Tag Archives: Amarillo mayor

Xeriscaping … that’s the answer

EL PASO, Texas — I am in the mood to follow up on an earlier blog post relating to the terrible appearance of Amarillo’s freeway interchange.

I have a one-word potential solution: xeriscaping.

My wife and I have seen it in this city, where water is even rarer than it is in the Texas Panhandle. Interstate 10 and U.S. 54 come together in the middle of the city. We proceeded north on U.S. 54 and noticed that the xeriscape technique used to beautify the highway continued to the edge of the city.

Amarillo mayoral candidate Ginger Nelson has declared highway right-of-way appearance to be among her signature issues. She said she plans to “develop a plan for annual and long-term repairs and maintenance of streets, as well as the construction of new streets as the city grows.”

This isn’t rocket science. We ain’t reinventing the wheel. There’s not much genius required to provide Amarillo a better appearance to passersby who motor through the city en route to points hither and yon.

My wife were two of those passengers who blew through El Paso. We noticed right away the attractiveness of the right-of-way. We took that first impression with us, and we plan to remember it every single time we drive through Amarillo’s Interstate 40/27 interchange, which contains festering weeds and little else.

Xeriscaping can be done with virtually zero water use.

We live in a semi-arid climate, yes? If it’s too costly to maintain a right-of-way with greenery, then use tons of gravel and some sparse vegetation to dress it up.

It works in El Paso. It can work in Amarillo.

Fix the interstate ‘curb appeal’ … please!


Amarillo is poised to regain its leadership footing

I want to make something akin to a campaign endorsement, which isn’t the style of this blog — but I do believe the time is appropriate.

The Amarillo City Council is staging an election on May 6. Under the city charter, all five seats are on the ballot. All council members run at-large; they all represent the entire city. Their jurisdictions are identical, as is their political clout; that includes the mayor, in the strictest of senses.

We’re going to welcome three newbies to the council when all the ballots are counted. They are the mayor and whoever is elected to Places 2 and 3.

My choice for mayor is Ginger Nelson, a bona fide big hitter. She’s a successful lawyer, a downtown building owner and is a former member of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation. She enjoys the support of business and civic leaders throughout the city.

I’ve talked about her at length already on this blog. She will get my vote on May 6.

My favorite for Place 2 is Freda Powell, who won the endorsement of the council member she seeks to succeed. Lisa Blake won’t seek a full term as councilwoman after being appointed to succeed Dr. Brian Eades, who had been re-elected in 2015 but who moved away the following year.

I don’t know Powell well, but I do know her to be a conscientious, civic-minded resident who will bring the kind of steady hand that Blake used during her time on the council.

The third seat worth mentioning here is Place 3. The incumbent, Randy Burkett, isn’t seeking another term, either. Eddy Sauer is the clear choice to succeed the council’s gadfly in chief, except that Sauer — a successful Amarillo dentist — is far from the Burkett mold of rabble-rouser.

I do not know Sauer, but he — like Nelson and Powell — is being touted heavily by many individuals and groups in Amarillo with whom I am quite familiar and for whom I have great respect.

My sense is that Elisha Demerson will return in Place 1 and that Mark Nair will get the nod in Place 4. Those two joined Burkett in comprising the new majority on the City Council after the election two years ago. But unlike Burkett, they have managed to govern with a quieter effectiveness.

Amarillo’s gadfly quotient needs to be reduced and my hope is that it will with Burkett out of the picture.

I see a potential for a return to a saner municipal government, one that doesn’t get all riled up over matters relating to, um, personality conflicts — which was the case on occasion when Burkett would butt heads with lame-duck Mayor Paul Harpole, who is bowing out.

The city has made some tremendous strides in recent years, even pre-dating the election two years of those three aforementioned “change agents,” Burkett, Nair and Demerson. Our city’s economic base continues to grow and our downtown district is in the midst of a major makeover that — when it’s completed — well could trigger a tremendous boost in our city’s quality of life and economic health.

