Tag Archives: Paul Harpole

MPEV under budget? How about that, sports fans?

Amarillo apparently is going to take its next step toward its future ahead of schedule; what’s more, it well might cost a little less than originally projected.

Does it get any better than that?

The multipurpose event venue project that’s under construction is slightly under budget, according to city officials and contractors. The MPEV had been budgeted at about $40 million for construction, but officials say the cost is slightly less than that; the total cost of the project is estimated at $45.5 million.

As for the timetable, Mother Nature has dealt construction crews a winning hand. A lack of precipitation over the winter helped greatly. The spring has been mostly dry, although I understand some rain has fallen in recent days.

I ran into former Mayor Paul Harpole the other day on Sixth Avenue and he said the MPEV is set to be finished in February 2019, well ahead of the opening of the minor-league AA baseball season that commences in April.

I am enjoying being able to watch this project take form, even from some distance these days. I no longer live in Amarillo; I no longer pay taxes there. Despite our relocation to Collin County, I remain emotionally invested in the MPEV and in downtown Amarillo’s future.

The Amarillo Globe-News reports: City Manager Jared Miller said the general contractors set the tone for the project being under budget.

‚ÄúI just want to highlight the work of and express appreciation to Western Builders and Hunt Construction,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThese guys put in the time and work. We‚Äôve been working five or six months now, knowing when we first got the pricing for building this building, it was significantly higher than it is right now. They‚Äôve worked hard to bring this number down so the construction number was below $40 million. I cannot say enough good things about the team at Western Builders and they have done yeoman work. And Kudos to our architects, Populous.‚ÄĚ

Most of its momentum developed after I left daily journalism. Still, I was able to watch it take root while I lived within shouting distance of where the MPEV/ballpark will open.

Even though I have moved away, I remain delighted to watch this project proceed on a pace that puts it ahead of schedule and, yes under budget.

I am rooting hard for its successful completion.

MPEV ahead of schedule … thanks to the drought

AMARILLO, Texas — This just in: The multipurpose event venue that is under construction in downtown Amarillo will be done by February and will be all set to go when the city’s new AA minor-league baseball team starts playing hardball next spring.

How do I know that? I have no first-hand, insider knowledge. But I did hear it today from a former mayor under whose leadership this project was launched. I caught up with Paul Harpole today at the Route 66 festival occurring along Sixth Avenue.

Harpole said the work crews have benefited greatly from the lack of moisture during the winter of 2017-18 and in the first half of this year. They’re goin’ and blown’ at the construction site along Buchanan Street, Harpole indicated.

So, you see? There really is a benefit — if you want to call it that — to enduring a drought.

I don’t intend to make light of the drought conditions. Farmers and ranchers are struggling through it. I feel badly for them and the difficulty they are enduring.

However, the MPEV needs to get done in time for the opening of the Texas League’s 2019 baseball season, which will include a franchise based in Amarillo. It will have moved here San Antonio, which is getting a AAA franchise that is transferring from Colorado Springs, Colo.

If the lack of moisture means the construction crews will be able to plow ahead unimpeded by Mother Nature’s occasional fits of wrath, then that’s all the better for the city … and for the Texas Panhandle.

Is graffiti abatement still on the city’s agenda?

Paul Harpole became Amarillo’s mayor in 2011 after campaigning on a vow to rid the city of graffiti that was scarring private property.

He orchestrated the launch of a program aimed at cleaning up buildings that were being “tagged” by gang members and would-be gang members.

Then he left the mayor’s office earlier this year. The current mayor, Ginger Nelson, campaigned on a multi-faceted platform of issues ranging from economic development, to fiscal accountability, to beautification of our public rights-of-way. There are plenty of other issues, too.

I don’t recall reading about graffiti abatement as I pored through Nelson’s list of municipal priorities.

So, my question is: Did the graffiti abatement program vanish when Paul Harpole walked away from the mayor’s office?

I hope that’s not the case.

One mayor’s effort to rid the city of a nuisance should become part of the next mayor’s agenda as well. Don’t you think?

Harpole stays the course on graffiti battle

I thought Harpole had the right idea when he decided to take on the “artists” who deem it OK to deface other people’s property.

Mayor Nelson appears quite dedicated to her vision for making the city a better, more attractive place for its 200,000 residents. I believe part of her overall strategy needs to include her immediate predecessor’s aim to rid the city of graffiti.

City faces second straight ‘change’ election

Amarillo voters opted for “change” when they cast votes for their City Council in 2015.

Three new guys got elected to the council two years ago, giving the body a new majority.

