There are four contested seats for Mineral Wells City Council on the May 4 ballot.
One of those is for the At-Large, Place 1 seat, currently held by first-term incumbent, investor and business owner Brian Shoemaker. Challenging him is Terri Blevins, a postal carrier who initially ran for the mayor’s seat last year before withdrawing from the race prior to the election over personal matters.
One of two at-large seats on council, this seat is elected by voters citywide.
We asked candidates to provide some information about themselves and answer five questions, with each answer being no longer than 300 words. A response deadline of March 27 was requested.
Shoemaker responded while Blevins did not. The Index confirmed with Blevins that he received the questions and requests for information – as we did with all candidates after submitting them. Blevins acknowledged he received the Index’s questionnaire. The Index also sent Blevins a notification of no response received, to which Blevins has not provided a response.
With that, following are Shoemaker’s responses.
Early voting begins April 22.
Name: Brian Shoemaker
Occupation/title: Self-employed/restaurant owner
Family information (spouse, children): wife of 17 years, Cara Shoemaker; daughters Caroline (12 years) and Cate (9 years).
Education and training: Texas Tech University-BA in History 1998. Tarleton State University-MBA 2000.
Boards/clubs/civic activities: Hope Inc. Board of Directors, Mineral Wells Noon Lion’s Club, Envision Mineral Wells, Merry Wells committee.
QUESTION 1: Downtown redevelopment is well underway and business additions and expansions are beginning to occur throughout the city. What elements of the downtown development plan do you like, or don't like? Why? Are you in favor of bringing back and funding a Main Street project and hiring a coordinator, or creating a new position in the city that could combine several functions such as a planner/grant writer/Main Street coordinator?
Shoemaker: In the last two years, there has been so much change downtown and so much excitement in the area. Most of this development has been the result of private investment from Randy and Misty Nix and others but the city has been able to play a major role in planning and assisting with the future of our downtown.
The council approved a TxDOT streetscape project that will start soon to beautify the downtown area. Council has also hired a consulting firm that is working on a downtown conceptual plan to help map out what our downtown should look like and prioritize how to go about reaching the ultimate vision of the final product. Council approved a Historic Resources Survey that could potentially help us qualify as a National Register District. Becoming a National Register District would offer some incentives for business owners or investors to remodel historic buildings downtown helping preserve these structures and attract businesses and in turn bring people to our town to shop and eat.
I am in favor of Mineral Wells joining the Main Street program again. I think it would be paramount to hire the right person to run the program and they would have to be qualified in multiple capacities such as grant writing and planning in addition to the duties of focusing on the downtown effort. The Main Street program requires that the Main Street coordinator be an employee of the city but I would like to look into the Chamber of Commerce possibly partnering with the City to help fund this position.
So far, I am very pleased with the downtown development that has taken place in such a short period of time. There is so much more that needs to be accomplished to make our downtown district reach its full potential.
The Mineral Wells Chamber of Commerce will conduct two forums. The first one is scheduled for Thursday, April 11, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Mineral Wells High School cafeteria. It will feature candidates for seats Ward 2 and At-Large, Place 2.
QUESTION 2: Based on what has been presented and proposed so far, what do you feel is the best direction for the city regarding future economic development endeavors? If you are a city councilman for the next two years what will you propose, support or not support, and why? What do you think the costs of dedicated full-time economic development will be and how do you propose that be funded? What should council do to incentivize and attract new businesses and industry to Mineral Wells?
Shoemaker: As a sitting council member, I am excited and still waiting for recommendations from consultant David Hawes and the Economic Development Task Force to be presented May 7th before making any decisions. I’m hoping the recommendations include a broad spectrum of ways to recruit and incentivize businesses to come to Mineral Wells or remain in the community.
In the past our economic development really only focused on recruiting industrial and manufacturing companies which are major employers and tax base for the city but I would also like to see retail recruitment added into the mix. I know at some point the city will need to commit to buying land and creating the infrastructure for a new industrial park to facilitate recruiting larger companies. That will most likely have to be a commitment by the citizens through a bond package to fund. I’m not sure what the costs of full-time economic development will be but I do know that it will cost more than the $50,000 the City of Mineral Wells has committed each year for the past few decades. Being competitive in economic development is expensive but citizens have made it clear that the way we have been going about it in the past was not what they wanted. The City Council took note and I will be prepared to vote to fund what is needed to recruit companies that pay livable wages to our city.
