There’s just one contested race on Kilgore ballots May 6, and the two mayoral candidates will make their case to prospective voters this weekend before early voting gets underway Monday morning.
Incumbent Ronnie Spradlin is seeking his fourth full-term in the mayor’s seat this spring, facing a challenge from Victor Boyd, who’s in the midst of his first term as a Kilgore City Council member.
The pair will take the stage Sunday in the Family Center of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church for the annual candidate forum organized by the congregation’s youth groups and co-hosted with the Kilgore Chamber of Commerce and Kilgore News Herald.
“I’ve always believed that the most complete source of information in any community has to come from credible journalism sources. In this town, that’s only us, so it falls to us,” said KNH Co-Publisher Bill Woodall, who will serve again as the forum’s moderator. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve got two (candidates) or 200, voters have to understand why someone’s running, what their background is, what their plans are, what their goals are... That’s the very basis for voting.
Granted, “It would be fun to have 200.”
The annual Q&A begins this year at 4 p.m. and will run approximately one-hour April 23.
Other Kilgore-area elected officials have been invited to participate Sunday as well, in a limited capacity. Though they’ll return to office unopposed this election cycle, local candidates (Kilgore Mayor Pro Tem Harvey McClendon, Kilgore ISD School Board President Dereck Borders, KISD Trustee Trey Hattaway and Kilgore College Board Member Lon Ford) have all been invited to offer a brief statement to voters about their upcoming terms.
“The forum is an opportunity for the candidates to share their reasons for running for elected office, qualifications and leadership experience and to let the citizens know where they stand on issues,” Kilgore Chamber President Cindy Morris said. “Currently Kilgore is undergoing many forward-thinking changes and we believe it is important for the residents and businesses to have an understanding of candidate positions on important growth issues. The Chamber’s role is to ensure government positions are held by progressive-minded and growth focused officials.”
St. Luke’s youth members (under the direction of senior high youth leader Misty Shipman and junior high leader Niki Chowdury) are spearheading the forum with assistance from Lisa Frazier while Woodall moderates the candidates’ comments.
By May 6, “Voters have to choose one or the other. It falls to Spradlin, I think, to explain what his successes have been and how he’ll continue on that path or chart a new path,” Woodall said. “It falls to Victor to say how his plans differ from plans we might expect from Ronnie, and (Boyd) has to explain those in a way that persuades voters.”
In the past year, since Boyd joined the council, the two council members have seldom disagreed on the dais at Kilgore City Hall.
“On a council as small as ours, there’s not a lot of enmity between the people on the council,” Woodall allowed, underscoring each candidate’s task of differentiating his bid from the other’s.
The News Herald is accepting advance questions for the mayoral candidates through 5 p.m. Friday (email them to firstname.lastname@example.org), and audience members at the free and open-to-the-public forum will have a chance to submit additional questions before the Q&A kicks-off.
In addition to welcoming guests to the Family Center at 401 E. Main St., the student-hosts will also vet the questions for Woodall and serve as timekeepers for Spradlin and Boyd.
Working with the church and chamber, Woodall hopes the forum will both inform voters and drive them to the polls in the coming weeks.
“The curious thing about a small ballot, I believe, is that there’s an awful lot of preaching to the choir,” he said. “I think that the people who are most interested are going to vote no matter who the candidates are. Then there are those who vote sometimes, but they might only vote in a race in which they’re particularly interested.
“This forum and, we hope, our coverage will encourage those who vote sometimes to become part of the group that always votes. I’d like to see more of the sometimes-voters at the forum. The kids would be served well by seeing the community respond positively – I think it gives the voters a chance to be role models to the kids who put on the forum.”
Refreshments will be provided by St. Luke’s Kitchen Coordinator Richelle Ruthven and other volunteers.