Former Kempner alderman appointed to return to office
BY DAVID LOWE DISPATCH RECORD
Despite objections from one councilman and several residents, the Kempner City Council voted Tuesday to appoint past councilman Bob Crane to fill a council seat that recently became vacant. Crane ran for re-election to Place III earlier this year but lost to John Wilkerson on May 4. After being off the council about two months, Crane now holds the Place II position, which had been vacant since Don Casper resigned June 24. Mayor Keith Harvey recommended appointing Crane, and the council voted 3-1 to approve that recommendation. After the vote, Crane took the oath of office and joined the council for the rest of the meeting agenda items. Wilkerson cast the dissenting vote about the appointment. He said he did not receive resumes from any applicants and does not feel the City Council was involved in the process of recommending someone to appoint. Wilkerson urged the council not to rush to fill the Place II position, as he said the council should interview those who applied. Multiple members of the public who addressed the council also expressed concerns about Harvey's recommendation to appoint Crane. Wilkerson defeated Crane by about a 2-to-1 ratio in May, and Kempner resident Anelicia Cheney-Campbell said voters spoke when they chose Wilkerson over his opponent. "We said we did not want [Crane] in, and it's a slap in the face to us when there's other people that have applied," Cheney-Campbell said. An open records request, she said, yielded a resume for a person other than Crane who applied to fill the Place II vacancy. The June 28 application, which Cheney-Campbell and the city of Kempner supplied to the Dispatch Record, came from Kenneth J. Mahoney of Kempner. Mahoney is a U.S. Army veteran who served in the military police, according to his application. He later served as a supervisory police officer and branch chief with the Directorate of Emergency Services at Fort Hood, then worked in security related positions at Radford Army Ammunition Plant in Virginia. Since September 2012, he has worked with Mahoney and Associates Consulting, a contractor that responds to crisis situations and natural disasters across the United States. Mahoney has been a Kempner Volunteer Fire Department firefighter since January 2018, according to his application. The application shows that Crane is not the only person willing to serve on the municipal governing body, Cheney-Campbell told the City Council. "Other people want in," she said. "I know it's been an excuse in the past that someone gets put on the council because no one else is interested. We have other people interested, aside from someone who got voted out." Cheney-Campbell also said during the election cycle, Harvey spoke of the need for "new blood" in Kempner city leadership. "How is bringing someone back who got voted out 'new blood' when we have new blood right here?" she asked. Kempner-area resident Wayland Allen said he does not agree with the appointment of Crane, because residents voted him out of office. Not all council members received information about who applied to fill the Place II vacancy, Allen said. Lloyd Smith, who said he has lived in the area about a year, said he understands there is a process for a city council to appoint a member to fill a vacancy. "However, taking someone that was already voted out and putting them back in seems to be kind of an injustice, because the people have already spoken," Smith said. Although he said as of Tuesday night he did not know all the relevant details -- such as how many people applied for the position -- Smith said it is "kind of a disrespect" to voters for the council to appoint Crane. During discussion of the action item about the appointment, Councilman David Richardson -- named mayor pro tem later in the meeting, in a vote from which he and Wilkerson abstained -- said he recently contacted the Texas Municipal League about the council vacancy. Richardson said he learned from TML that the mayor may recommend someone to fill an open seat, although the council votes to appoint a person. "And I understood that there was another one [who applied for the council position]," Richardson said, "but I trust the mayor and his thoughts about this. And he is presenting to us, recommending to us, someone that he feels will fill the position and do a good job at it, and I believe that Mr. Crane would [do that]." Councilman Mack Ruskiewicz said interview questions for the position are available. "So that wasn't a complete secrecy as far as how the interview process went," he said. Crane has served on the City Council more than 10 years, and Ruskiewicz said he has "vast experience." In addition, Ruskiewicz said Crane has volunteered as caretaker of Sylvia Tucker Memorial Park. No one else has offered to replace Crane as the park caretaker, Ruskiewicz said. "Now it's the right of the organization of the City Council to do its business," Ruskiewicz said, "and the council should prevail to fill the unexpired term of Place II so that the council may meet in a more effective manner to transact business of the city."