With the filing deadline passed for Amarillo’s May 1 municipal election, voters are set to see 16 candidates vying to win seats on the Amarillo City Council.

In a field that is now on par with the 16 candidate field of 2015, voters will have plenty of options when they head to the polls in mid-April. It is worth noting that in 2015, grassroots voters powered two candidates to victory over incumbent council members and elected an outsider-backed candidate to an open seat on the city council.

This year’s field includes some familiar faces as well as some political newcomers. At least one former elected official is running for a spot on the city council this year, while a few former candidates have once again thrown their hats into the ring.

Here is a look at where the field stands for the Amarillo City Council election:


Incumbent Mayor Ginger Nelson was re-elected to a second term in 2019 by a wide margin against paralegal Claudette Smith and activist and nonprofit founder Kip Billups. This year, Nelson will have to contend with perhaps an even more serious challenge in the form of businessman Michael Hunt.

Hunt is a local catering company owner and retired educator who was instrumental in powering several Republican campaigns to victory over Democrat incumbents in the Panhandle in the 1990s. This will be the first year Hunt has placed his name on the ballot, but he is expected to run a spirited campaign against the incumbent.

Smith is also back to run for mayor a second time after losing the race in 2019. Along with Hunt and Smith, political newcomer Carl Karas has filed to run for mayor. Karas is a retired architect who describes himself as a “proud liberal Democrat” and says he is running to provide a new vision for Amarillo.

City Council Place 1

In the race for Amarillo City Council Place 1, incumbent Elaine Hays has decided to retire after two terms in office. With Hays’ departure, three candidates have stepped up to seek this seat.

Construction company owner Cole Stanley, Marine Corps veteran and conservative activist Hobert “Gunny” Brown, and Navy veteran Jason Tillery have filed to seek this seat.

Stanley is running on a platform of providing a “pro-growth culture” for economic growth. Meanwhile, Brown is running on a platform of promoting fiscal responsibility and transparency in government. Tillery says he is running to give back to his city after his recent retirement from the armed forces.

City Council Place 2

Amarillo Matters-backed incumbent Freda Powell is seeking her third term on the city council after facing the closest race of any incumbent on the city council two years ago. This year, Powell has drawn two challengers for her seat.

High school government teacher Jason Foglesong announced his bid in January for Powell’s seat, running on a platform of bringing conservative values back to local government. Outside of his campaign, Foglesong serves as the secretary for the Potter County Republican Party and was previously a precinct chair for the local party.

Josiah “Joe” West also filed for Powell’s seat on Friday. West is an administrative assistant at Amarillo College and a political newcomer who is running on a platform of expanding the size of the Amarillo City Council and transitioning to single-member districts for local elections.

City Council Place 3

Incumbent Eddy Sauer, a local dentist who has positioned himself as Nelson’s chief lieutenant on the city council, is seeking his third term in office. Sauer has drawn a serious challenger this year in the form of business leader Tom Scherlen.

Scherlen is the former chief executive officer for Austin Hose, an Amarillo-based hose and hose accessories company with locations in Texas and Kansas. Scherlen is running on a platform of bringing business experience back to the city council, with a focus on fiscal responsibility.

City Council Place 4

Finally, for the Place 4 seat on the city council, incumbent Howard Smith has drawn three challengers.

First, local activist and social work educator Ali Ramos filed for Smith’s seat in January. Ramos, who was influential in leading opposition to the opening of the Big Beaners restaurant in Amarillo last year, is running on a platform of expanding the size of the city council, transitioning to single-member districts, and ending Amarillo’s practice of taxpayer-funded lobbying.

Behavioral counselor Sharyn Delgado was the second candidate to file for Smith’s seat in January. Delgado is running on a platform of responding to issues like addiction and homelessness in Amarillo.

Finally, former Potter County Justice of the Peace Richard Herman filed late Friday afternoon. Herman served as a justice of the peace from 2015 until 2019, and he sought the Republican nomination for Congress in Texas’ 13th Congressional District last year. Herman says he is running on a platform of decreasing violent crime in Amarillo.

Other Races

In addition to the Amarillo City Council races, local voters will also decide contests for Amarillo ISD and Canyon ISD school boards, the Amarillo College Board of Regents, and Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District board seats this May.

For Amarillo ISD, eight candidates have filed to seek four seats in a cumulative election. Incumbents Doyle Corder, Kayla Mendez, and David Nance all filed to seek full terms in office after being appointed to their seats, while school board president Robin R. Malone did not file to seek re-election. Joining Corder, Mendez, and Nance on the ballot will be Bennie D. Anderson, Charles D’Amico, Louis P. Montano, Hanna Podzemny, and Don Powell.

For Canyon ISD, three of four incumbents up for re-election have drawn challengers. For Place 3, incumbent Randy Darnell will be challenged by Zack Smith, while Place 4 incumbent Bill Jenkins will be challenged by David Velasquez.

In perhaps the highest-profile school board contest in the area, incumbent Canyon ISD Place 6 Trustee Jenni Winegarner will be opposed by former Trump Victory campaign regional director Vance Snider. As many voters may recall, Winegarner is the wife of former lobbyist Josh Winegarner, who was defeated by U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R–Amarillo) in last year’s Republican primary runoff in Texas’ 13th Congressional District. Snider also ran in that election and endorsed Jackson after missing the runoff.

For Amarillo College Board of Regents, incumbents Anette Carlisle and Dan Henke have filed for re-election, while incumbent Patrick Miller decided to retire. Six candidates have joined Carlisle and Henke on the ballot: former AC board president Don Nicholson, Adrian Meander, Edwin Greiner, Peggy Carter Thomas, Brian Sicher, and former Amarillo ISD Trustee John Betancourt.

Finally, for the Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District Board, voters in Potter County will have to select their new representative after longtime Precinct 9 incumbent F.G. “Butch” Collard decided to retire. Seeking Collard’s seat will be Timothy Ingalls, Lester Peterson, Brian Walker, and John Ryan Zimmer.

Early voting will begin on April 19, and Election Day in each of these contests is May 1.

Thomas Warren

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