Guess what, folks. The city is setting up for its second straight “change” election this coming May. The context is a bit different than the 2015 earthquake, but it’s fascinating in the extreme nevertheless.

Word came out today that one of the “change agents,” Councilman Randy Burkett, has decided against seeking re-election. From my vantage point, City Hall won’t miss him.

Burkett becomes the third incumbent to forgo another go on the council. Councilwoman Lisa Blake, appointed to succeed former Councilman Brian Eades, won’t seek election. And then there’s the mayor, Paul Harpole, who has decided to call it a public service career.

What I see shaping up is a City Council that will be a more functional and collegial body, now that Burkett has decided to bow out.

Ginger Nelson appears to be the prohibitive favorite to be elected mayor. That would be a good thing for the city.

Elisha Demerson and Mark Nair — the other two newbies who got elected in 2015 — are seeking re-election to their seats.

Blake endorsed Freda Powell to succeed her in Place 2. From what I’ve observed of Powell over the years, she would add a great, fresh new voice to the council.

Burkett’s Place 3 seat well might be filled by Eddie Sauer, an Amarillo dentist apparently with many friends within the city’s business community.

Two years ago, two of the three new council members defeated incumbents; this year, three new council members will succeed incumbents who are bowing out voluntarily.

Despite the differing circumstances, the city is facing its second consecutive “change election.”

I have been a longtime supporter of Mayor Harpole, but I believe the city is poised to welcome a strong new presiding officer on its council, assuming that it’s Ginger Nelson.

I don’t know Lisa Blake well, but I’ve been impressed by her own commitment to the city and hope she returns to the arena eventually.

Demerson and Nair have done fine in their first term as council members. I trust they’ll continue to grow and learn as they work with a¬†city administration led by City Manager Jared Miller.

As for Burkett — a social media gadfly and occasional loudmouth who’s argued openly with Harpole about city policy — his “contribution” won’t be missed. I’ll concede that my knowledge of Burkett lies only in what I’ve read in local media reporting of his antics.

If his successor is Eddie Sauer, then I have a good bit of faith that the city will be served well.

Can we handle a second straight “change election”? Sure we can.

Change becomes the new norm at City Hall?

Another incumbent has bailed from the Amarillo City Council.

The latest to call it quits — perhaps if only temporarily — is Place 2 Councilwoman Lisa Blake, who announced this week she will not seek election to the seat to which she was appointed in 2016.

This is a loss for the city, as is the upcoming departure of Mayor Paul Harpole.

Blake said “family priorities” are taking precedence over public service, but let’s not close the door, lock it and toss the key on the chance of her returning to municipal politics. In the meantime, she has thrown her support behind Freda Powell, another fine and capable candidate for Place 2.

Two years ago, voters elected three new council members, all of whom vowed to be change agents for the city. This election season might produce at least that many new council members, depending on voters’ mood. Two years ago, voters expressed anger — or so many of us were led to believe. To be honest, I’m still a bit baffled at the reason for the anger, given the city’s robust economic health and the progress it has made toward the redevelopment of its downtown district.

I am not at all sure what will drive this year’s election. But with two incumbents calling it a public service career, there appears to be momentum to a huuuuge municipal ballot in May.

The more candidates the better. That’s my unofficial political motto at any level of the political process.

The more candidates we have, the more choices will be available for voters. The more choices we get, the more ideas we get to hear. Thus, we’ll be grazing along a smorgasbord of guiding principles.

That’s a good thing for everyone.

I’ve already saluted Paul Harpole for his service to the city. He isn’t likely to return to elected public service. As for Lisa Blake, thank you for your brief time in the municipal arena. Here’s hoping you’ll return to the fight one day.

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.

Well done, Mr. Mayor … and thank you

Paul Harpole took his share of incoming rounds during his three terms as Amarillo mayor.

I am not going to lob any more of them here. I intend instead to say a word or two of praise for the man who today announced he’s calling it quits. It’s perhaps the least surprising development of this ever-changing city political season.

Harpole’s decision seemed certain the day Ginger Nelson announced her mayoral candidacy, considering Nelson’s¬†chops as an Amarillo Economic Development Corporation board member — a board that has Harpole’s strong support.

Harpole’s tenure as mayor ends as the city’s downtown rebirth continues at a quickening pace. He has been at the forefront of what I consider to be a bold new initiative in reshaping the city’s image and bringing its downtown district back to life.

Have there been hiccups? Oh, yes. Wallace Bajjali, the Houston area-based master developer hired by the city to manage the downtown rebirth went belly-up a couple of years ago. The city, though, survived the tumult that befell other cities that had been tied to the development firm.

