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City mayoral campaign taking shape

Profile image for By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer
By Peggy Heinkel-Wolfe / Staff Writer

Former Denton City Council member Chris Watts appointed a campaign treasurer last week, filing paperwork that signals he likely will run for mayor in the spring.

He is one of at least two people who said they plan to seek the seat Mayor Mark Burroughs will leave in May. Jean Schaake, a former Denton school district trustee, also is pondering a run for the city’s top elected position.

Bette Sherman, former chairwoman of the Denton Animal Shelter Foundation board of directors, agreed to serve as Watts’ campaign treasurer. Sherman helped the foundation raise about $2 million in cash and in-kind donations to outfit the city’s facility under construction near North Lakes Park and to subsidize adoptions.

Mayoral campaigns have become high-dollar affairs in recent years. When Burroughs challenged then-Mayor Perry McNeill in 2008, the two spent more than $120,000 combined on the campaign. In 2012, when Denton lawyer Neil Durrance challenged Burroughs’ re-election, the spending was not nearly as feverish, but more than $20,000 was spent among them and a special-purpose committee.

Watts said he wasn’t starting his campaign just yet — the period to file for a place on the May ballot doesn’t open until next year — but he wanted to have his paperwork in order when it is time.

State law requires candidates to appoint a treasurer before accepting a donation and making or authorizing a campaign expenditure.

Sherman said she had been watching Watts for a while, when he was the representative for District 4, and found that she likes his approach to problem solving.

“He always has questions,” Sherman said. “He wants the facts for the longer-term impact.”

She said she thought his experience serving on the council and his relatively young age would be good for Denton, particularly in attracting younger community leaders to step in.

She wasn’t sure what his campaign fundraising goals were, but she knew Watts, 52, had put pencil to paper over the issue.

“I know he spent a lot of time on that and he’s been prepping for several months,” Sherman said.

Watts said he has lined up a lot of support in the community for his candidacy.

“Some people may be surprised,” he said.

There had been plenty of chatter in political and community circles about who might run in recent months. Burroughs is ineligible because of term limits in the city charter.

Pete Kamp, the mayor pro tem, technically could run but couldn’t serve the full term for similar reasons.

The city charter includes a limit of 12 consecutive years of service for any elected official — a limitation that is less well-known than the three-consecutive-terms limit that affects Burroughs.

In May, Kamp will have served 11 consecutive years, after she switched from serving a district seat to serving at-large in 2008.

“It would be totally unfair to run and only serve one year,” Kamp said.

In July, an e-mail distributed widely in the community from longtime Denton resident Joe Roy announced that Schaake would be running for mayor in May.

An associate dean at the University of North Texas, Schaake serves as chairwoman of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.

She previously served on the Denton school board for 15 years.

Schaake said Wednesday that she likely will run but isn’t ready to file yet.

“The plans will take a few more weeks to finalize,” Schaake said.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.