The District 2 seat on the Gonzales City Council is the only contested race on the May 1 election day ballot.
The Inquirer sent out a questionnaire to each of the three candidates: Johnny Ross Hunt, Sherri Tumlinson Koepp, and James H Lawrence.
Each candidate was asked the same questions and allotted the same maximum numbers of words for their response. They were also given the option of providing their own photo or to have The Inquirer take a photo.
The Inquirer formatted the answers from each candidate, but did not edit or change their responses. Each appears as submitted to The Inquirer. Here are the responses (which may also be found in the April 29 print and e-edition of The Inquirer) from the candidates in alphabetical order:
Johnny Ross Hunt
• Age: 55
• Years Living in Gonzales: 55-year resident of the City of Gonzales
• Education: Gonzales High School graduate 1985
• Current Occupation: Retired; 28 years employed by the State of Texas that included 7 years as a Park Ranger at Palmetto State Park and 21 years as Maintenance Tech 3 at the Department of Transportation
• Certifications, specialized training, military service: N/A
• Previously held elected office: N/A
• Volunteer work and service in non-elected positions: Founder & Director of the JRH Basketball-Football-Soccer League for local youth; established an annual program to fund school supplies serving 100+ children annually; President of the African American Interface Scholarship Program (6 years); served as President of the Edwards Community Center Association (4 years); Little League baseball coach (6 years); Deacon at Union Lea Baptist Church
• Introduction: I have been a life-long citizen of Gonzales. I am married to Emily and we are the parents of Ryan, Justin and Whitney. I am retired from a 28-year career with the State of Texas. In recognition of my years of volunteer service to the community, I received a proclamation signed by former Mayor Logan, making August 3rd “Johnny Ross Hunt Day.” And now in retirement, I want to focus my full-time efforts on improving my district, my city and my church.
• Why I am running: Volunteerism and service to the community have always been a part of my life. A seat on the City Council would give me a unique opportunity to continue this tradition. District 2 is not only my home but also my passion. I am running for City Council to give District 2 a fresh and clear voice. There are neglected areas and opportunities in this district that need attention. It is time to have a real advocate for District 2 in city government.
• What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for the city?: District 2 challenges include water drainage issues, some of them resulting from recent drainage work elsewhere. Repair potholes and replace faded stop signs that are unreadable at night; trim trees along streets; consider making a kids’ center and pocket parks; improve fairness in code enforcement and policing. I want to stop the neglect and make this the best part of town.
Parks and recreational facilities are important to our quality of life. An opportunity exists for our City to remake the JB Wells complex into an accessible place for LOCAL RESIDENTS. Consider reduced pricing for city residents who want to use the event center and arenas. Make the rules for use more user-friendly for locals. Improve walking trails; add historic and natural feature signage. Design open areas to accommodate soccer games with nighttime lighting and seating.
Opportunities at Independence Park include improving or replacing the existing outdoor pool and its facilities, and making it accessible for adult exercise as well as for family recreation. And keep it open spring through fall. Remake the old duck pond into a kiddie pool. Update picnic areas and install animal proof trash cans. Allow walking access on golf course trails in the evenings and add lighting.
City-wide communication is needed. A city newsletter that could periodically be sent by mail with the utility bills would be an effective way to communicate to ALL citizens. It could include council news, proposed charter changes, and other city-wide events.
Sherri Tumlinson Koepp
• Age: 50
• Years living in the city of Gonzales: I grew up in Gonzales, moved away for 17 years, but have been back in Gonzales for 13 years.
• Education: I have a license in Vocational Nursing. I also have a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration.
• Current occupation: I am the Clinic Administrator for Gonzales Healthcare Systems. I oversee operations at all 4 medical clinics of Gonzales Healthcare Systems.
• Certifications, specialize training, military service: Along with being a licensed nurse, I am also a Certified Rural Health Clinic Professional by the National Association of Rural Health Clinics.
• Previously held elected office(s): I have never held an elected office.
• Volunteer work and service in non-elected positions: Former member of Pilot Club.
• Introduction: I grew up in Gonzales and graduated from Gonzales High School in 1989. I have 4 children ranging in age from 30 to 20. My husband David and I have been married for 5 years. I enjoy refinishing old furniture, reading, time with my family, and going to different places in Texas. We especially enjoy going to Wimberley and seeing the beautiful country on the drive.