We don’t pay our City Council members much money to serve, not at $10 per meeting. You do this as a labor of love. Nothing more.

Amarillo is poised to restore a brand of good government at City Hall. It can regain its leadership footing. My hope is that the city’s voters will respond the right way.

Election runoff: a waste of valuable public money

I’ll admit right up front that this rant isn’t terribly important, what with Russian influence on our electoral process and the possibility that the president of the United States colluded with the former (or current?) Evil Empire.

I see all those “Ginger Nelson for Mayor” signs around our southwest Amarillo neighborhood. I hope she wins against her two opponents. As much as that, though, I hope Nelson wins outright on May 6 — and avoids having to campaign again against the second-place finisher, whoever it might be.

State law requires runoff elections when candidates fail to reach an outright majority the first time around. It’s true in our partisan primary elections, although not in our general elections; Rick Perry, you’ll recall, was re-elected Texas governor in 2006 with about 39 percent of the vote in a three-way contest.

These municipal and county elections require candidates to obtain majorities. Pluralities — even healthy ones — aren’t good enough.

The way I see it, if we can elect presidents of the United States without clear majorities, surely we can elect lower-level politicians with them, either.

I do understand that presidents need a majority of Electoral College votes to win, so perhaps this particular comparison isn’t entirely appropriate. We still elected a president in 1992 who received 43 percent of the popular vote.

Runoffs end up costing the public a bundle of money, particularly when the turnouts are beyond abysmal. It’s insulting enough in Texas and many other states — primarily in the South — where turnout is pitiful in these local and/or partisan primary contests.

To add insult to it all, we have runoff elections where the dismal turnout declines even more while saddling taxpayers such as you and me with the bill.

I get that we seem to love elections in Texas. If only we would participate in numbers that testify to such affection. So, let’s not do it quite so often.

Get rid of runoffs.

No predictions coming for this year’s mayoral contest

You can’t miss them. They’re sprouting up everywhere, kind of like that spring clover you see on the High Plains of Texas.

Lawn signs touting the candidacy of Ginger Nelson have shown up all over our neighborhood. I expect more of them.

Nelson is running for mayor of Amarillo. She’s already earned my vote. I make no apologies for deciding this early.

Now comes the question, which I received today: Do I think she’s going to win?

I am not predicting nothin’. No way. No how. No never mind.

She should win. She’s got a detailed campaign platform. She has a lengthy to-do list of items she wants accomplished during her time as mayor … if she wins, of course.

If you haven’t seen her platform, take a look right here.

Why won’t I predict her victory? Because my record at such things is terrible! That’s why.

* I once wrote that Hillary Rodham Clinton was set to roll to a potentially historic landslide victory for president of the United States in the 2016 election. Umm, she didn’t.

* I also wrote that there was no way on God’s Earth that Donald “Smart Person” Trump ever would be nominated for — let alone elected — president of the United States. Hah! Silly me.

* I once wrote that Hillary never would run for the U.S. Senate in 2000 because, after all, many of those senators voted to convict her husband of the “impeachable offense” of lying about his affair with what’s-her-name. She did run — and she won.

* I also once said Army Gen. Colin Powell would run for president in 1996 against Hillary’s husband. He opted out.

So, you see, I am terrible at these parlor games.

Nelson should win. She has the backing of some influential folks in Amarillo. She’s got the experience from her time on the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation. She has the smarts and the professional background as a lawyer and businesswoman to move the city forward. She has the speaking skill and public presence required to use her office as a bully pulpit.

Am I going to predict such a thing?

No way, man! I’ll just hope for the best.

That is some platform, Mayoral Candidate Nelson

I have just examined the platform on which Ginger Nelson is running for Amarillo mayor.

Three words come to mind: W. O. W!

My sense is that Nelson either possesses the greatest memory known to humankind or she is going to keep this position paper with her 24/7 if she get elected on May 6.

The Amarillo lawyer has presented an impressive array of issues, policies and strategies to implement them.

She is focusing, quite naturally, on economic development. No surprise, given that she once served on the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board and is invested heavily in some commercial property downtown.