Obviously, if a position is created for economic development, that will have to be funded through the General Fund and budget. I hope to be on the council for two more years to see whatever our Economic Development plan is implemented and successful.
QUESTION 3: Additional capital improvement projects remain on a back burner. There exists a slate of proposed projects and no shortage of facility and infrastructure improvement needs. Most consider a new public safety building at the top of the list, followed by more streets, water and sewer and parks improvements. A citizens bond committee has reviewed and prioritized a list of projects. What are your thoughts on bringing to voters another bond proposal to fund improvements within the next one or two years? What are your capital improvement projects priorities? How would you package or propose capital improvement projects to voters? Are you in favor of or opposed to using long-term debt financing for multi-million projects. If opposed, how do you propose funding major, multi-million-dollar projects?
Shoemaker: There are many needs in our community that would require substantial amounts of money to complete. Some of these projects are more on a “wish” list and some need to be a priority. I respect the tiers that the Citizens Bond Committee came up with to prioritize some of those projects.
I believe the top four capital improvement projects needing to be addressed currently would be continuing streets and infrastructure repairs, a new public safety building, a new industrial park for economic development and upgrades to parks both existing and a new downtown park being considered.
Another major Capital Improvement Project that is much needed is a Youth Sports Complex for football, baseball and soccer.
Bond packages are always a hot button for citizens but I believe citizens can get behind projects that better the community. I would probably not look at proposing anything in the first year as we are getting a new city manager who will need to get a handle on what is going on and maybe bring some outside perspective to our needs. I believe any capital improvement projects would have to be packaged to voters in a manner where they can vote “for” or “against” each proposal individually.
I am not opposed to using long-term debt to finance these projects because for multi-million dollar projects like the ones I have listed, I see no other way to finance such projects. If the voters are not in favor, then the citizens will not pass them. Mineral Wells currently has a relatively low amount of long-term debt compared with other cities and at some point, we as citizens have to commit to investing in our community to make it better.
QUESTION 4: Much discussion was recently focused on drainage issues, a citywide drainage impact study and the current drainage utility fee. How important are the city's drainage problems? Do you believe the city should drop the drainage fee on utility accounts, especially residential accounts, once the study is complete? If so, how do you propose the city pay for drainage projects – some expected to be very costly such as work to Crystal Canal? Do you favor keeping the current fee and assessing commercial and residential impact drainage fees to pay for improvement projects going forward?
Shoemaker: The city’s drainage problems are very important. There are several areas in Mineral Wells where we are unable to grow because they are in a FEMA floodplain or floodway due to the drainage problems. This in particular affects some of our downtown business district as well as areas along U.S. Highway 281. New construction is not allowed in the areas considered a floodway and there are restrictions on how much remodel or money can be put into existing buildings in these areas making it difficult to bring new business.
I think once the drainage impact study is completed, we will still need a drainage fee to be assessed. I think the fee should remain what it is currently on residential customers and be scaled for commercial customers based on the size of their impervious surface area. There is no purpose in doing a study if we don’t have funding to fix the issues afterwards. These fees can help provide for the long-term needed improvements and continued maintenance of our drainage infrastructure.
QUESTION 5: Why do you want to serve on Mineral Wells City Council?
Shoemaker: I plan on making Mineral Wells my home for years to come and raising my children here, so I want to have a hand in creating the best place for them to grow up. Although I feel like I have made positive contributions in my first two years on council, I realize that much of that time was spent learning about city government, my role as councilman, and how the council can effect positive change in Mineral Wells. Now I want to take that knowledge and experience and continue to move Mineral Wells forward because I know there is still a lot of work left to do.
I want to see Mineral Wells achieve its full potential for tourism, business and industry, and offerings for its residents. I also want to continue to make good decisions and be a good steward for city tax dollars. I want to continue to help create infrastructure and a culture that will attract successful businesses (retail, restaurants, and entertainment) to come to Mineral Wells and in turn bring new residents wanting to invest in our community and put down roots. I want to help bring in bigger companies and industry that see Mineral Wells as a community with great potential.
I’ve really enjoyed being a small part of the exciting changes that are going on in our city, and the next two years promise to be even better. I believe we are called to serve, and I believe this is where I am meant to serve right now, so I am hopeful that the citizens of Mineral Wells will allow me to continue to be a part of the council. I love this community and I look forward to all that is to come.