Incumbent city council members returned to office; counting of early votes questioned


May 8, 2010 at 12:08 a.m.
Updated May 9, 2010 at 12:09 a.m.

Tom Halepaska

Tom Halepaska

Victoria voters returned both incumbent super district city council members to office by a close margin in Saturday's election.

Super District 6 incumbent Tom Halepaska had 1,275 votes, compared to challenger Jeff Williams' 1,156 votes.

Super District 5 incumbent Joe Truman had 483 ballots cast for him. His opponent, Emett Alvarez, had 439 votes.

Super District 6 covers the north half of Victoria and Super District 5 covers the south half.

Both winners will serve three-year terms.

"I had a formidable opponent," Halepaska said. "I only won by a small margin."

Elections Administrator George Matthews said there were technical difficulties with the early vote. He said there was a disparity in the numbers and he would work on them over the weekend.

Alvarez demanded an explanation and said he would make a decision on whether to seek a recount. The city council will meet Tuesday to canvass the results.

Mayor Pro Tem Halepaska, 60, said during his campaign having enough water for future growth is his primary concern for Victoria.

He said he wants to see the city acquire all of the senior water rights available and then find a place to store it for use in times of drought.

"We could lure industry to the area as the only place to locate that can provide an adequate water supply if we're good at this," said Halepaska, co-owner of Halepaska's Bakery.

Williams, co-owner of the Bible Book Store, said during his campaign the city needs to focus on helping the local economy recover and on attracting industry that will put people back to work.

"We've got a tremendous group of men and women around here that have manufacturing abilities - welders, pipe fitters," he said. "I think we need to be looking at bringing in industry for people that are already here that have specific skills that go to producing a product."

Williams, 50, said that means focusing more on attracting industry rather than retail business. And he said the city can do a better job of doing that than it has.

Truman and Alvarez are no strangers.

Truman, 47, beat Alvarez, 48, by 41 votes in a special election in 2009 to fill a vacant position. The vacancy was created when Jim Wyatt resigned, leaving a year on his three-year term.

Alvarez, co-owner of Revista de Victoria newspaper, said helping to revive the local economy is a key to helping the city grow. The city council needs to do everything it can to make that happen, he said.

"I think we need to pay very, very close attention to the economy and unemployment levels," he said when he was campaigning. "Without an economy working on all cylinders, that's where we derive our resources to fund our city."

Alvarez said there's a need to meet with the rest of the council and staff on the upcoming budget and examine each line of the spending proposal before it's adopted.

Truman, vice president of Truman Transfer and Storage Inc., said one of the top issues facing the city is the economy. That has resulted in a loss of sales tax and other income to the city, forcing the council and staff to adjust the budget.

"I see the possibility of a continuing bad economy being a major issue that we need to deal very cautiously with," Truman said. "We don't need to do any extravagant spending."

Such projects as the reconstruction of Laurent and Sam Houston streets are already planned or are under way. They are necessary and need to be completed, Truman said.



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