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Hundreds attend Horseshoe Bay mayoral candidates forum

Horseshoe Bay mayoral candidates

Horseshoe Bay mayoral candidates Elsie Thurman and Donald Beeman answered a host of questions regarding the state of the city at a candidates forum on Oct. 11. Staff photos by Nathan Bush

Hundreds crowded into the Horseshoe Bay Resort ballroom to hear the two candidates for Horseshoe Bay mayor answer questions from both the audience and resort leadership during a pre-election forum on Wednesday, Oct. 11. Two of three candidates for two vacant council seats gave introductory statements, but questions were reserved for the mayoral candidates, who recently have been engrossed in controversy.

The election is Nov. 7. Early voting is Oct. 23-Nov. 3.

The one-and-a-half-hour forum was moderated by 33rd District Court Judge Allan Garret.

Running for mayor are Mayor Pro-tem Elsie Thurman and Donald Beeman.

In the race for the two council seats are incumbents Jeff Jones and Frank Hosea and challenger Larry Morgan. The seats go to the top two vote-getters. Hosea was unable to attend the forum because of travel conflicts.

The heated race for mayor is likely why the forum drew such a big crowd.

A Sept. 13 letter emailed to Horseshoe Bay residents charged Beeman with setting up unlawful campaign signs, making illegal campaign promises, and not attending a Citizens Academy. Beeman took out a full-page ad in a local newspaper accusing city officials of sending the letter, which he called vicious, disparaging, and defaming.

On Oct. 6, Horseshoe Bay Resort owner Jordan Jaffe revoked Beeman’s membership and banned the entire Horseshoe Bay Property Owners Association Board of Directors from resort facilities. Beeman is president of the POA. Jaffe said in an email to the POA that Beeman and the board have failed to maintain streets, pay appropriate dues, or follow quality standards in the charter’s bylaws.

The mayoral candidates clashed on two major issues: the role of mayor and the role of city manager.

Beeman said he would work “full time” as mayor.

“I will be involved in our overall operations as a city because every resident will be my boss,” Beeman said. “That’s who I’ve got to listen to.”

Thurman said that would be “impractical.”

“I would not go to the city offices every day,” she responded. “It would be incredibly disruptive. The staff wouldn’t know whether to answer to me or (City Manager) Jeff Koska. They always go through Jeff Koska. It’s his responsibility to manage the city, not mine.”

Beeman then said he would be a help to the city manager.

“With 40 years of experience, I think I could be a good mentor for our city manager,” Beeman said. “Jeff is a very nice young fella, but 40 years (of experience) gives me an opportunity to mentor him.”

Thurman vehemently disagreed.

“Jeff Koska doesn’t need mentoring,” she said. “Jeff Koska has taught me a lot, and I have great faith in him and the (city) staff has great faith in Jeff.”

Another point of contention was the state of the city’s infrastructure after Beeman referred to water pressure issues in Horseshoe Bay West.

“We do have aging infrastructure that’s going to take major capital improvements,” he said. “How many people in (Horseshoe Bay West) have had low water pressure or, at times, no water pressure at all? With that, we definitely need to have a solid investment in infrastructure to get us caught up with the population growth we’ve had in the last few years.”

Thurman explained funding was already in place for future improvements across the city’s water lines.

“Over the last 50 years, there has been a systematic asset management plan where we continue to upgrade and improve all of the infrastructure of our water system and our wastewater system,” she said. “Next year, we’re going to create a redundancy in the pipe system, and there’s going to be a lot of money spent next year to protect the pipes going from the central water plant to Summit Tower (a water tower near Summit Rock Golf Course).”

Introductory statements from the two council candidates in attendance were less controversial.

Morgan, a member of the city’s Board of Adjustment, explained to the crowd the purpose of his candidacy.

“I believe we can grow our community and yet retain many of the features that brought us here in the first place,” he said. “I’m running for City Council with an accounting background that I feel could be utilized in understanding the city budget, planning for long-term growth, and working with the finance director.”

Jones, an unelected member of the council who received his seat via appointment, lobbied voters to keep him on the council so he could continue to learn.

“I will be the first to admit to you that I’m still learning,” he said. “I’m a novice. There is so much to learn on the City Council.”