Denton veterinarian David Zoltner filed Tuesday to challenge Mayor Pro Tem Pete Kamp in the May 12 City Council election, saying he was running to stop closed-door meetings and back-room deals.
“This is a kingdom of conflicts, and it starts right at the top with the mayor and it runs right down through Pete,” said Zoltner, who would not elaborate on the specific conflicts he perceived. “The question for voters in my opinion, given my 20-year history [in Denton], is which of the two candidates has really been looking out for the citizens and who’s been looking out for themselves, and anybody can read into that what they what.”
Zoltner, 65, is the first candidate to oppose Kamp in her bid for a third and final term in at-large Place 5. He said he was prepared to withdraw if a more “electable” candidate entered the race before the March 5 filing deadline.
Kamp, 59, a businesswoman, said she welcomed the challenge but criticized Zoltner for not supporting his rhetoric with fact.
“I think it’s irresponsible to say something and not back it up,” Kamp said. “Because I can tell you without question that I have served with honesty and integrity for the last nine years, and I welcome anyone to please tell me what they’re talking about when they say I have personal gain for my service.”
Kamp, a Denton native, was first elected to the council as a District 2 representative in 2003 and is finishing her second term in Place 5. She was appointed mayor pro tem in 2006.
Kamp is vice president and owner of Premier Sales Group Inc. She is a minority investor in Fuzzy’s Taco Shop franchises in several North Texas cities — although not the Denton location — and is one of the investors behind the annual 35 Denton music festival.
Kamp said recent public allegations by former mayoral candidate Bob Clifton that the festival had not paid its bills to the city for police and fire protection were false. At one point, City Manager George Campbell forgave an estimated $7,000 debt after costing the festival money by refusing to allow a tobacco sales booth, but since then the festival has paid all its bills, Kamp said.
“We have not made one penny, and quite frankly we do not really expect to get our investment back,” Kamp said, referring to her investment with husband, David Gosdin. “It was more of a loan, and I have no idea what that has to do with city government.”
The festival has come before the council for approval of street closures and other plans, but Kamp has abstained from the votes.
Zoltner is a semi-retired veterinarian and open government advocate who has run unsuccessfully for city council and school board seats.
He was active in the fight against Denton Municipal Electric’s transmission line upgrade project in northeast Denton last year. Initial plans for the project would have required removing homes in the East Oak subdivision, where Zoltner lives, but the city rerouted the line in response to neighborhood opposition.
Zoltner also criticized the council’s handling of a power plant project near Denton Airport. The Texas Legislature authorized the proposed combined heat and power plant project last year through Senate Bill 1230, allowing the city to build the plant and sell the steam, chilled water, natural gas and electricity produced there to industries within a 3-mile radius of the airport.
The law overrode a city charter provision that requires voter approval of new public utilities. The Denton Record-Chronicle previously reported that city officials sought the state law because they wanted to work with natural gas companies operating near the airport to calm fears that the city was becoming a full-fledged competitor.
Also, city officials said there was confusion over whether they could call a citywide election to allow gas sales in a narrowly defined area.
“There is a lot of misunderstanding about what we did and didn’t do,” Kamp said Tuesday. “And I welcome that debate.”
Most council discussions of the project took place behind closed doors under a state law that lets city-owned utilities such as Denton Municipal Electric meet with attorneys privately about competitive matters.
In a written statement announcing his campaign, Zoltner said his dominant theme would be helping city leaders rediscover “the healing powers of open government” and stop what he called a “chronic and pernicious addiction” to closed meetings. He has publicly criticized the city in the past for holding too many closed sessions on forced annexations and the northeast Denton power line project.
The Texas Open Meetings Act generally requires public business to be done in public but includes exceptions for things like pending litigation, real estate negotiations, personnel matters and security.
Kamp said the city followed the law.
“I am very much for open government,” she said. “We have an open government.”
Kamp has been active on regional and state transportation committees and is in line to serve as president of the North Central Texas Council of Government’s Regional Transportation Council starting in June if re-elected. She said she also wanted to finish work on funding for the Interstate 35E widening project and a planned new city animal shelter.
“I have a lot of supporters who have encouraged me to run this last time,” Kamp said. “I’m simply asking for two more years.”
The mayor’s seat and at-large Place 6 will also be on the May ballot.
Lawyer Neil Durrance and marketing director Donna Woodfork have filed to challenge incumbent Mayor Mark Burroughs. Incumbent council member James King remains unopposed in Place 6.
LOWELL BROWN can be reached at 940-566-6882. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .