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City council, school board candidates outline platforms at ‘Rise and Grind’

Posted by: tdt -

City council, school board candidates outline platforms at ‘Rise and Grind’

With the Dalhart City Council and Dalhart Independent School District elections set for May 7, 2022, candidates for both elections spoke at the Dalhart Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Rise and Grind’ breakfast on Wednesday morning at the Dust Bowl Bar and Grill. City council candidates Frankie Scott, Tim Yee, Dwayne Smith, Michelle Griffin and Mario Garcia Jr. were joined by school board candidates Maegan Frische, Joni Atha and Curtis Lockhart, with each candidate giving a brief bio and answering a set of pre-determined questions from moderator Jesse Torres of KXIT radio.

Frankie Scott has lived in Dalhart since 1976, once served on the city council and brings a law enforcement background and said Dalhart is an unbeatable place to live. He said the council needs to finish projects.

“There are some things that you wonder why they haven’t proceeded (with),” Scott said. “I’m not saying that I’m gonna sit up there and it’s going to be done, but I can inject ideas into situations.”

He said park projects need to be finished to help make Dalhart more family-oriented and said the most important issue facing Dalhart is the need for a new city manager and chief of police, noting the length of time it has taken to find one.

“Those are vital positions that need to be filled,” Scott said.

Incumbent council member Tim Yee grew up in Odessa, Texas and he and his wife Sheila moved here in 2011.

“I want to get reelected because I enjoy serving this community, worked really hard for a lot of projects that you’re gonna hear everybody talk about,” Yee said. “It takes a while, you just don’t say ‘Hey I wanna change this’ and it just happens in a couple months. It might be a couple years, it might be four years.”

Yee said the council is looking at a shortterm and long-term plan for the future of Dalhart, which includes work on the parks committee to look for grants to improve the city’s parks. He also said the city is working on improving the housing situation.

“We’ve been talking about housing for over five years, and how do you address that?” Yee asked. “There is an individual that is working on a housing project that I believe will fix that problem, or at least help with it.”

Yee also said the city is considering a retail coach to help bring more retail businesses to town.

“You can’t buy shoes, you can’t buy underwear, we lost Bealls,” Yee said. “This council that is presently in place I would hope would stay intact, working well with EDC, we’re all on the same page and we want to grow Dalhart.”

Incumbent council member Dwayne Smith has been in Dalhart since 1965 and said he wants to serve another term to be a part of the transition that Dalhart is in.

“We’re making great strides in addressing some of the issues,” Smith said, adding that the city has been taking some proactive action to address the city’s needs. “We are addressing retail, we’re now addressing housing and we’re trying to come up with a plan with all of the entities involved to help develop those actions that we want to take.”

Smith touched on cleaning up Dalhart, commercial traffic, animal control and improving the city’s tax base.

“Dalhart, to survive and carry on, is gonna have to develop a substantial tax base,” Smith added. “Is that increased taxes? No, we need to address the issues that are not being taken care of to have the revenue for the entities of Dalhart to go forward.”

Michelle Griffin is a first-time candidate for city council and admitted that she has no political experience.

“I’ll be honest, I had a couple people approach me, it’s not something that I ever really thought about,” Griffin said. “I’ve lived in Dalhart long enough, it’s given enough to me, it’s time for me to kind of return that back to the community and do some things for them.”

Griffin has worked with Dalhart dispatch and says the experience dealing with different agencies has given her the opportunity to look at the bigger picture to help her figure out what’s best for the city as a whole.

‘I look forward to working with the council members, city leaders, businesses, citizens of Dalhart to get that knowledge to be able to do the best I can for the city to make the best choices that I can,” she said.

Mario Garcia Jr. has been a firefighter in Dalhart for 20 years - starting on Sept. 11, 2001 - and said he has always had the heart to serve, and city council is an opportunity to serve and help Dalhart. Garcia said selecting and finding a city manager is the biggest issue facing the city, and “Finding somebody that’s gonna be enthusiastic and proactive for our city,” he added.
Curtis Lockhart is running for school board against incumbents Maegan Frische and Joni Atha. The top two votegetters out of the three will take the two available seats. He said he’s running for school board to try make a difference.

“I think we’re at a really critical time with our school system,” Lockhart said, noting a lack of accountability with the school district.

“You go out and talk to teachers, you talk to parents (and) there is a real concern there,” Lockhart said.

Talking about a potential bond, he added, “How can you possibly talk about spending millions of dollars without addressing how we’re paying our teachers?”

Maegan Frische was born and raised in Dalhart, has three children currently enrolled in Dalhart schools and said the most pressing need for the school board is the search for a superintendent after Joe Alcorta Jr. announced his retirement effective June 1.

“I think we, as a board, have talked about a cultural change in Dalhart that we think that’s needed,” Frische said. “Now is the prime time to get that done,” adding that the new superintendent will need encouragement that they can pass down to the administrators, the teachers and staff and ultimately the students.

“I just think, as a community, if we can rally around the school system and the superintendent and give them that encouragement that they need, then we will see improvements in our school system,” Frische said. “I know that Dalhart is a great community and I know that we are capable of great things and so I think by doing this, we will help our school system and it will become something that we can all be proud of in every aspect.”

Joni Atha has been in Dalhart for 18 years, is also running for reelection and said the most important issue facing the school district - in addition to the superintendent search - is to outline goals for the district. She said the new superintendent should be someone to help the district reach those goals.

“One of those things is to look for quality teachers for our students,” Atha said. “What we’re seeing now is teacher retention, hiring problems. What can we do to keep our teachers or recruit new teachers?”

Early voting begins Monday.

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