Two incumbents made their intentions known about the May 2021 Amarillo City Council elections on Thursday, with one announcing a re-election bid and the other announcing their retirement.

First, Place 4 Councilman Howard Smith announced his plans to seek another term in office after winning his second term in 2019. Smith’s announcement made him the first incumbent on the city council to announce plans for the upcoming election.

Immediately following his announcement, Place 1 City Councilwoman Elaine Hays revealed that she would not seek a third term in office. 

Hays’ statement came after she was the only member of the city council to vote against a recent ordinance mandating $2,000 fines for local businesses that do not enforce Gov. Greg Abbott’s mask mandate. Hays’ political aspirations were also dealt a blow earlier this year when she failed to gain traction in her campaign for the Republican nomination for Congress in the 13th Congressional District, winning just 8 percent of the vote amid the 15-candidate field.

Thus far, no candidates have entered the races for the seats held by Smith or Hays.

Voters are also awaiting announcements from Mayor Ginger Nelson and city council members Freda Powell and Eddy Sauer about their plans for 2021. While Nelson has not signaled her plans, she has already drawn two challengers in Claudette Smith and Jeffrey McElreath. Smith, an Amarillo paralegal, unsuccessfully sought the mayor’s office in 2019, while McElreath, a self-employed Amarillo resident, is a political newcomer.

Several topics are expected to become hot-button issues this election, such as the mask enforcement ordinance, whether Amarillo should transition to single-member districts, rising tax rates, the future of the Amarillo Civic Center Complex, and more.

Candidates can begin filing for office on January 13, 2021. Election Day is May 1, 2021.

Thomas Warren

Thomas Warren, III is the editor-in-chief of the Amarillo Pioneer newspaper in Amarillo, Texas.