In the final moments of Friday — the final day to formally file for the Kerrville City Council — three people emerged to challenge incumbents, but the city of Kerrville didn’t release the fact it had denied a potential challenger.
On Friday afternoon, minutes before the filing deadline, David Barker stepped-up to challenge incumbent Bill Blackburn for the mayor’s office. On the city council, Roman Garcia will challenge incumbent Judy Eychner for Place Three, while Place Four will feature Brenda Hughes challenging incumbent Delayne Sigerman.
Also on Friday, the city staff was “vetting” the application for former Councilman George Baroody, who filed Thursday to run for the Place Four seat. Baroody, however, was told Friday afternoon that his application was denied due to a new City Charter amendment that restricts those with relatives at the “executive level” in city government from running for office.
“I’m looking at options at how to challenge the disqualification ruling and considering challenging the Charter amendment,” said Baroody, who is a frequent critic of the council.
On Friday afternoon, The Kerrville Daily Times called the city and requested information on those who filed, but were told by city staff that they couldn’t release that information because the candidate was being vetted for possible conflicts.
Kerrville Public Information Officer Stuart Cunyus then sent an email to The Kerrville Daily Times that the names would be released after 5 p.m.
While Cunyus sent out a press release last week announcing the filing of Blackburn, he did not send out a release explaining Baroody’s disqualification.
In the Friday, Feb. 7 press release about Blackburn’s filing, Cunyus wrote: “Blackburn’s petition had been certified and found to be sufficient; therefore, Bill Blackburn is an official candidate for the Office of Mayor on the Kerrville City Council.”
The press release Cunyus sent Friday after filing had closed only included names of those who had been deemed eligible to run. There was no mention of Baroody’s filing.
The Kerrville Daily Times has requested all communications between Cunyus and candidates, including documentation about Baroody’s denial.
Baroody’s candidacy and disqualification were first reported on the blog Kerrville United, but it did not indicate who with the city confirmed Baroody’s filing.
The Texas Freedom Of Information Foundation, of which The Kerrville Daily Times is a financial backer, said via a text message late Friday that the records of candidates should have been made available to the newspaper because candidate filings are public record as soon as they are filed, not after they are vetted.
Baroody said he’s related to someone in the city government, but said he’s not satisfied with the city’s explanation of the conflict of interest ruling.
In November, voters approved several amendments to the charter, including Proposition C. That change said: “Amendment to the City Charter creating a qualification for City Council prohibiting the candidate from being related within the second degree of affinity or third degree of consanguinity to anyone employed in an executive position with the City.”
Baroody said he feels the amendment was specifically written to prevent him from running for office.
During the 2019 charter review, the seven-member charter review commission offered this rationale for Prop. C: “Nepotism prohibitions are found in 79 percent of Texas charters. This amendment is intended to address a potential conflict of interest and would also update the charter in accordance with state law.”
The three challengers to Blackburn, Eycher and Sigerman all filed their papers on Friday for the May 2 municipal election.
Earlier Friday Blackburn said his campaign was gearing up to run.
“We are going to run a race,” Blackburn said. “We are going to go out and talk to people.”
Barker was a member of the water and wastewater sub-committee of the city’s 2050 Comprehensive plan. Barker attended Schreiner University in the 1960s before graduating from Texas A&M with a degree in engineering.
In 2018, Blackburn defeated incumbent Bonnie White with 63% of the vote — one of the largest margins of victory in recent city history. Blackburn garnered 2,516 votes in a race with strong turnout. In fact, White’s vote total of 1,553 would have won her the job in most years.
Blackburn said he’s running for a second term because of the progress the city has made in implementing the 2050 plan, and the city is working on a wide range of projects currently. He said on his Facebook page Friday that stability and continuity on the council is essential for continuing to complete projects set out in the Kerrville 2050 plan.
Garcia was heavily involved in civic organizations as a teenager, including the Mayor’s Youth Council under Bonnie White.
Hughes has been a vocal advocate for local animal issues and owns Buzzies Barbecue with her husband.
“I just feel like elections should be about choices,” said Hughes, who filed her paperwork at 4:45 p.m. on Friday. “I thought about it long and hard.”
For Hughes she has been concerned about how the city decided to select its tax increment reinvestment zone in 2018, which centered around the downtown area. She said she’d also like to see a closer working relationship between the city and the county.