Category Archives: City Council

Gary Cochrane enters race for Place 1

Via a Facebook announcement posted on January 7, local real estate agent Gary Cochrane has entered the race for Place 1 on the Kerrville City Council. The election is scheduled for May 4, 2019.

Gary Cochrane. Photo obtained via Facebook.

Mr. Cochrane will challenge the incumbent Vincent Voelkel, who has served as Place 1 Councilman since 2017. Mr. Voelkel has not yet indicated whether or not he will seek re-election, although he has picked up a candidate packet from City Hall.

Cochrane is a real estate agent with RE/MAX Kerrville. He has served the public in various capacities, including as President of the Economic Improvement Corporation (EIC), the body that distributes economic improvement funds via the 4B sales tax revenues.

In a Facebook post, Mr. Cochrane stated:

After many weeks of consideration and encouragement from friends and family, I have decided to run for Kerrville’s City Council (Place 1). This is my opportunity to give back to the community that has blessed me and my family so much.

–Gary Cochrane via Facebook post on January 7

Cochrane is the second candidate to officially announce an intention to run for council in 2019. Last week, local businessperson Kim Clarkson announced her candidacy for Place 2. The election will be held on May 4, with early voting beginning on April 22.

Kim Clarkson announces candidacy for City Council Place 2

The 2019 Kerrville City Council election has its first officially announced candidacy — Kim Clarkson announced her intention to run for Place 2 via a press release made available to us on Friday.

Kim Clarkson, Courtesy Photo

Clarkson is the first candidate to officially enter the race and has picked up her candidate packet from City Hall. Only one other potential candidate has picked up a packet, and that’s Vincent Voelkel, the incumbent in Place 1 up for reelection in May. Mr. Voelkel has not publicly announced his intention to run, however.

Kim Clarkson is a Kerrville native and works with her family business, Kerr County Abstract & Title. Clarkson has served in various volunteer and service capacities in Kerrville, including as a subcommittee member on the Kerrville 2050 Comprehensive Plan Committee, and currently serves on the city’s Code Review Committee.

In the press release, Clarkson stated:

“I was first asked to run for city council over a year ago. After careful consideration, I believe my passion for the community, my record of service, and the development of my leadership skills have led me to this decision. I believe, if elected, that serving on the Kerrville City Council will offer me the opportunity to give back to all of the great people in Kerrville who love living here as much as I do.”

–Kim Clarkson

Read the full press release here:

Packets for candidates are available at the Kerrville City Hall. Candidates can officially file for a place on the ballot starting on January 16 and the closing deadline is February 15. This year’s election takes place on Saturday, May 4, with early voting beginning on April 22.

Stay tuned to Kerrville United for up-to-the-minute news on municipal politics and elections.

Election Season 2019 is Underway

As the holiday season comes to a close and we prepare for the new year, the City of Kerrville Election Season will be underway. The city announced today that applications are being accepted for ballot spots for Place 1 and Place 2, currently held by Vincent Voelkel and George Baroody, respectively.

Incumbents Voelkel and Baroody — up for reelection in May 2019.

Kerrville holds city council elections every year. Each member of council serves a two-year term, and the places we elect alternate each year: Place 1 and Place 2 on odd years, and Place 3, Place 4, and Mayor on even years. So, this year, we’ll elect two of five places on the council. All of the seats are “at large,” meaning we don’t have geographic districts — any resident can run for any place regardless of where he or she lives.

Last year voters elected Mayor Bill Blackburn, Place 3 Judy Eychner, and Place 4 Delayne Sigerman. Those three members’ terms expire in May 2020.

Any eligible resident may apply for a spot on the 2019 ballot, assuming they meet the following criteria:

  • Qualified voter in the State of Texas
  • At least 18 years old
  • Resident of the city for at least one year
  • Cannot hold other elected office or employment of the city government

As of this writing on December 26, 2018, no candidates — incumbents or challengers — have officially filed for a spot on the ballot.

New Mayor and New Council Take Helm

On Tuesday morning, May 15, the new members took their oaths of office, and Kerrville officially has a new mayor and two new councilpersons.

Mayor Bill Blackburn and Place 4 Delayne Sigerman took their oaths today, while Place 3 Judy Eychner will be sworn in this Friday (she was out of town during the official ceremony). Council members in Place 1 and 2, Vincent Voelkel and George Baroody, were present at the meeting, but outgoing Mayor Bonnie White was absent.

The YouTube video of today’s meeting is available below. Be sure to watch the outgoing statements from Place 3 Mary Ellen Summerlin and Place 4 Warren Ferguson. We thank them for their service!