• Why I am running: I am running because I think I can help my district and Gonzales as a whole. First, I want to thank Mr. Tommy Schurig for his many years of service to Gonzales. I’ve never run for office before, so I will be new to this – but if I am elected, I want to be able to listen, learn, and make educated decisions that benefit everyone in Gonzales. Sometimes having someone who’s not involved in the “politics” of a decision offers new ways of thinking about a situation.
• What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for the city:
1. Streets: We have a huge challenge with street maintenance. Not only in District 2, but all over the city there are streets in desperate need of repair. The city needs to make this a priority – and use city employees and city equipment if we have it.
2. Activities for youth: We need activities for the youth of Gonzales, to keep them occupied and out of trouble.
3. Tourism/New Business: Our history is rich and is an opportunity for us to showcase Gonzales and all it has to offer.
1. Our People!!! We have so many talented, engaged people in our community ready to serve. These community members have good ideas and strategies to better the community – we should be tapping into that as much as we can! We need to utilize local talent – employed or volunteering. If employed, I do believe that staff should make their home in Gonzales – how can someone be completely vested in this community if they aren’t living here, paying taxes here, having their children in school here.
2. Providing education through Victoria College. We have been blessed to have Victoria College in our community. I went to nursing school at Victoria College in Cuero. Having access to education 10 minutes from home instead of an hour is priceless. I would not have had the chance to go to school had it not been for Victoria College being available to me. It’s the same here. Many in our community have had the opportunity to continue their education because Victoria College is here.
3. Our history. Again, our history is rich and important in Texas history. Anyone who is a fan of Texas history knows of Come and Take It – even those that don’t use our tag line! It’s everywhere. We promote our history through our annual festival, tv shows filming here, and historic tours.
James H Lawrence
• Age: 66
• Years living in Gonzales: I arrived in Gonzales on Sept. 1, 2014
• Education: I have a degree in Practical Theology from CFN Institute. I also have 30 hours in various course that interested me, including accounting.
• Current occupation: Office Manager & Pre-need counselor for Buffington Funeral Home
• Previously held elected office(s): None
• Volunteer work and service in non-elected positions: Served twice on the City Charter Review Commission, including being chairman the last time. I am an active member of the Knights of Columbus and their actives to raise scholarships for graduates that are going to college. I teach in the adult program at church and lead the youth ministry that does the pre-service prayer. I have been asked to lead the Citizens Committee On The Future of The Lynn Theatre, which I have accepted.
• Introduction: My name is James H. Lawrence. I am a Texan by birth. I grew up in and around the Dallas area. During my time there I worked in banking operations, I worked as the business manager of a law firm, and the business manager of a church and school. The school had 270 students and a major building project was started and completed under my watch. Having visited Gonzales a couple times, I readily accepted an offer to become the office manager at Buffington Funeral Home. There’s a saying, home is where the heart is. If so Gonzales is home.
• Why I am running: Five years ago, the city had $179,000 in the bank and no cash reserve. It’s total annual budget was over $20 million. The infrastructure was crumbling. There was no maintenance plan to deal with any of it. Just putting patches on whatever broke.
Today the city has come from the brink of bankruptcy, to having a working balance in the bank and a small reserve. It has a maintenance plan in place. Though it will take a while to get the infrastructure were it truly needs to be.
I have regularly attended city council meetings to keep up with where the city is financially and what it is doing to improve the city. I believe Gonzales has the opportunity to be a city people want to live in and call home. I believe it has the opportunity to attract good businesses. I do not want to “take our city back”, to where it was. Financially broke with a crumbling infrastructure and no maintenance plan to deal with it. I want a financially sound city that we all can be proud of!
I will also be a strong voice for needs of District 2 and all those who reside there.
• What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for the city?: The challenges and opportunities are closely aligned. A challenge is to keep the city financially healthy and have a maintenance schedule to keep updating or crumbling infrastructure. The opportunity is to have a vibrant city that families and businesses want to move to and stay. A challenge is to find the balance point between our needs and wants, and exploring all financial options available to the city. To be frugal and well managed. The opportunity is to have a city we can be proud of and people want to come visit. A challenge is bring all neighborhoods and sections of the city into harmony and have respect for each other. We are all God’s children and need to take that to heart. The opportunity is to create a harmonious and caring city.