A Denton landlord and retired wildlife biologist Alfredo F. Sanchez is challenging City Council incumbent Dalton Gregory, a retired educator who is seeking his third term serving District 2.
A third candidate, University of North Texas student Travis Trawick, 24, said he is no longer campaigning for the seat.
In interviews this week, Gregory and Sanchez had similar answers on the City Council’s role in writing rules that protect residents’ health and safety. But they differed on how to best represent the city’s many and diverse constituencies, not only on mundane matters but also on big-ticket and sometimes controversial items.
None of the seven council members is Hispanic, even though Hispanics make up more than 23 percent of District 2. About 21 percent of Denton’s population is Hispanic, according to the 2010 census.
The city ballot includes two other district races and a proposition election this spring. In District 3, the incumbent, Jim Engelbrecht, 63, is being challenged by longtime resident and local businessman Brendan Carroll, 43, and UNT undergraduate student Griffen Rice, 21. In District 4, two local businessmen, Joey Hawkins, 38, and Phil Kregel, 28, are vying to replace outgoing council member Chris Watts.
The proposition asks Denton voters to authorize the creation of a limited natural gas utility that would supply businesses in the industrial park on the city’s west side.
The election is May 11. Early voting begins April 29.
Gregory, 61, said he hopes some of the city’s recent rule-making — for oil and gas, for smoking, for short-term lenders — has the attention of legislators in Austin.
State laws pre-empting cities have a place when the rules are strong, he said.
“But when the state is not willing to step up, then by golly, get out of the way of the cities,” he said.
In turn, with the council’s job representing voters, Gregory said a decision sometimes requires a ballot — such as the upcoming proposition for a gas utility. Other times, the decision simply has become politicized, such as the proposed public-private partnership for a new convention center.
That decision isn’t required to go before the voters because Denton would pay for its part of the partnership with certificates of obligation backed by revenue, not taxes, Gregory said.
But he is mindful that relations with UNT, also a project partner, are sometimes rocky. He also thinks about the community’s concerns as talks with the developer continue.
“We’re giving pretty strong directions to the staff on where our lines are drawn,” he said.
Gregory said that he stands on his record to help broaden the base of representation on city boards and commissions. He argues that work ethic began for him even before he became a member of the council.
As a former Denton school principal, his was the first school to offer bilingual education, even as officials sought waivers from the state requirement for the district.
With the current makeup of the City Council, he said, people don’t have to serve on a board or committee to effect change — all they need to do is make a citizen’s report.
Alfredo F. Sanchez
Sanchez, 61, said he sees some of the city’s newest rules, such as those for oil and gas or for short-term lenders, as efforts to protect residents.
“With fracking in our neighborhoods, it’s not OK for us to be put in harm’s way. It’s our health that’s involved,” Sanchez said. “Because the state tends to support big business, such as oil and gas, then we need to push forward.”
He sees residents and city leaders as also having the responsibility to watch the state representatives and their responses to the city’s efforts, too.
“If they are just going ahead with big business and not representing the people — then we need to get people who do represent us,” Sanchez said.
To ensure he is representing the people who elect him, Sanchez said he plans on having regular meetings with constituents in neighborhood venues, such as the library.
“You see this all the time with our elected representatives; the people want one thing and the representatives go with something else,” he said.
He said he would make sure residents are informed about the issues, both large and small.
“I want to see their thoughts, even if they are not concerned — my response is to go with their ideas,” Sanchez said.
As vice chairman for the Denton Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens, Sanchez hopes to bring more diversity to the city’s boards and commissions. He believes not only minorities are underrepresented; he thinks the interests of students should matter to the city, too.
“We need to get more people educated and involved in how the city is run,” Sanchez said, adding that young people often have good ideas.
The Denton Record-Chronicle checks public records for all candidates, including criminal records and tax records, for a 10-year period from the first day of the filing period. Denton County records showed that taxes on one of the 18 properties Sanchez owns were overdue when they were paid on March 22.
Sanchez said he had just bought the property in a foreclosure sale and part of settling the purchase required him to pay the past-due taxes.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.
Dalton Gregory (I)
Born in: Denton
Education: bachelor’s degree in education, University of Texas at Austin; master’s degree in education, Sam Houston State University
Experience: teacher, Austin school district, 1974-77; site coordinator, Houston school district, 1977-82; assistant principal, Strickland Middle School, 1982-84; assistant principal, Lee Elementary School, 1984-85; principal, Lee Elementary School, 1985-2000; principal, W.S. Ryan Elementary School, 2001-08; adjunct professor, University of North Texas, 2008-12; retired
Alfredo F. Sanchez
Born in: Santa Rosa, N.M.
Education: Bachelor of Science, Northwestern State University, 1980
Experience: U.S. Army, 1974-78; district biologist, Angelina National Forest, 1989-95; district biologist, Caddo-LBJ National Grasslands, 1995-2011; landlord, 1989-present