly positive, and we have made great strides by collaborating with the county for better internet access. However, our residents said they want more than just good roads for their future; they need diversification in our local business economy, more tax money into our city, ways to retain and recruit a quality workforce, and more jobs to bring back our hometown-educated graduates. Collaboration with the county provides the perfect opportunity to work together for creative solutions that benefit both city and county residents in larger-scale projects like a trails system; Highway 60/83 corridor improvement; increased tourism initiatives; with larger marketing efforts to bring in more tax money. There are creative solutions for a more diversified economy to solve our long-range challenges.
BG: Budgeted expenses for the county to contribute toward are: 1. City Hall. Our current city hall is outdated and does not meet ADA regulations; it is feasible cost-wise to fix it. 2. Swimming Pool. The cost of running and keeping the current pool open is a drain on the city budget. 3. Streets. It would be cost-effective to purchase seal-coating equipment that both entities could use to pave county roads and city streets. This equipment could also be used to help keep the school and hospital district parking lots repaired, saving money for all taxpayers. 4. Fire Department. Both entities now contribute to these expenses.
GP: We are fortunate to live in a community that has entities that are willing to work together for the greater benefit of its taxpayers. There are a number of areas I would like to see the county contribute funding. They include, but are not limited to, the fire department, transfer station, and street department. I feel that those are the most-employed not only by those inside the city limits, but also those outside. This kind of cooperative effort would be an effective way to benefit from the larger oil and gas industries located in the county, but not in the city limits.
This city’s voters approved a half-cent sales tax for economic development in May 1995, with the goal of using it to expand and diversify the local tax base, to strengthen the local economy, and to reduce local property taxes. As an elected representative of the taxing entity charged with collecting that sales tax, and overseeing its proper use, are you satisfied that the half-cent sales tax has been effective in achieving those goals? If so, please explain. If not, what changes would you make to ensure greater effectiveness, or would you prefer voters be given the opportunity to repeal the tax?
BB: I do not think repealing the half-cent sales tax is a good way to go if we are looking to lower taxes. The sales tax is a tax that everybody pays and everyone benefits from. The money raised by the tax goes towards cultural district applications, promotions towards new internet services, beautification grants, etc. I think it is important to have a commission of public servants who are charged with the task of trying to improve Canadian. It does not mean that we can afford to fulfill every project they come up with, or we all have to agree with every decision they make, but at least we have people who are thinking about ways to improve Canadian economically, aesthetically, and/or structurally.
WC: The half-cent sales tax brings great benefit to our city, and I am not in favor of repealing it, but I do feel strongly that we have much work to do to in the oversight of the funds. Through our cultural district research, we’ve uncovered places where the taxing entities require more accountability: Where was the money actually spent? Did it do its intended purpose? Did the strategy work? Is there an acceptable return for the expense? All taxing entities, and those responsible for overseeing its proper use, should be following the same accountability roadmap by streamlined reporting, better communication, and more complete board/council education in an effort to make sound decisions and work toward shared goals. With the EDCs commitment to the local Cultural District, we are leading the way for a cohesive plan of action and marketing strategy for the city, including return-on-investment calculation sheets and an equitable financial accounting, and council/board reporting for all local events, especially those which receive grant funding. By partnering with the EDC and county, the city is better equipped for goal success, sound financial decisions, and increased accountability of citizen taxes. Also, as an additional revenue resource, I’ve researched the possibility of adding a venue tax to hotel rooms to generate more income for local entities.
BG: At this time, the community does not seem to feel this money is being used to promote and boost the city’s economy. It would be a better use of funds to use this money for street repair and other projects to improve our infrastructure. The change to use of funds would need to be voted on by the taxpayers.
GP: The use of the economic development sales tax, in my opinion, has not been effective in achieving the goals listed. While many things have been developed that improve the quality-of-life experience in Canadian, I feel that expanding and diversifying the local tax base should be one of the priorities. To accomplish this, I believe we first need to determine what businesses the community desires and would support. One example, according to the city’s Comprehensive Plan, is activities for youth and families. If established, such businesses could strengthen the local economy through local spending and the creation of jobs. Without the support of the community and local entrepreneurs, any such business will surely fail.
Have you read the current zoning regulations for Canadian? Are you committed to their enforcement, given possible opposition by property owners or additional costs to the city for remediation expenses? What role do you think the city should play in planning and zoning, and would you be in favor of re-establishment of a planning and zoning commission to more closely oversee these matters?
BB: I cannot honestly say that I have read all of the current zoning regulations for Canadian because they are over 500 pages long. Other than minor complaints that get resolved by an explanation of the zoning regulations or issuance of citations, I am not aware of any major opposition to the zoning regulations by property owners. As long as I am on the council, we are not going to make decisions that are going to adversely affect the city financially for remediation expenses, but the city does have a role to play in the planning and zoning of Canadian. I have always been willing to listen to anyone’s ideas about how we should run the city. However, if we have a group of people willing to volunteer to be on a zoning commission that will bring recommendations to the council like we have had in the past, then I am not opposed to it.
WC: Yes, I am very familiar with the regulations. As recommended by the city’s consultants, the CARE Commission is researching improved ordinance enforcement and increased zoning guidelines for more protection of Main Street and highway corridor businesses. These should be handled with a tender touch by not overstepping our boundaries. Main Street businesses deserve protection of the historical qualities that have made our Main Street so beautiful. However, drivers through Canadian have to be convinced to turn off the highway and on to Main Street. There are improvements needed on the highway corridor. Some projects may require collaborative funding, but I am certain we can find the best solutions and increase tourism. Tightening the zoning allows protection for established corridor businesses who are working together to increase their exterior presence. Zoning improvement and ordinance enforcement are both great supporters of our business owners’ creative ideas. If the council sees fit to re-establish the planning and zoning commission, I’d eagerly listen to the discussion to do so. However, it is clear that the city’s newly established CARE Commission is doing a comprehensive job in helping the city in this way.
BG: I have read some of the current zoning regulations. We need to enforce them and to
keep them updated. At this time, we are not large enough to have a planning and zoning commission.
GP: Yes, I have read the zoning regulations for the city of Canadian and I am committed to their enforcement. These regulations are vital for producing the systematic growth of the city, while maintaining the integrity of those existing zones. However, without the growth of the city’s borders, due to the limited ability to annex, I do not see the need for a commission at this time.
The seven-member CARE Commission was established in March 2017 to fulfill the requirements for a cultural district designation. That committee has devoted much of its attention to beautification of the US 60/83 corridor through Canadian, with plans to eventually tie into the Canadian River Wagon Bridge and Lake Marvin Road, and is also developing recommendations for exterior zoning requirements on Main Street—all issues addressed in the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Do you support the commission’s work, and are you committed to devoting city resources to these projects? Please explain why, or why not.
BB: I think the CARE Commission has done a good job of promoting all the great aspects of Canadian. I am positive that we will one day be designated a cultural district by the state. We are lucky to have people who are dedicated to coming up with new ideas to promote our beautiful town. I have been in support of the projects that the CARE Commission has brought to the council, and as long as we have the resources to support future projects that I feel that the citizens of Canadian are in support of, then I am in favor of using resources to help Canadian to continue to be the small West Texas town that is the envy of all the others. Thank you all for your support!
WC: As president of the CARE Commission, I absolutely support the dedication of our project committee. Commitment to these and other projects answers our citizens’ wishes directly. In the three years since our city paid for and adopted the Comprehensive Plan, CARE has started, or completed, at least five of those goals. We are action-minded because the public expects that of its city. Additionally, CARE is working with the Cultural District committee to provide marketing support to local businesses to increase their traffic within the district. At CARE’s direction, the city allocated $40,000 for funding- match opportunities to improve sidewalks. CARE is very active in TxDOT’s plans for highway infrastructure to create a cohesive design of the highway corridor. Additionally, the EDC desires a better tourism incentive program, which benefits local businesses and brings conventions to town. It is important to remember that our local cultural district benefits anything that gives Canadian its personality: businesses, cultural heritage, schools, events, and arts and music. Canadian is already a regional draw, but we seek greater statewide tourism presence to increase our tax base. Through the cultural-district planning process, we’ve created a five-year strategy and a supportive marketing plan to execute that strategy for the city. With state designation, Canadian will qualify for additional grants, can leverage our city’s best assets for increased tourism, and have more tools for diversification solutions for Canadian.
BG: I have mixed emotions about some of their recommendations. The exterior zoning requirements on Main Street need to be looked at very carefully. The city resources can help, if it is not a drain on the budget.
GP: The work of the CARE Commission can be a great asset to the city in the future. If designated as a Cultural District, the city would qualify for various grant-funding opportunities, as well as promote tourism. I do support the work of the commission, and would commit resources to projects through the hotel occupancy tax, which is available for use in the promotion of the arts and tourism. While the beautification of the US 60/83 corridor is an issue of importance, it should be addressed in future budget planning to minimize the burden placed on the local taxpayer.