Congrats to the new members, and now it’s time to get to work!

Early voting has concluded… Here are the stats

Kerrville set a new record for city council elections this year in early voting. According to City Clerk Brenda Craig, 3.087 ballots were cast in this year’s early voting period. That’s up 16.5% over 2016 totals for early voting.

There were 2,585 ballots cast by personal appearance at the Cailloux Theater, and 502 ballots by mail, for a total of 3,087.

The previous record for a council race was the 2016 election, with 2,650 votes cast early. But this didn’t beat the biggest early voting total of all time, which was set in 2006, which was the “tax freeze” election, with 4,083 ballots cast early.

Here’s how the demographics break down for this year’s early voting totals:

  • 2,585 ballots cast by personal appearance
  • 502 ballots by mail
  • 3,087 total ballots cast so far
  • Average voter age: 66
  • 56% female, 44% male (of those that chose to reveal their gender on voter rolls)
  • Under 50 years of age: 15.7%
  • 50 years of age and over: 84.3%
  • 16.5% increase in early voter turnout since 2016

Mayor White accuses Evans family of lying

NOTE: This story is a follow-up to the posting we made yesterday on this website and on our Facebook page titled, “Report of harassment at voting location.”

In her first ever comment on a Kerrville United page, Mayor Bonnie White lobbed accusations and offered flat denials regarding the “Voter intimidation” story on our Facebook page. (Even though we’ve invited her to comment and appear on the page for nearly two years, this was the first time she ever made an appearance.)

Offering no sympathy and no apology, Mayor White immediately accused someone (?) of libel and slander, but the post was vague and veiled in threatening language. She also asserted that the entire affair is a political tactic. We asked for clarification but received no reply. Bonnie went on to say that Evans “grossly misinterpreted [the incident] to say the least.” But, then she seemed to accuse her running mate Gary Cooper of being involved in a similar situation involving a young voter and her children who voted for Blackburn.

However, Mr. Cooper, pictured (below right) bears little resemblance to the description that Evans offered in her original post: “wearing a cowboy hat, having a scruffy beard…” Yesterday, Mrs. Evans was presented with a photo of Robert White (below left) and she believes White is the person who harassed her.

Robert White, husband of Mayor Bonnie White (left), and Gary Cooper, candidate for City Council Place 3 (right)

Bonnie White stated that this entire matter was a political stunt to try and sway the outcome of the election. Immediately, numerous friends and supporters of Evans came to their defense, stating that Mrs. Evans is an honest and apolitical person who would never invent or embellish a story. Mr. Evans commented elsewhere stating, “We don’t have a side,” when he was accused of using this moment for political points.

See the full exchange below. This screenshot was taken at 7:00 AM on Wednesday, May 2.

Report of harassment at voting location

This morning on Facebook, one voter gave her testimonial about an encounter with a Bonnie White supporter outside of the polling place yesterday afternoon. In the post, Sara Evans, a Kerrville resident, explains that she took her two children with her to the Cailloux Theater, and the three of them went inside to vote. (Children are encouraged to fill out a sample ballot to learn about the democratic process.) Outside, she was approached by a White supporter that made her and her children feel threatened, and caused her children to cry, they were so upset. Read her story here:

Mayor White’s husband, Robert White, is known to sit in the parking lot of the polling place most days. He drives a white pickup truck, wears a hat, and has a salt and pepper beard. Mrs. Evans was shown a picture of Robert White, and she believes this was the person that harassed her.

Robert White, husband of Mayor Bonnie White

This report comes on the heels of another alleged encounter between Robert White and another female voter leaving the polls last week. Courtney Barton had this to say about her experience with Mr. White in the parking lot:

We await comment and/or a statement from the Whites about these reports. We are happy to update this post as we gather new information.

EDITED AT 5:00 PM CDT 05/01/2018:

Approximately one year ago, an article appeared in the Hill Country Community Journal outlining some other instances of troubling behavior on the part of Mr. White. Please see this article for a detailed explanation of other behavior perceived as threatening, intimidating, or bullying.

UPDATE AT 6:45 PM CDT 05/01/2018:

Mayor Bonnie White posted a comment on the Kerrville United Facebook page’s post about this incident. We await clarification on this accusation.

Infamous “swamp thing” photo degrades city election

Several weeks back, the Bill Blackburn campaign ran an ad in the newspaper that announced an endorsement by six former mayors of Kerrville. That ad is pictured below. This image also made the rounds on social media, and had a noticeable impact on conversations around the election.

