May

20

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : May 20, 2013

Monitor Photo/David Webb Kemp municipal judge Teresa Aldridge (right) administers the oath of office to the city's first female mayor, Laura Peace, after the council canvassed the votes Tuesday.

Monitor Photo/David Webb
Kemp municipal judge Teresa Aldridge (right) administers the oath of office to the city’s first female mayor, Laura Peace, after the council canvassed the votes Tuesday.

By David Webb
The Monitor Correspondent

KEMP–It apparently took a crisis to shake residents out of their complacency and to make them realize their town could die in ruin if everyone didn’t get to work on saving it.
That’s the view of Kemp’s new mayor, Laura Hanna Peace, a fifth-generation resident of the 1,154-population town and the first woman to ever lead it. She notes it took the loss of water service to Kemp during the devastating drought two years ago to “galvanize a lot of people,” herself included.
“We had all relied on a few people to carry the ball in the past,” Peace said. “I think the crisis situation got through to everyone that we all had to pay more attention.”
Peace said that although she is a native and has owned property in Kemp for 20 years, she seldom attended city council meetings or got involved. She since has served on the council for one year, and voters elected her mayor over the incumbent, Donald Kile on May 11.
Peace is the Kaufman County chief juvenile probation officer, and she has worked for the county for 20 years. She graduated from Kemp High School, and she received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Texas Woman’s University in Denton.
Peace said her first short-term goal is to get the water system stable, an effort that appears to be well on its way to accomplishment with the city’s planned connection to the West Cedar Creek Municipal Utility District.
“Any other growth in the city depends solely on that,” Peace said. “We can’t do anything without that happening first.”
Her biggest, long-term goal for the city is to attract a new business that will create at least 100 new jobs, Peace said. To accomplish that, the new mayor said she plans to work with city staff, other council members, the Kemp Economic Development Corp., the Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce and other civic leaders to help develop a new, more progressive vision for Kemp.
“I don’t know exactly how to get there, but I know other people in similar situations have been able to do it so I know we can too,” Peace said.
Peace said she hopes that all citizens will think about what roles they can play in helping Kemp prosper. She said that all of the people who came before the current generation of leaders laid the groundwork, and it is now time for new leaders to continue the work of guaranteeing Kemp’s future.
Peace said she would never criticize the people who came before her, and that she would never want to insinuate that she alone could guide the city to a more progressive future. It will always require people working together on a common goal to succeed, she said.
“This is a very serious job, and I will give it my all,” Peace said after her swearing in ceremony. “I am humbled by the opportunity.”

Apr

27

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : April 27, 2013

Courtesy Photo Tool mayor pro-tem A.J. “Red” Phillips proclaims May as “Motorcyle Awareness Month” at the April 18 city council meeting. Pictured are council members Nelson Wright, Nathan Reeder, Fran Sonka, Leathernecks Motorcycle Club president Gary Schnelle, Leathernecks Motorcycle Club member Shelly  Ellis, Phillips and council member Ricky Williams.

Courtesy Photo
Tool mayor pro-tem A.J. “Red” Phillips proclaims May as “Motorcyle Awareness Month” at the April 18 city council meeting. Pictured are council members Nelson Wright, Nathan Reeder, Fran Sonka, Leathernecks Motorcycle Club president Gary Schnelle, Leathernecks Motorcycle Club member Shelly Ellis, Phillips and council member Ricky Williams.


Declares May ‘Motorcycle Awareness Month’

By David Webb
Contributing Writer

TOOL–Longtime civic leader Leland Pitts is no longer the mayor of Tool..
The council accepted Pitts’ letter of resignation at its regular monthly meeting April 18. Pitts did not attend the meeting, and the letter was faxed to city hall.
The letter was the first item on the council’s agenda, and mayor pro tem A.J. Phillips praised Pitts for doing an “outstanding job while he was here.” Phillips noted that Pitts, who served on the council more than once in the past dozen years, “would be missed.”
Pitts’ letter attributed his “untimely resignation” to the demands of his job at Citizens State Bank, where he is vice president. “Due to time constraints and additional demands at Citizens State Bank, it has become increasingly difficult for me to devote the time and energy to the position of mayor the city deserves and requires,” Pitts wrote in the letter.
Phillips asked for discussion and a vote on the agenda item with a “heavy heart,” and council member Nathan Reeder said he would “reluctantly” make the motion for a vote. “This is the one thing I don’t like at all,” Phillips said. There was no other discussion.
Pitts, who served as the mayor in 2000-01 and council member in 2007-08, took over as mayor in February 2011, after mayor Mike Black committed suicide. Pitts said then that he did not want to be mayor, but that he would step in to help the shaken city at the request of the council. The council voted him in as mayor in a special meeting.
It was the second time for Pitts, whose mother recently died, to attempt resignation from his job as mayor in the past year. In May 2012 he resigned, then rescinded the resignation before the council could vote on it. Pitts said he decided not to resign at that time because of residents asking him to reconsider.
At the time, Pitts said his public service work had become a burden after another council member reportedly confronted him at the bank with a raised voice and had to be asked to leave. He noted at the time he considered the city in “turmoil,” and that was part of his reason for deciding to remain as mayor.
In possible reflection of the turmoil Pitts’ referenced last year, one of several residents attending the recent meeting complained to council members that she wanted to know more about how the city is spending money and how much it owes. “We’re living beyond our means,” the woman said. “We’re trying to survive out here on our Social Security checks.”
Phillips suggested that she attend the city’s next budget meeting, and he also told her that she was “welcome” to run for public office and help do some of the work now facing the council.
For the time being, the council will be operating with one seat vacant. The city charter calls for a mayor and five council members. Phillips will preside as mayor pro tem in the absence of a mayor. The next scheduled city election is in November.
In other business, council members:
• approved the purchase of 2013 Legend gooseneck trailer for $6,970 for the maintenance department to replace one that was stolen from city property. The city received a check for $1,859 from insurance proceeds on the old trailer to help with the purchase.
• renewed the city’s balloon note on its motograder in the amount of $45, 895 at 5 percent interest at Citizens State Bank. Council member Nelson Wright suggested the city “shop” for a better interest rate, but other members said they were satisfied that they currently had a “good deal.”
• proclaimed May as “Motorcycle Awareness Month.”

Apr

10

Posted by : Monitor Admin | On : April 10, 2013

Courtesy Photo/ David Woo/DMN The Kaufman County Acting DA is Brandi Fernandez.

Courtesy Photo/ David Woo/DMN
The Kaufman County Acting DA is Brandi Fernandez.

Monitor Staff Reports
KAUFMAN–While Gov. Rick Perry is reviewing candidates to become the permanent District Attorney for Kaufman County, acting district attorney is Brandi Fernandez.
She’s been with the county since 2004, and has been the first assistant district attorney under recently murdered Mike McLelland. (See page 4A for reward information)
News reports have characterized her as a tough litigator, who has prosecuted various Aryan Brotherhood members. She is a member of the Kaufman County Bar Association and the Texas Bar Association.
Fernandez graduated from the Texas Tech University School of Law in 1996. She received the National Association of Women Lawyers Outstanding Woman Law Graduate Award.
She has been admitted to practice law in Texas, Nevada and the United States District Court of the Northern District of Texas.
Perry is expected to name a permanent DA by April 22, under Texas law.