SAN ANGELO — The Standard-Times sent a questionnaire to all four candidates running in a special election for Single Member District 5 on the San Angelo City Council. Voters living in SMD 5, which includes areas of Santa Rita and College Hills, will decide who will represent them on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022.
The four candidates seeking office include two women and two men. Some have been involved in local politics for years. Others are political newcomers.
The winner will serve an unexpired term until May 2023.
The candidates were given 10 questions, and asked to keep their responses brief and limited to 4-5 sentences. Some responses have been edited for clarity and length. Their answers are listed below in the order their names will appear on the Jan. 29 ballot.
What do you think is the top issue facing people living in Single Member District 5?
Karen Hesse Smith: "It’s the responsibility of a municipality to provide for infrastructure and citizen safety. These are priorities for my constituents as well. Infrastructure issues demand that the city continue to repair and replace old water and sewer lines as well as repair and maintain city streets. To accomplish these goals on an ongoing basis it will be necessary to address budgetary waste and the funding of non-essential projects."
John Austin Stokes: "The three primary areas of focus for any city council member should be public safety, infrastructure, and economic development. That being said, there is a contingent of citizens in Santa Rita who put neighborhood integrity at the top of their list, and I do not disagree. Too much commercialization of residential neighborhoods can water down what makes them so great in the first place. If elected councilman, I would want to make sure that all voices were being heard on any issue and would make decisions that were in the best interest of the district as a whole."
Lynette Lucas: "One of the top issues in our district is making sure our streets are maintained."
Bryan Neil Angle: "The top issue for SMD 5, in my estimation, is rebuilding of the infrastructure. This includes repairing roads, water and sewage conduits, electrical grid upgrades, and the addition of new fiberoptic communication/internet mediums."
Why do you want to serve on City Council? If elected, what will be your top three priorities?
Karen Hesse Smith: "My educational background and professional skill set lend themselves to addressing the City’s issues. Infrastructure; water/streets. Controlling taxes/scrutinizing current debt and unfunded liabilities. Protection of neighborhood values."
John Austin Stokes: "I am a third-generation public servant who has spent my entire career serving West Texas and San Angelo. For the last 8 years, I have served as the Executive Director of the Concho Valley Council of Governments (CVCOG) managing a multi-million-dollar budget and 300 employees. In that time, the thing I’m most proud of is the efficiencies we’ve achieved, which have been recognized at the State and Federal level. We were also able to do it in a way that enhanced the services we provide to residents of the Concho Valley. If elected, my top priorities would be to build coalitions for future economic development with our regional partners like the Chamber and Angelo State, to ensure that ordinances are clear and that processes are consistent so that we may attract and retain businesses, and lastly, to look for efficiencies throughout the city budget process in order to ensure prudent usage of taxpayer dollars."
Lynette Lucas: "I would be honored to serve my district where we have lived for around 20 years. I would like to be a representative of the people to make sure our neighborhoods, family, and God-given freedoms are protected. My top priorities are making sure our streets are maintained, our neighborhoods preserved, and our economy stays stable and our small and local businesses have room for growth in these trying times."
Bryan Neil Angle: "I want to add my varied military and scientific experience and education to the city council as we start to expand the future possibilities for San Angelo and surrounding area. Clearly the status quo cannot remain, but the future plans for San Angelo must be modified to promote stable growth benefiting all the population. (My) highest priorities are: rebuilding and updating the infrastructure of the city and surrounding area where there are city interests, expanding employment opportunities by encouraging employers to expand their work force (and) encourage graduates to stay in the local area, and I also feel that the airport must be encouraged to expand both commercial and general aviation. The ability to enter the aerospace transport system easily makes San Angelo appealing to businesses, sales, and citizens alike.
Why should residents of SMD 5 vote for you instead of your opponents?
Karen Hesse Smith: "I am the only candidate whose family has lived in the neighborhood continuously for 5 generations; who completed a 5-year master’s program in Architecture and Urban Design; has almost a decade and a half professional practice in City Planning; was a regional director of a nationwide retailer responsible for 8 senior managers, 400 employees and $80 million in annual earnings. The stakeholders of SMD 5 deserve to have a voice that will advocate for them while being fiscally responsible.