Then, last week on social media, a different Facebook post went viral. The post was from a person who had just finished casting a ballot at the early voting center. Afterward, she was introduced to the Mayor’s husband, Robert White. Robert asked her if she’d like to see something funny, and showed her an image on the back of his campaign yard sign.

The image was a Photoshopped version of the Blackburn ad — the ad depicting six former mayors endorsing Bill. Instead of the six mayors, the photo featured “swamp creatures” shopped onto the heads of these six previous mayors of Kerrville.

This alleged behavior infuriated many voters and other members of the community. Many described this type of behavior as “juvenile” and wrong. Folks on both sides of the mayor competition expressed dismay that our politics have been taken into the gutter thanks to this type of behavior.

Here’s the Facebook post:

This post went viral, with scores of shares and reactions in 24 hours. Some of the folks who shared this post had their post deleted by Facebook, apparently because it was anonymously reported as offensive. This made them re-post it even more frequently.

Some commenters thought this might not be true. They asserted that there was no proof of this alleged photograph. As of this morning, we have proof. An anonymous source had this photo below sent to them by a White supporter.

Aside from the potential copyright infringement issues, the image is troubling for a number of reasons. For one, it suggests that Kerrville voters don’t have a say in the election, which couldn’t be further from the truth, as the polls are still open and turnout seems to be on the rise from last year.

Two, the ad suggests that every former mayor is somehow a member of the metaphorical “swamp.” If this is the case, does the swamp not also include Mayor White, since she has served on council for three years now? The truth is that there is no swamp in Kerrville. Your city council representatives are your neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens. They have day jobs and are not career politicians. They serve for effectively zero compensation, giving countless hours of their time to try to improve their community.

Co-opting the “swamp” metaphor from the national political scene does not serve our community or do anything to improve it. To the contrary, it leads to even more polarization, degrades the election process, and attempts to bring our local political system down into the mud.

You still have a chance to cast your vote in this citywide election! Early voting is open on Monday and Tuesday from 8 AM to 5 PM, and the polls are open on Saturday, May 5, from 7 AM to 7 PM. Make your voice heard!

What we know about the “rebate for votes” issue

On Thursday, April 19, the Kerrville Daily Times published a letter to the editor from Mayor Bonnie White with the heading, “Paying for votes?”

The mayor expressed her “astonishment” about a flyer that appeared in a housing community’s newsletter that offered a $20 rent rebate to “anyone bringing in a physical presentation of an ‘I Voted’ sticker.”

The mayor asked, “Is someone paying people to vote? Is this legal?”

The newspaper added an editorial note at the bottom of the letter: ” A spokesman with the Texas Secretary of State’s office said the office ‘strongly discourages offering any kind of financial benefit for voting, as it may constitute a violation of the Texas Penal Code on Bribery.’ On Wednesday evening, the rent rebate offer was rescinded.”

So what’s the deal? Was someone paying for votes? In a manner of speaking, yes. But here’s why the letter is misleading…

The statements above were part of a newsletter (and maybe flyer) announcing a “meet and greet” with candidates Bill Blackburn, Judy Eychner, and Delayne Sigerman. The mayor seemed to imply in her letter that these candidates had something to do with the rebate offer, and this is untrue. The candidates have no control over what promotions and offers a private landowner and landlord offers to his tenants. Further, the candidates are not attorneys for, or consultants to, any landlords, and do not have the expertise or inclination to offer legal advice to anyone — landlord or otherwise.

Meet and greets are a regular function of campaigns and take place on almost a weekly basis during campaign season. They are hosted by a variety of groups and individuals, many of which own businesses or residential rental facilities like apartments or assisted care facilities. The candidates do not have the time, energy, or inclination to investigate all of the goings-on at a location before they appear there to meet with potential voters.

Therefore, after we asked numerous questions of the candidates and others familiar with the matter, it is our conclusion that the candidates did not run afoul of any rules or laws.

Further, this rebate was not offered for a specific vote, but rather for ANY vote. In other words, the intention seems to be to increase voter turnout generally, and they did not ask for specific votes or proof of any vote for a specific candidate. There would be no way to verify who the person voted for, even if that WAS the intention. All that was asked is that a person show up wearing an “I Voted” sticker for their rebate.

The voter turnout for our citywide elections is embarrassingly low, coming in around 14% in last year’s election, and only 5% for younger voters. We must come up with creative ways to increase the voter turnout so that a wider variety of voices are represented in our city government. Was this the right idea? We’ll leave the conclusion up to you, but from all accounts, the intentions were honest.