Lifelong Haltom City residents say they’ve never seen the rough-and-tumble politics of the city this bad.
Some of the discord began when the city outsourced our water billing; it was not an entirely smooth transition, and some residents experienced problems. Some residents wanted to stop the water contract and fire the city manager, but the council unanimously voted to accept the water contract and has given the city manager a 3 percent raise each year since.
On top of that, last May the city manager filed a complaint with the district attorney about the council itself!
Throughout this election cycle, the political fighting in our city grew more and more intense as many Facebook pages were created, rumors and lies were spread, signs were stolen, and “Mugshot Mailers” were sent to residents. The Haltom City Firefighters for Responsible Government took most of the heat for posting information about candidates through their political action committee, and both they and the Haltom City Police Department PAC endorsed candidates challenging the old guard. The most vocal firefighter, Jayson Steele, in particular, was repeatedly attacked. The claims made against him were so slanderous that he voluntarily paid for and took a drug test to disprove one of them.
When asked why he would risk all the scrutiny and attacks, Steele responded, “I didn’t expect that the opposition would sink to the depravity that it did to discredit me and the PAC, but in the end, the citizens saw through their lack of substance and sent an overwhelming message that Haltom City is done with the corrupt establishment.”
When the dust settled and the election results came in Saturday night, the landscape of the Haltom City Council changed. The old guard lost and for the first time, the dais will seat four women and a Vietnamese-American mayor.
Dr. An Truong, who holds a doctorate in criminal justice and recently retired from the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office after a 30-year career in law enforcement, won the three-way mayor’s race, earning enough votes to avoid a runoff. Dr. Truong served three terms on the council and was termed out to run a fourth time, except to run for mayor.
Former council member Marian Hilliard returned to Place 1, after council member Jeannine Nunn withdrew from the race prior to the deadline.
Walter Grow will retain Place 2 for his third term, winning his race with 66 percent of the vote.
Susan Soule, a newcomer to Haltom City politics, won the special election in Place 5 without the need for a runoff. Place 5 was vacated by Bob Watkins, who filed to run for mayor. His wife, Nancy Watkins, holds the record as Haltom City’s only female mayor.
Place 7 was won by Gaye Vanzant with the largest margin of 70 percent.
In addition to four council seats and the mayor, there were many charter amendments on the ballot, including adding an Ethics Committee for the council.
All the amendments passed.
“With the city’s first Vietnamese-American mayor and four women on our council, our elected officials are starting to represent the diversity that makes Haltom City the great place that it is. We look forward to the progress this council will bring our city,” Steele said.
Typically, Haltom races are split down the middle, with two sides fighting each other. With an increase in voter turnout, the involvement of more newly registered and attentive voters, new groups being formed, and the new direction of the council, here’s hoping that Haltom City will continue to move forward and become, as Vanzant ran on, “Stronger Together.”
Next, we’ll work on the Birdville Independent School District.
This is a commentary submitted and published with the author’s permission. If you wish to submit a commentary to Texas Scorecard, please submit your article to firstname.lastname@example.org.