Mayoral candidates, incumbent, step up to run in May 2017 election
A platform is an object to stand on. Political platforms articulate what a candidate stands for, or runs on. Here are the platforms of the three candidates hoping to be mayor of Burleson. Early voting begins April 24. Election Day is May 6.
Ken Shetter, incumbent
Shetter, 45, was born and raised in Burleson and is a 1990 graduate of Burleson High School. He was elected mayor in June 2004 during his second term on the City Council. He is president of One Safe Place, a nonprofit that develops and supports effective crime prevention and crime reduction programs. The mayor and his wife, Ashley, have three children: Lexi, Hogan, and Olivia.
The planks in the mayor’s platform are neighborhoods and housing, the city’s comprehensive plan, infrastructure, finance and governance, economic development and public safety.
“I am asking citizens to vote for me based on my history of clearly communicating a plan for Burleson, then working hard to make that vision a reality,” Shetter said. “During my time as mayor, we have responsibly managed the city’s growth, significantly enhanced the city’s parks, brought higher education to Burleson and founded the Burleson Opportunity Fund. We have greatly improved development standards, made major investments in public safety, lowered the crime rate, maintained excellent emergency response times, lowered the ISO, maintained fiscal discipline and transparency, improved our bond ratings, invested in major transportation and public works infrastructure, built High Point Business Park, and revitalized Old Town.”
“Burleson is not just a place to live, it’s is a place to belong,” Shetter said. “One of my first priorities when joining the City Council was to work closely with my fellow council members and staff to improve Burleson’s development standards. As a result, developers and builders are now required to provide better street design to slow traffic and improve walkability, more parks and green space, greater architectural variety, as well as better landscaping and fencing. In the years to come, we should maintain our focus on high standards while ensuring a variety of housing that maintains the right balance between single-family, single-family attached and multi-family, while ensuring there is housing that meets the needs of every stage of our life-cycle.”
The city’s comprehensive plan is a work in progress, Shetter said.
“We are in the midst of updating the city’s comprehensive plan,” he said. “City staff should ensure the plan reflects not only the vision of the Council, but the vision of our citizens as well.”
The mayor said he hopes to continue a pattern of fiscal responsibility.
“As existing debt is paid off over the next few years, and as we realize the benefit of the development impact fees recently enacted, we should have the capacity to add projects to our capital improvements list to ensure our infrastructure keeps pace with our growth,” Shetter said.
“By maintaining our tax rate at the current rate of $0.735 per $100 of assessed value, we should be able to continue to deliver the services our citizens expect while making the necessary investments in public safety and infrastructure to grow responsibly,” he said.
Crime does not increase as population increases, Shetter said.
“There’s nothing more important than having a safe place to call home,” he said. “That’s why public safety has been my top priority as mayor. We have made a sustained investment in public safety, with approximately 53 percent of the city’s budget devoted to keeping us safe.
“In Burleson, we have proven time and again that the generally accepted notion that population increases necessarily come with higher crime doesn’t have to be true. We can absolutely continue to benefit from low crime rates, regardless of population growth or the economy, but it won’t happen simply by chance, it will take two things:
“First, sustained investment in human resources, equipment and technology. Fortunately, your city council has made public safety its top priority for decades, and I don’t see that changing.
“Second, but equally important, it will require extensive police-community relations. Of course, we know how to do that in Burleson,” Shetter said.
“Our fire department has proven equally up to the task of keeping pace with population growth. Last year they responded to 4,429 calls, with a 5:34 response time to emergency calls,” he added.
Shetter said he hopes to continue advancements in economic development.
“We’re coming off a benchmark year for economic development in Burleson,” he said. “We created $150 million in new investment in 2016. Our unemployment rate stands at 3.1 percent, as opposed to 4.4 percent for the country and 4.2 percent for Texas. Our median household income is $80,556 – more than $5,000 higher than the median income for the state. And our retail vacancy rate remains the lowest of any DFW submarket at 1.9 percent.
“We should continue to be pro-active, utilizing smart, targeted economic development tools focused on creating quality jobs, filling the gaps in our retail offerings and diversifying our tax base to further lessen our reliance on residential property taxes,” he said.
“In addition, we should continue our focus on expanding higher education opportunity,” Shetter said. “Not only is it helping strengthen families, it helps attract employers. The availability of a qualified, flexible workforce is among the most important factors for employers choosing where to locate, relocate or grow a business. In addition to maintaining our investment in the Burleson Opportunity Fund, which has now benefited almost 800 students, we must add workforce training capabilities and four-year degree programming.
