Mayoral candidates speak at the Mansfield Matters Candidate Forum on Tuesday night.
By Amanda Rogers
Mansfield ISD school board and Mansfield City Council candidates got the chance to introduce themselves to the voters at Tuesday night’s Mansfield Matters Candidate Forum.
The 13th annual event was held without an audience due to COVID-19, but was streamed over Facebook Live. To view the event, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/2092104527580432
The main event, the four-way race for mayor, was saved for the finale of the 1 ½ hour forum, which was moderated by local Realtor Angie Thor. While the Mansfield forum was much more civil than the presidential debate held at the same time, voters were able to see the differences in the Mansfield candidates and their plans for the city and school district.
Taxes took center stage in the mayor session.
Candidates George Fassett and Michael Evans agreed that property taxes need to be lowered even more than the recent homestead exemption and 2-cent decrease, while Terry Moore and Brent Newsom want to attract more businesses and corporations to carry the weight.
“The key thing we need to understand as we continue to grow we will be able to move that burden away from the homeowners,” said Newsom, who is currently a council member in Place 2. “Retail, commercial, industrial help balance that.”
All agreed that taxes should be reduced, but have different opinions about how that will affect city services.
“We need to make sure that we’re prioritizing our spending,” Fassett said. “We can’t have two-lane roads feeding three schools. We need to prioritize our core needs - roads to schools, police, fire. We can’t be spending our funds on luxury items.”
Evans agreed that spending needs to be prioritized, focused on retaining quality city staff, fire and police, while Newsom pointed to an increase in sales tax even during the COVID-19 pandemic that will help offset cuts and Moore said he was assured by city staff that there would be no cuts in services.
When asked how Mansfield can attract corporations and higher-paying jobs, the candidates had a variety of answers.
“We have a top-notch school district,” Evans said. “We have major hospitals in the community. We have property still available where we can bring in companies, corporations, students, surgical centers. We are more than just an industrial space.”
Moore, who currently holds Place 6 on the city council, said he wants the Mansfield Economic Development Corp. to recruit business.
“I don’t feel Mansfield has a clear vision,” Moore said. “Corporations that you bring in don’t need to be warehouses that pay $14 an hour. We have no Class A business space in this city. What I have heard is that our MEDC does not proactively go out and recruit new businesses.”
Newsom broached a new idea.
“We need to bring in a four-year university to the city of Mansfield,” Newsom said. “It may be a satellite campus to start with. We have a great opportunity.”
Scot Bowman, Tamera Bounds and Skeeter Pressley are in contention for Place 2, while Todd Tonore and Philip DeGroat are vying for Place 6. Incumbent Larry Broseh is unopposed for Place 7 and did not speak at the forum.
The candidates for City Council Places 2 and 7 also got a chance to discuss ways to attract new business to Mansfield.
“: I think we need to decide what we want to be when we grow up,” Bounds said. “We need the MEDC actively recruiting the businesses that we want to be here. The city council needs to set some goals. We need good businesses that will come down here that will stay and complement the businesses that we already have here.”
DeGroat says that businesses will come.
“The city council needs to closely manage the space we have left,” he said. “Mansfield sells itself. People want to come here. I think the development will come. I think it’s about being very specific about how we manage that.”
Pressley disagreed, saying that the city should be out recruiting business.
“I think somebody needs to go out and hustle,” he said. “II don’t see anybody really hustling. Pier 1 is gone. I’m afraid that we need to start paying attention to what’s out there and getting the bigger companies to come.”
“If you live here, you likely work someplace else,” he said. “We need to reverse this. I would like to get with the MEDC, the chamber and recruit those industries to come here and contribute to our local economy.”
Candidates also disagreed over a proposal on the November ballot to reduce the number of council readings from three to two.
“I think we definitely need to reduce from three to two,” Tonore said. “Give Planning & Zoning the chance to do their job.”
“Having two readings can be a good thing,” she said. “Citizens may not be able to make those meetings and need to be able to have their say. I think having the third reading enables that.”
All of the candidates agree that the police and fire deserve the city’s full support and funding, and also back revitalizing downtown Mansfield.
“It’s a great place to be, a lot of potential,” Bowman said of the historic area. “We’re talking about lights, restoring historic features and removing some signs, a lot is already in the works. I think everybody wants downtown to succeed. We need to have the right businesses downtown. We need a great sit-down restaurant.”
Candidates for the Mansfield ISD school board Place 7 seat faced off first at the forum with incumbent Courtney Lackey Wilson and Corinne Fiagome answering questions. Yolanda McPherson, who is also in the running for the Place 7 seat, arrived at the end of the school board portion after getting tied up in traffic.
Warren Davis is the only candidate still in the running for the Place 6 trustee post. Davis attended the forum, but did not speak.
When asked what the candidates foresee in upcoming projects for the district, their answers differed.
“Environmental issues, bright and welcoming and encouraging,” Fiagome said. “Greatest next steps are to see that all of our schools are up to the beautiful standards of some of our newest schools.”
Wilson said that 30 years ago she couldn’t have seen the dramatic growth in the district.
“For me to try to guesstimate would be anybody’s best guess,” she said. “Isn’t it great that everybody wants to be here? If that presents another bond…?”
The school board candidates also have different reasons for seeking the trustee post.
“When all of our students have the educational assets they need we all benefit,” Fiagome said. “When are we going to make sure that all students have an excellent education? Mansfield is doing a good job of providing excellent teachers. They don’t have what they need. We need to allocate those resources across the district.”
Wilson said she has been listening to educators’ concerns.
“We’ve had several items that have come up, from distance learning to bands getting to perform at halftime,” she said. “I spend a lot of time fighting for our students. I will continue to work hard for our students.”
McPherson pointed out that she has experience in the classroom as a teacher, parent and volunteer.
“I have 32 years of classroom experience and I am a member of retired teachers association,” she said. “I have vast experience. Education is not something that is unfamiliar to me. I’ve been on both sides.”
The Mansfield ISD school board and Mansfield City Council elections were postponed in May due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Election day is Nov. 3, with early voting beginning Oct. 13. For more information, go to https://www.mansfieldtexas.gov/DocumentCenter/View/7315/Municipal-Election-Information---Tarrant-Johnson-and-Ellis-counties-English
Mansfield, Texas, is a booming city, nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, but with a personality all its own. The city’s 76,247 citizens enjoy an award-winning school district, vibrant economy, historic downtown, prize-winning park system and community focus spread across 37 square miles. The Mansfield Record is dedicated to reporting city and school news, community happenings, police and fire news, business, food and restaurants, parks and recreation, library, historical archives and special events. The city’s only online newspaper launched in September 2020 and will offer introductory advertising rates for the first three months at three different rates.