John Austin Stokes: "We are blessed in SMD 5 to have a very strong slate of candidates. I believe what sets me apart from my opponents is my record of change and influence at not only the Concho Valley Council of Governments, but also on boards I have served on, such as the United Way and West Texas Counseling and Guidance. I also, as someone who deals with government on a daily basis, am keenly aware of how slow change can take. Because of this and if elected, I’m committed to serving as long it takes to get the job done. In my opinion that requires a commitment beyond Lane Carter’s expiring term."
Lynette Lucas: "I am willing to serve and represent every resident of our district with no special interests except to listen to the people who pay taxes, work hard, and want to have good neighborhoods to live in."
Bryan Neil Angle: "I have been a man under authority most of my adult life, particularly during my 20+ years in the United States Air Force as a commissioned officer. During my military career, I have managed multi-million dollar facilities, overseen the practice of more than 100 medical providers, and served in combat for one tour in Iraq. I have been involved in selecting and executing military air warfare plans. I have had the experience working for a small business owner and of owning my own medical practice (Angelo Retina Associates) in San Angelo. I have proven adaptability to new and complex situations and can excel in the most difficult environments.
If you received a $1 million grant to use for San Angelo in any way you wanted, what would you do with it, and why?
Karen Hesse Smith: "I would apply it to infrastructure or pay down debt. Infrastructure is always the primary issue for any city. I believe we need someone who will help everyone see a bigger vision with an emphasis on fiscal responsibility. That is the difference between a manager and a strategic leader’s perspective."
John Austin Stokes: "One of the unique things about my job is that we administer large grants through programs and projects all around the Concho Valley, like Public Transit, Head Start, and Criminal Justice. That being said, the things San Angelo needs most, like upgraded infrastructure and economic development, cost lots of money. Some of the current street projects underway are well in excess of a million dollars. In other words, a million dollars, while a lot of money, wouldn’t go very far. Therefore, I’d likely advocate that we leverage the money as a local match to go after state and federal grants. We’ve had a lot of success at the CVCOG leveraging funding for projects and it truly is the best way to get the most bang for your buck. I feel that the two areas of emphasis for economic development in our community should be the Airport and Downtown."
Lynette Lucas: "First of all, if we had a million dollar grant I would listen to feedback from the residents of our city then look into what streets need to be maintained, or possibly making sure our water supply is safe."
Bryan Neil Angle: "I would split the million dollars into three parts. One third would be used to augment the repairs and upgrades to infrastructure. One third would be used to promote business migration and establishment into San Angelo, and the last third would be used to promote training in trades through scholarships and grants in local approved training programs."
What experiences or skills have prepared you to serve on City Council?
Karen Hesse Smith: "My education and background in both City Planning and Architectural Development would give me a unique voice on the City Council. Over the course of more than a decade, I operated successfully in one of the most restrictive urban design environments in the United States."
John Austin Stokes: "I think two of the more impactful things I have done in my life are receiving my Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Texas Tech and working for State Senator Robert Duncan. I was able to build a very strong foundation in fiscal management. Being from a small town, I had a lot of deference to the expertise of authority. It wasn’t until I was put into positions of authority that I realized I didn’t know it all either. Working for the Senate was like getting a double PhD in psychology and policy. It wasn’t enough to have a good handle on policy, you also had to be adept at understanding people’s motivations, (and) those hard-taught skills are invaluable."
Lynette Lucas: "I am a wife, mom of four grown sons, have budgeted my home for thirty-two years. I home-schooled two sons, fostered 20 plus kids. I have worked some elections, gone to various meetings in our city, volunteered my time, payed taxes, taken over one thousand hours of online classes at Hillsdale College, testified on, for, and against Bills on my own time and with my own money in our Texas Capitol. I have read the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and the Federalist Papers. I understand policy and know how to budget. I am always learning.
Bryan Neil Angle: "Probably my strongest asset is that, during my medical training, I have learned how to educate myself; allowing me to act with knowledge outside my areas of expertise. This, coupled with the ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances, has prepared me for service as the Single Member District 5 city councilman."
What neighborhood of SMD 5 do you live in? What do you like about it? Is there anything you’d like to see improved?