“Finally, as the city grows, it’s vital that the City Council continues to value open communication with citizens,” he said. “It’s not enough to rely on open meetings laws; the mayor, council members and city staff must remain accessible through town hall and community meetings and by utilizing social media channels to engage in authentic two-way communications. And the Mayor’s Youth Council should continue to be utilized to ensure young people have an authentic voice in city government.”
Garrison, owner of Garrison & Son Lawn Service, wants higher pay for Burleson’s first responders.
“There’s no excuse why we can’t give our police officers and firefighters the extra money they need,” he said. “We need more first responders and we need more pay for those we have. … We’re understaffed and underpaid.”
Garrison is also concerned that the city does not provide more social services.
“We do not do anything for social problems,” said Garrison, who has lived in Burleson since seventh grade, has attended Burleson Church of Christ for 35 years and sings in the choir at Pathway Church. “My sister is bipolar and we don’t have any services for her. We should take care of those who can’t take care of themselves. I know we’re a small town, but my mom and dad could have been helped if they wouldn’t have had to go to Fort Worth for their health needs.
“I am a caretaker,” Garrison added. “I didn’t get married until age 27 because I stayed home helping mom and dad. Basically, I would like to see Huguley or some other hospital become to Burleson what John Peter Smith Hospital is to Fort Worth. My sister had to move to Fort Worth because Burleson doesn’t have any government housing.”
The challenger says he would bring fresh ideas to the council.
“Voters should elect me because I am new and have new ideas,” he said. “I might need the council to help me, but I am going to learn. I am 54 years old and I am not done learning. I want to do something important. Besides being a good father and good son, I think being mayor would be awesome. It would be a major learning experience I could not get anywhere else.”
Garrison is guided by the Bible, he said.
“Basically, I am a good guy and have always been a caretaker,” he said. “The Bible tells us to take care of others. I think we should treat one another as we would treat ourselves. Put the other person first, not ourselves. I think I would do a good job. It would be the most exciting thing I’ve done besides being in the Pathway choir.”
He and his wife, Kay Lynn Garrison, said they enjoy living in Burleson.
Reading, 34, is a stay-at-home mom who operates a home-based security business. She and her husband, Paul, have been married 13 years and have two children: Bobby, 8, and Aubree, 5. Both attend school in the BISD system.
Reading wants Burleson to retain its small-town atmosphere just as growth is heading south from Fort Worth to the north. She also wants to raise the bar in communication between the council and residents, and intends to focus on achieving a balance as it relates to growth.
“I want Burleson to embrace its identity as a suburb of Fort Worth,” she said. “I want to concentrate on improving the communication of local government to its constituents and on local government transparency. I am about policy-making decisions as we move forward, not solely addressing actions of the past.
“People move here because it’s different than Fort Worth,” she continued. “Although the big city is only 12 miles away, I want to assure that the identity of Burleson remains. We don’t need to invent something that separates us from Fort Worth because it’s already here, and I want to retain that.”
The key is balance, Reading says.
“We need local jobs for those who move and live here, and I want to create a balance between placing a priority on economic development while keeping in mind our identity as a suburb.
“I am concerned that our current comprehensive plan allows for a large amount of high-density housing, but our infrastructure is not ready for it. We must maintain our infrastructure for those who already live here,” she said.
Reading is a proponent of limiting the time an elected official stays in office, she said.
“Going forward, I believe term limits are healthy for every elected position in government, and I also plan to address conflicts of interest within our city,” she said.
“I want a more proactive approach to addressing community concerns about zoning and high-density housing as it relates to our school districts. My vision is to improve communication to our residents in the areas of infrastructure, zoning and school districts,” she said.
Reading said state statutes should be guidelines, and that more can be done than the minimum requirements.
“I want to go above and beyond state requirements,” she said. “If the state requires a setback of 200 feet, why not make it 500 feet or post signs, if that is better for Burleson residents? Why haven’t we?
“I have lived in seven cities in the last 13 years and I have observed many local governments as we make it a point to always educate ourselves on local government operation wherever we move. Burleson is our last stop, and I care about Burleson and want us to maintain our suburb identity. I don’t think high-density housing that could result in a declining infrastructure is the answer,” Reading said.
“As a public servant, I will bring a healthy style of leadership and a fresh perspective,” Reading concluded. “Leadership is not about having all the solutions, it is about asking the right questions. I have proven that I can do that and that I am brave enough to take the next step.”