JUSTIN — The race for the mayor’s seat in Justin has Mayor Greg Scott and City Council member Diane Rasor vying for the city’s top office.
The race has some residents hoping for a change in leadership; others believe the mayor has been a strong leader in the two terms he has served.
In November, residents voted 734 to 469 in favor of turning Justin into a council-manager form of government, removing administrative duties from the mayor and placing them on the city manager.
Rasor said she believes residents voted the way they did because of their lack of trust in the mayor’s decisions, but Scott said the change will allow him to use his energy on other projects in the city.
Both candidates say they will listen to the voices of the community and make decisions based on what residents need, not the council’s needs.
The election is May 11 and early voting begins Monday.
Scott, 59, a sales manager, said he is and will continue to be a mayor who listens to the residents and fights for their needs and not the needs of the council.
He said he decided to seek a third term because he doesn’t believe his work is finished yet.
“When you build a house, the work is never done because you’re always doing maintenance. The same goes for a city,” he said. “There’s always work to be done.”
Recently, some residents have expressed concerns about the amount of debt the city has incurred in recent years and the $200,000 parks and recreation department budget.
Scott said that debt was needed to build a new wastewater treatment plant.
“When the [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality] comes down on us and says we need to build, we have no choice,” he said. “It’s kind of hard to tell the state no.”
However, Scott said it’s important to pay debts as they’re incurred and avoid debt if possible.
As for the parks, Scott said they’re an investment. The $200,000 budget covers departmental supplies, salaries, maintenance, gasoline for vehicles and electricity.
“We have five parks and they create a quality of life people enjoy,” he said. “When people have a good quality of life in the city they live in, they want to stay and they want to come back.”
Sometimes what a council decides isn’t always popular, Scott said.
“If you build a park, there are people who love them and then you have people who hate them,” he said. “But if you think people are mad now, try taking the parks away.”
Scott said he wants residents to understand that if they have a problem with the way their local government is run, they should speak up.
“As mayor, I don’t act alone,” he said. “There are other members of the council who have a vote, and residents should make sure they’re voting in accordance to the community’s needs.”
He said it’s the loudest voices that are heard.
“Some people don’t like to hear it, but in this form of government, you have to rule in favor of the majority and what’s fair,” he said. “The council doesn’t set the priorities. We assess the needs of the public and city, and that’s how priorities are set.”
Scott said he’s not seeking re-election with a list of promises. He said the only thing he can commit to is whatever Justin residents need, which is safety, infrastructure and growth.
“We have some big changes coming to Justin, and I want to make sure we’re prepared for what’s to come,” he said. “I don’t want our city to become just a little, forgotten-about speck on the map. People here think highly of our city and everyone else should, too.”
Diane Rasor, 56, a city administrator in Newark, said Justin residents need someone in the mayor’s seat who will be a watchdog for residents and make sure their taxes aren’t being wasted.
“That’s what I’m about,” she said. “And I wanted to run because the people deserve a choice.”
Rasor said there needs to be a balance when it comes to budgeting for each of the city’s departments.
She said the parks and recreation department’s budget is higher than most departments’ budgets combined.
“We’re putting too much money in places that don’t need it,” she said. “We need to put more money into places like the library, or police and fire and the community.”
Rasor said as a city administrator for Newark, she knows how to balance a budget and make sure residents’ dollars stretch as far as they can.
“I have worked in government finance for 15 years, so I know I can do the job well,” she said.
She said her priorities are safety, economic development and transparency.
“I don’t think people in the city realize what’s happening on the council,” she said. “We as a council should be proactive in delivering our progress, even if the city doesn’t seem interested.”
Rasor said city leaders have an obligation to explain every detail of their decisions because doing so builds trust. She also said any decision made regarding residents’ tax dollars is a decision that should be left up to the taxpayers.
If elected, she said she would like to invite someone to City Hall to train the council and staff about what’s open to the public and what’s not.
“People like it when you tell them what’s going on in their town,” she said. “They also like it when you listen to them. It’s a challenge because you can’t always please everyone, but listening to them will allow you to consider all sides to a problem.”
Rasor said that in the last three to four years, the council has had its priorities mixed up in making decisions on infrastructure, tax rates and budgeting expenditures.
“I think there were some poor decisions made in the last couple of years,” she said. “I think the citizens’ decision to turn the city into a council-manager government reflects their distrust with the current leadership. I want to regain that trust.”
JOHN D. HARDEN can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @JDHarden.