Karen Hesse Smith: "I live in the heart of SMD 5. What’s most important is that all the constituents of the district know that I will represent them in a manner that preserves and protects their neighborhood no matter where they live. I pledge to give the neighborhoods in this district the same protections that are given to newer residential neighborhoods. I love the community feel of SMD 5; children playing in the front yards, people casually walking, neighbors supporting each other, diverse economic housing, family-centric values, and a willingness to come together to improve our city."
John Austin Stokes: "I live in Santa Rita near Angelo State University in the Westmorland Addition. My favorite thing about my neighborhood is that my daughters and I are surrounded by truly great friends. My neighborhood is safe because its patrolled regularly, is filled with young professionals and friendly people because it provides the same types of advantages for my peers, and yet is still within 10 minutes of where I work. I love living in a place that feels like a small town, but offers big city amenities. It’s the best of both worlds and its definitely worth fighting to protect."
Lynette Lucas: "My family lives in the neighborhood by the original HEB. We have businesses on one side of us and a family neighborhood on the other side. I like the fact that I have good neighbors that look out for each other and we have an access road that reduces traffic on our streets. We need to make sure our streets are maintained, crime stays low, and our family neighborhood stays intact."
Bryan Neil Angle: "I live in the ASU, College Hills Neighborhood. I love the proximity to Angelo State University, a most beautiful campus. But, as an alumnus, I might be biased. I have lived in larger cities; this adds to the appeal of San Angelo. Finally, I love the established neighborhood with its large trees, houses with character, and close-knit occupants who have lived in this area their whole lives. As I have mentioned before, in “mature” neighborhoods, some of the water, sewage, drainage, and roads have suffered over time and will need to be upgraded and repaired in the future."
If elected, how do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process of your district?
Karen Hesse Smith: "People deserve to be heard. I pledge to return all phone calls and emails in a timely manner. I foresee at least one constituent forum for in-person, direct feedback on district and city issues. I would also like to host block parties, town halls, and digital surveys. I commit to balanced, fair representation for residents and business owners. While I represent a specific district, I will cast many votes that will impact the entire city. I welcome feedback from all residents of San Angelo."
John Austin Stokes: "One thing I learned about myself through the COVID-19 pandemic is that nothing can replace human connection. I love keeping up with friends through social media and over the phone, but nothing replicates face to face interaction. If elected, I plan to schedule town hall like formats so that people from the district are able to come and voice concerns. I also am aware that a lot of those conversations take place at the grocery store, or over a cheeseburger, or a cup of coffee. I am committed to being accessible."
Lynette Lucas: "I plan on getting the residents as involved as much as possible in the important decision-making process for our district. A well-informed and listened-to district is a good district.
Bryan Neil Angle: "Several social media sites would be established for feedback and questions. I would also like to see if suggestion mail-outs could be provided on request. And finally, I would hope to be approachable by the members of my district during one-on-one discussions. As always, citizens can always address the full city council during scheduled Council meeting every two weeks."
Have you received donations or endorsements from any group(s)? If so, which groups?
Karen Hesse Smith: "No, I have not."
John Austin Stokes: "As of right now, I am being backed by friends and family in the neighborhood and the San Angelo Firefighters. Because the race is so truncated, I look to expand on that base in the coming weeks. I’ve been incredibly touched by the support people have offered and am ready to work hard to earn more people’s trust and votes."
Lynette Lucas: "The best endorsements are those of some of the individuals in my district and around the city. I have been endorsed by West Texas for Life. I am very thankful for all my volunteers.
Bryan Neil Angle: "No donations to date. I have the support of several small business owners."
Could you support a City Council decision you did not vote in favor of? Why or why not?
Karen Hesse Smith: "Yes. Our American system requires it. Once voted - something becomes law. It’s the American way."
John Austin Stokes: "Ideally, any governing body should be made up of contradicting points of views and opinions. I am a firm believer that the best policies are developed through coalitions of different ideas that seek to strike a balance in the interest of everyone. Sometimes that means no solution is the correct solution. I fully anticipate that, if elected, I would not be in lock step with every decision that council makes. However, because I respect the democratic process and the representativeness of the body, I would support the majority’s decision."
Lynette Lucas: "I will work with the city council and have civil discussions. If the decision is not what is best for our district, I will stand strong for our district 5."