But all in all, the city’s effort at downtown rebirth has been a net positive. A new downtown hotel is going up, along with a parking garage; West Texas A&M University is working on¬†a new downtown campus; other developments have come to fruition as well.

Harpole recognized what other city officials in many other successful cities have known: Cities flourish when their downtown districts flourish.

The mayor’s dominant — some say domineering — personality at times has helped result in some testiness with other City Council members. For instance, he has¬†feuded openly at times with Councilman Randy Burkett, one of three new councilors elected in May 2015. The impact has produced¬†negative images for the city and cast doubt among some observers over the council’s ability to govern effectively.

The mayor has overseen the city’s administrative makeover as well. A city manager resigned, the council hired an interim administrator, who then quit and now the council has brought aboard a new permanent manager to run the City Hall machinery.

He was at the helm as the city purchased water rights to secure a stable growth future.

All in all, Paul Harpole’s tenure as mayor has produced many more successes than disappointments, and thus, Amarillo¬†has moved many steps forward in its evolution during Harpole’s time at the municipal helm.

For that, I want to say: Well done, Mr. Mayor.

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.

A new Amarillo city manager on the horizon?

Amarillo might not be wallowing in the administrative darkness much longer, according to Mayor Paul Harpole.

Good deal? Let’s hope so.

The City Council reportedly has culled a list of 30 or so city manager applicants to around 10 … give or take an undisclosed number. Harpole said the council will announce a list of finalists quite soon, maybe next week.

Then the city will interview the finalists in a sort of public audition, Harpole explained.


This public audition more or less falls in line with what has been done at Amarillo College as it has sought to select college presidents. It’s a good way to go. It enables the public to size up the individuals who are competing for a chance to¬†assume a highly public office.

In the case of the city manager, we’re talking about someone who would oversee a¬†significant government bureaucracy. He or she will command a budget of several hundred million dollars, which pay for services¬†for a city comprising around 200,000 residents.

Amarillo City Hall has been through a pretty rough spell for the past year or so.

City Manager Jarrett Atkinson quit more than a year ago. The City Council hired an interim manager, Terry Childers, who immediately got into a significant public relations kerfuffle involving a misplaced briefcase and the Amarillo¬†Emergency¬†Communications Center. The council commenced a search, then called it off. Childers then popped off to a constituent¬†and called him a “stupid son of a b****.” Childers then quit and went back to Oklahoma City.

This is the backdrop that the crop of finalists will confront.

The winner of this contest then will get to steady the municipal ship.

Let’s all hope for the best as the council proceeds with the only hiring decision the City Charter empowers it to make.

The City Council needs to get this one right.

Two candidates for mayor … with likely more to declare


Jeremy Bryant has joined Ginger Nelson in the race for Amarillo mayor.

The filing season opens officially Jan. 18 and concludes on Feb. 17. So it is not yet a lead-pipe cinch that these two individuals are going to actually be on the May municipal ballot. They say they will, so we’ll take them at their word.

Bryant is a businessman; Nelson is a lawyer. Both are pledging to restore “unity” to City Hall.

This is possibly shaping up as a most lively Amarillo City Council ballot. Good deal!


Mayor Paul Harpole hasn’t yet declared his intention; we don’t know if he’ll seek a fourth term or hang it up. My guess is that he’ll call it a public service career … but it’s just a guess.

With two candidates already declaring their intention to run for mayor so early in the election cycle, it stands to reason to believe that more are on their way to City Hall to file their campaign papers.

And that’s just for the mayor’s office!

I’m wondering now what the future holds for the rest of the council. Three seats are occupied by individuals who¬†were elected in May 2015 promising to be the agents of¬†“change” for¬†a city they contended had grown stale and too secretive.

They brought change, all right. The city manager and city attorney quit. They hired an interim city manager who served for a whole year before he decided to bail, but only after he muttered a profane epithet at a constituent.

What will the ballot challenge hold for those guys. One of them, Elisha Demerson, might run for mayor; another one, Mark Nair, is reported to be considering whether he wants to seek a second term; still another council member, Randy Burkett, appears the most likely incumbent to run again.

Then we have the fifth council member,¬†Lisa Blake, who was appointed to fill the vacancy created when Brian Eades quit and left the city.¬†Blake is untouched by¬†the dysfunction that’s been demonstrated during the past two years.

I do hope we get a full ballot in 2017. Amarillo voters would be well-served by being given the chance to hear from a lot of candidates who believe they can do better than those who are already on the job.

I am looking forward to seeing if my wish comes true.