She breaks down her platform into six essential planks: job creation and economic development; neighborhood safety; street and highway improvement; communication and participation; customer service; and fiscal responsibility.

At the surface level, it’s impossible to disagree with any of the policies she has targeted for enhancement and/or improvement. I mean, who doesn’t want more jobs, better streets, better communication, better customer service, safe neighborhoods and sound fiscal management?

To be honest, Nelson’s platform is the most detailed and expansive I’ve seen from any Amarillo mayoral candidate in the 22 years I’ve lived here. Most of that time — when I was working for a living — my job as a journalist was to keep tabs on what candidates for public office were pledging to do.

I noticed a holdover from one of Mayor Paul Harpole’s priorities: graffiti abatement. Harpole took aim at the defacing of private property by assorted juvenile delinquents or gang members. He claims progress in that effort and I’m glad to see Nelson pledging to continue that effort.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Nelson’s platform is that she’s pledging to do all this while earning virtually nothing to serve as mayor. The job pays a whopping $10 per public meeting; oh, yes, there are some assorted expense reimbursements along the way. But this is basically a volunteer job, a labor of love.

She’s talking about better outreach to the community, cutting red tape, business recruitment, working with local colleges and our university on various partnerships, making utility billing more efficient and — I presume — more accurate, working to improve emergency response times … and on it goes.

She has two opponents in this race for mayor. I’ve already declared my preference for who I think should succeed Harpole, who’s not running for re-election. It happens to be Nelson.

I will await the platforms to be crafted by candidates Renea Dauntes and Jim Lowder II. Dauntes told the Amarillo Globe-News she wants to “improve civic pride”; Lowder plans to deal with conflicts of interest. I am confident their full platform statements won’t be as detailed as the one Nelson has presented. But, hey, if they prove me wrong, I’ll welcome their contributions to the public discussion.

If you don’t want to take my word for it, that Nelson has gone into great detail, check it out here.

If Nelson becomes our next mayor — and I hope she does — I strongly suggest she keep the platform document handy.

Mayor’s race looms as crucial for Amarillo

I’ve been borderline coy about the upcoming race for Amarillo mayor.

That said, I think I’ll declare my desire right here on who I think should succeed Paul Harpole in the mayor’s office.

I’m going to go with Ginger Nelson.

I don’t know Nelson well. I’ve only made her acquaintance recently. But what I do about her I find most compelling, given the city’s momentum and its march toward a fascinating future.

Nelson has served on the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board. She has resigned that post to run for mayor, understanding the potential conflict of interest her AEDC position would pose. Right there, she exhibits a keen understanding of ethical conduct and its importance.

However, AEDC has been a key driver in Amarillo’s growth over the past quarter-century. I’ve been a staunch supporter of AEDC since my arrival here in January 1995. I’ve studied the history of AEDC’s creation and its bold strategy in using a portion of sales tax revenue to lure business activity to the city.

Nelson, a lawyer by training, has occupied a front-row seat to that strategy, which has produced a significant net gain for the city’s growth and development.

She gets it, you know?

Of course, too, we have the interesting juxtaposition of Nelson’s candidacy prior to Harpole’s announcement that he wouldn’t seek a fourth term as mayor. How do you explain that?

I have it on good authority that Harpole had given Nelson his blessing prior to her own announcement that she would seek the mayor’s office. I have been a strong supporter of Harpole’s vision for the city. Therefore, it stands to reason — at least in my mind — that he would throw his support to a candidate who shares that vision.

They both are committed to downtown’s rebirth. Nelson, though, must be mindful of her own business interests downtown, as she and her husband own the Amarillo Building. She must take care to avoid steering business toward that structure that would benefit her materially. As I’ve noted already, though, Nelson’s ethics radar seems dialed in.

The mayor’s office doesn’t pack a lot of actual political power. Our strong-manager form of government doesn’t allow it. The mayor, though, can be a powerful spokesperson for the city. I’ve listened to Nelson’s pitch on behalf of the Amarillo Building and believe me, if given the task of pitching a public policy issue for the city, Nelson is quite capable of delivering the goods.