Bryan Neil Angle: "It would depend on the issue at hand. It is said that a man should have a code to live by; some principles which cannot be violated. In those interests, I would not be very compromising. But in most things, if there is a majority benefit for the city, I would probably express my dissent, but would support the majority decision. Isn’t that what democracy is about?"
In June 2021, City Council approved a special-use permit allowing a children's gymnasium to operate at Lifepoint Baptist Church in Santa Rita.
Some SMD 5 residents felt the business was encroaching on their neighborhood. Others felt there was no harm in allowing the special-use permit.
How would you have voted on this issue had you been representing SMD 5 at the time?
Karen Hesse Smith: "Based on my education, training, and experience, I am aware that it is improper land use planning to insert commercial businesses in residential neighborhoods. Also, this type of activity is unlawful not only under Texas law but under the law in many other states. To comply with proper land use planning and laws in the State of Texas, I would have been obligated to vote against it and in favor of affording SMD 5 the same protections of San Angelo’s newer residential neighborhoods like Bentwood, The Bluffs, and College Hills; which all prohibit commercial development."
John Austin Stokes: "I have talked to many different people in SMD 5 regarding the special-use permit for Lifepoint. Suffice it to say, there are some very strong opinions on both sides of the issue. I have also researched staff recommendations and talked to members of the Planning Commission. My position on this issue is that it’s been settled, and I would be remiss to come down strongly on either side without having access to all the information that that council had. I feel that the issuance of such permits and any other ordinances should not only be clear for the end user, but that the application of all rules should be consistent and fair."
Lynette Lucas: "There are details that the general public does not know about (including me). Of course, we want to listen to the residents and preserve our family neighborhoods. We also want to prevent future abuse of government overreach. The wording and specific details of the ‘special permit’ is a very important part of the decision. Good positive programs for kids (are) important and there are other areas that could be considered."
Bryan Neil Angle: "After reading the referenced articles, driving the area of the gymnasium during the active time of the “tumbleweeds,” and talking to some of the residents of Santa Rita, I think I would have voted for the special-use permit. Any business wanting to move into that neighborhood would have to apply for, and be granted, a permanent zoning variance. They would not be able to operate under the special-use exemption, which is specific for the enterprise granted. I felt that Mr. Stribling of the city planning board should have recused himself or been directed to do so by the city council. If the concerned citizens were to buy the gymnasium, the property would have to be permanently rezoned to allow a multifamily structure to be permitted and built on that site."
Important Special Election Dates:
Tue., Jan. 25, 2022 - Last day of early voting by personal appearance
Sat., Jan. 29, 2022 - Election day (7 a.m. to 7 p.m.)
Where to cast your ballot during Early Voting
Early voting will take place at the Edd B. and Frances Frink Keyes building, 113 W. Beauregard Ave., in the election office.
Election officials stated the hours for early voting are as follows:
Jan. 24-25: 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Where to vote on Election Day
On Election Day, January 29, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations, according to a City news release.
Angelo Bible Church, 3506 Sherwood Way
MHMR Services of the Concho Valley, Administration Building, 1501 W. Beauregard Ave.
St. Mark Presbyterian Church, 2506 Johnson Ave.
Texas voter ID requirements
Texas is one of 31 states that require photo identification when voting.
Acceptable IDs include:
Texas driver's license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
Texas license to carry a handgun issued by DPS
U.S. military identification card containing the person's photograph
U.S. citizenship certificate containing the person's photograph
Registered voters who can't meet any of the photo ID requirements can still vote by signing a declaration stating their identity and that they have a reasonable impediment or difficulty for having an accepted photo ID. They must also provide one of the following documents:
Valid voter registration certificate
Certified birth certificate (must be an original)
Copy of or original current utility bill
Copy of or original bank statement
Copy of or original government check
Copy of or original paycheck
Copy of or original government document with their name and an address (original required if it contains a photograph)
If you have questions about your voter-registration status, or acceptable forms of ID, call the elections office at 325-659-6541.
John Tufts covers enterprise and investigative topics in West Texas. Send him a news tip at JTufts@Gannett.com.
This article originally appeared on San Angelo Standard-Times: San Angelo special election candidates for SMD 5 answer 10 questions