The election to fill three Glen Rose City Council seats takes place this Saturday at Town Hall. Incumbents Barbara Mitchell and Rocky Terry are running for re-election and Councilman Ricky Villa has decided not to run again.
Six candidates are vying for the three positions. The Reporter sat down with all but one – we could not reach Johnny Martin despite repeated attempts – and asked their views on issues such as economic development, historic properties such as Oakdale Park and proposed plans to hire a new city administrator.
Also on Saturday, voters can cast ballots on the proposed $20 million school bond program to build a new arena, convert the existing gymnasium into a new band hall and for technology upgrades districtwide. The election for the Republican state senate candidates is across the street at the Somervell County Courthouse Annex. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Gruber, 59, and her husband, Pete, have been active in Glen Rose since moving here several years ago. She has served as an alternate to the city's Zone of Adjustments and chairs the worship committee at First United Methodist Church. She also is an active member of the Glen Rose/Somervell County Chamber of Commerce, is the treasurer of the Barnard's Mill Art League and is a member of the downtown association.
Gruber teaches private art lessons in Glen Rose at her studio, The Artist's Pencil, and operates a small shop two days a week at the Beaumont Ranch, specializing in art and crafts made in Texas.
Before moving to Glen Rose, Gruber served as a city council member in a small city and was the treasurer and responsible for city-related health and safety issues.
As a trained paralegal, Gruber has worked in a law office that specialized in land use. She also served as the criminal court manager for a city of more than 50,000. During her time at the court, it had no deficiencies on unannounced state inspections, she said.
“I believe that being familiar with fiscal responsibilities would allow me to make wise decisions regarding our tax dollars,” Gruber said.
Gruber said she would like to serve on the council because she works well with people. She would like to see the city have more bike trails and to forge a good working relationship with the county.
“The city and county are starting to work close together and I would like to continue that momentum,” she said.
Gruber said she favors having a full-time city administrator to help the city move forward as it prepares for future growth.
“I have a sincere desire to serve this community,” Gruber concluded. “I see Glen Rose as entering a unique time in its history – one where we need to prepare for future growth and yet keep our small town character and what is so important in our past.”
Mitchell, 63, a 17-year-long resident of Glen Rose, owns the His & Hers Salon downtown. She has served on the committee that came with the city's Comprehensive Plan, is a member of the downtown association, the Chamber of Commerce and contributes to the local food bank. She also is serving on the panel that is evaluating applications for the proposed new position of city administrator.
One of the city projects that most interests her is Oakdale Park.
“Our original plan was to refurbish and upgrade what we already have,” Mitchell said. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
Mitchell also is a supporter of the Riverwalk project. She also sees a need for more sidewalks around town.
“We really need them from downtown to the senior center,” she said.
On the city administrator position, Mitchell noted that money “is always an issue.”
“With our economy, we need to be careful about the money we spend,” Mitchell noted. “We need someone who is capable of working with the council well.”
The panel has narrowed down the list of candidates and will present its recommendations to the council, she said.
Mitchell pointed out that she has taken 37 hours of continued training on subjects such as open meetings and open records. The classes are held in Austin.
“I only lack four hours of being recognized by the state,” she said. “It's interesting and I've enjoyed it and learned a lot.”
In conclusion, Mitchell said that she wants to continue the work that she's been part of on the current council.
“There are so many things that I'm interested in,” Mitchell said. “Right now our main focus is to get Oakdale Park cleaned up and to promote the downtown area. We need more business downtown.”
Terry, 63, is a veterinarian who has served on the council since 2003. He said he sees the “big picture” of Glen Rose and was instrumental in getting a report, “The Road to Home Rule,” prepared for the council in 2007 by the Counselors of Real Estate Consulting Corps Panel. The report set the stage for the city's Comprehensive Plan and also called for the creation of a city manager's job.
If the city grows to 5,000 people, it would be able to take in the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, which would give the city a huge boost in taxes.
“This would make us one of the richest cities in the country,” he said.
The city currently cannot annex its form of government.
Terry said the current council has “worked well together” and has not tried to “micro-manage” the city staff, but instead give city employees the opportunity to “take ownership” of projects and find ways to make the budget go further.
Terry said he supports plans to connect Oakdale Park with Big Rocks, the Riverwalk, Heritage Park and downtown. He noted that he and Mitchell George “had a dream and talked about this a lot” when the two served on the council together.
“We had a plan to do this a long time ago,” he said.
Terry said there's still a lot of work left to do, but “it's all coming together.”
He also favors the creation of a city administrator position.
“Definitely,” Terry said. “I think we're past due on that. We're going to be getting some major growth after the economy recovers.”
Terry said he is running for council again because “I like building. I'm a problem-solver. I see things in the big picture.”
Oldenburg, 71, moved to Glen Rose from Minnesota in 2007. She and her husband, Pat, had worked in Arizona and Texas as camp hosts after they retired and they became camp hosts at Dinosaur Valley State Park. The Oldenburgs also were fans of bluegrass music and attended festivals at Oakdale Park. They liked Glen Rose so much they decided to make it their home.
“We didn't want all the big-city problems,” Oldenburg said. “We liked the people here. They were so friendly.”
Oldenburg serves on the 4-B Tax Advisory Board and on the executive committee of the Somervell Council on Aging. She and her husband also are active in the Catholic church here.
She said she is interested in preservation but is not a “purist.”
“I'm all for Oakdale,” she said. “We've spent all this money. Let's make use of it and let's not wait too long. Let's move on.”
Oldenburg said she is running for the council because she thinks it needs a senior citizen who brings that perspective to city government. The current council doesn't include a member who is “retired and living on a very fixed income,” she said.
“I'm not against growth, but you have to be able to pay for it,” she said. “We're not going to get a raise. What we've managed to save is all we have.”
She's also running because “I love Glen Rose and I want to see it move in a direction where no large corporation or developer comes in and takes over,” she said. “ It's easy to get wrapped up in the tax base.”
Oldenburg added that she's concerned about making good use of the city's Comprehensive Plan.
“We've spent so much on that,” she said. “We can't afford to just let it die.”
Prikryl, 69, moved to Glen Rose from Arlington and spent a lot of time over the years bringing his children to the state park. He is a semi-retired architect and most of his work is on military bases all over the country.
Prikryl began going to council and Somervell County Commission meetings after moving here to learn about local issues. He was appointed to the steering committee for the city's master plan and also joined the Chamber of Commerce.
“Community involvement is something I've done my whole life,” he said.
Prikryl said his experience in design and planning could help the council as it moves ahead with significant projects.
“Oakdale Park is an asset to bring people to the city and help the tax base,” he said. “I don't see why it can't be both” a historical site and a magnet for attracting visitors and more revenues to town.
Prikryl said he is “all for” a city administrator in Glen Rose.
“There are a lot of things we need to do over the next several years to enhance the town, but it's got to be done with what we can afford,” he said.
Prikryl also said he likes that Glen Rose “mixes the old and new. I love the river, the history, the square, the courthouse, I even love U.S. 67 – the whole place. That was part of the reason I started going to city council” meetings.
Prikryl and his wife several years ago built a house overlooking the river. He designed it, of course.
“We're here for the duration,” he said. “We'll never leave Glen Rose. I'm not going to stop being involved. I'll keep doing it however I can and the council is just one way of doing that.”