I don’t expect another candidate to emerge who will make me change my mind. I happen to be in the mood at this moment to declare my support for a mayoral candidate. I also intend to echo the sentiments I’ve heard expressed already by successful individuals in this city who have thrown their support behind Nelson.

Every election is important. This one, though, is crucial. Amarillo is positioned to move significantly forward in the immediate term. It needs a mayor to lead that movement.

I believe Ginger Nelson will do the job.

Our city’s mayor needs to pound the bully pulpit

Amarillo has a curious form of government.

It invests a lot of power in its city manager. That’s not so curious. Strong-manager governments prosper all over the country.

The curiousness is derived in the City Council. All five of them are elected at-large. That includes the mayor, who under the city charter has little actual greater power than the rest of the council members.

They all represent the same citywide constituency. They all get paid the same whopping $10 per meeting.

The mayor cannot appoint anyone by himself or herself. He or she can’t issue executive edicts. The charter ties the mayor’s hands.

The mayor, though, does preside over the weekly council meetings and, better still, can become the face and the voice for the city — if he or she chooses to exercise that role. The mayor’s power is more or less implied.

I’ve watched several mayors up front in my 22 years living in Amarillo. They’ve all acted with varying degrees of effectiveness in using the office as a bully pulpit.

Kel Seliger didn’t strike me as being that out front on municipal issues; Trent Sisemore came along after Seliger and he was even less vocal in espousing city policies; Debra McCartt elevated the office’s profile quite a bit by (a) seeming to be everywhere at once and (b) promoting the city’s initiative to install red-light cameras at intersections to prevent motor vehicle accidents; Paul Harpole also has used the office to promote downtown revitalization and graffiti abatement.

Harpole more than likely is going to call it a career by declining to run for re-election this May. He hasn’t said so publicly, but the presence of a particular individual in the still-developing field of possible mayor candidates tells me Harpole has given his blessing to someone else.


Which brings me to Ginger Nelson, a lawyer and downtown redevelopment advocate. She currently is one of three individuals declaring their intention to run for mayor. The other two are businessman Jeremy Taylor and photo archivist Renea Dauntes. I don’t know the latter two and I only recently met Nelson, who I have determined to be a most impressive and engaging individual. She also has earned her civic involvement chops by virtue of her service on the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board. My friends in the business community cannot speak highly enough of her commitment to the city and her experience in furthering Amarillo’s future.

What kind of trait should the next mayor exhibit, given the relatively weak nature of the office? To my way of thinking, it should be in the willingness to pound the bully pulpit and to speak eloquently — even loudly, when needed — about the direction the city is headed.

I recently heard Nelson make a pitch for the Amarillo Building, which she owns with her husband, Kevin. I was blown away, to be candid, by her enthusiasm for that project and the eloquence with which she spoke about the city’s future.

Do the other two candidates bring that kind of gravitas to the race? We’ll learn that in due course, correct?

The city has been through a relatively rough period in the past year or so. The city manager has quit; we welcomed an interim manager who, we found out, has a big mouth and he used it inappropriately a couple of times before he, too, quit abruptly; the council has selected five finalists for the permanent manager’s job and will present them to the public quite soon.

Voters elected three fellows to the council in May and June 2015. Their performance has presented a mixed bag of success and some grimace-producing embarrassments as they’ve clashed with the current mayor, Harpole.

The next mayor has to present a strong public profile and must be willing and able to make the office an even greater instrument for the city’s growth. I think Ginger Nelson would fill that need … but I will wait to hear also from any of the others who are willing to make the commitment to public service.

Every election cycle is important; that’s what they always say. This one, though, appears to be even more important than most.

Getting to know a possible mayor

I shook the hand of a most engaging young woman today.

She is a candidate for Amarillo mayor. I had heard from friends of mine around the city that she’s the real article: smart, articulate, dedicated to the city’s well-being.

I am a believer.

Ginger Nelson spoke to the Rotary Club of Amarillo today at noon. She wasn’t there to talk about her mayoral candidacy. She spoke to us about her ownership of the Amarillo Building, which she and her husband Kevin have owned for the past several years.

A mutual friend of ours introduced me to her when I arrived at our meeting venue.

I believe she would do a marvelous job as the city mayor. The first impression I got was, well, impressive.

Welcome to the fray, mayoral candidate Nelson

I was impressed by the passion with which she spoke about the Amarillo Building, which has a remarkable history. Nelson — a lawyer and a former member of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation — offers a vision of how our past shapes our future. She seems to believe the Amarillo Building’s past is just a prologue to whatever comes along.

To hear her deliver the message and to hear the love she has in that piece of downtown Amarillo property is to get a brief preview of how this person could use the mayor’s office as the bulliest of pulpits.

My strongest sense, given her commitment to economic development and the need for the city to pull together as one, is that she will use that pulpit with great wisdom.

Ginger Nelson looks — at first glance — like the real deal.

Welcome to the fray, mayoral candidate Nelson


I do not know Ginger Nelson, other than what I’ve heard about her.

Solid citizen, seasoned lawyer, dedicated to Amarillo’s economic future, smart, idealistic, well-educated … and all the other good things one attaches to those who seek public office.

Nelson is running for Amarillo mayor. Hers is the first name on the municipal ballot that I expect will fill to the brim by the time registration closes for the May 2017 election.

The story I saw in the Amarillo Globe-News didn’t mention, though, a word about the current mayor, Paul Harpole.


A little birdie or two has told me Harpole isn’t going to seek re-election. Officially, he’s undecided. My strong hunch is that he likely won’t run now that Nelson is running.

Nelson brings a good bit of civic involvement to this race, stemming mostly from her work on the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, an organization near and dear to Harpole’s heart.

It stands to reason, therefore, that a candidate with strong AEDC ties likely could preclude the incumbent from seeking another term. Nelson said she’s quitting the AEDC to devote all her energy to winning the mayor’s seat.

I think this bodes well for a City Council that has been roiled in conflict since the May 2015 election. Harpole has been part of what former interim City Manager Terry Childers called the “dysfunction” at City Hall.

A fresh face and fresh ideas — along with a demonstrated commitment to economic growth and stability — might be just what the city needs at this juncture of its redevelopment. It’s been a rough ride at times during the past two years: the resignation of a city manager and the abrupt departure of his interim replacement; ongoing hiccups with downtown redevelopment and the relocation of a baseball franchise to Amarillo; occasional flaring of tempers among City Council members.

I’ll await along with the rest of the city’s residents Mayor Harpole’s decision on whether he intends to run. My grumbling gut tells me he’s out, paving the way for someone of Ginger Nelson’s leanings to seek to guide the city toward a bright future.

Harpole stays the course on graffiti battle

Paul Harpole has had a difficult past few weeks.

The Amarillo mayor has seen two of his City Council allies lose their seats to challengers; then another ally, a non-incumbent, got beat in a runoff. The result has been a majority of council members who are new to the job and who have promised to bring “change” to the city.

All the while, the mayor has kept plugging away at a campaign promise he made four years ago when he first ran for the office to which he was re-elected.


He’s still battling graffiti “artists” who keep scarring buildings all over the city. He calls them vandals and says what they’re doing to people’s property is no different from someone smashing out car windows.

I’m glad to know he’s staying the course.

However, Harpole knows better than most that the fight likely will never end.

I don’t want to be melodramatic here, but it kind of reminds me of the war on terror. We kill one terrorist leader and another one pops up to take his place. You get rid of one vandal and, by golly, another one jumps out of the tall grass to continue “tagging.”

The mayor’s cause is a worthwhile one. He intends to dissuade enough of these individuals to stop blemishing people’s private property. Over time, Harpole says, he thinks he can put a serious enough dent in this graffiti problem.

Will he eliminate it? Likely not. That doesn’t mean he — and those who’ll follow him in the mayor’s office — should stop trying.