Infrastructure and forecasted growth attributed to the coming shale oil boom took center stage Thursday night as candidates for the mayoral seat on the Big Spring City Council presented their political platforms during a Meet the Candidates forum on the Howard College campus.
Candidates Larry McLellan and Roger Rodman — a third candidate, former city council member Manuel Ramirez Jr., bowed out of the race this week — spoke about their qualifications and unique views of the Crossroads area during the forum, held in the Hall Center for the Arts.
“I think I can tell you the life I've lived here and the things I have done in Big Spring, Texas, will be an indication of what I'll do as your mayor,” McLellan, owner of Leonards Pharmacy, said. “It is these things that have led me to the leadership capabilities I have today.
“I've served on the Dora Roberts Rehab board, the United Way board, the United Way allocation board, the YMCA board, where I served as president for three years. I sat on the Big Spring Independent School District board for 10 years — and president for two years — and I feel like this gave me a lot of experience with working with people on boards. I served as a Howard College trustee … a state member of the Texas Independent Pharmacist Association … and there is my involvement with the Settles Hotel.”
According to McLellan, his unique experience building a thriving pharmaceuticals business in Big Spring gives him an insight into the future of Big Spring.
“I think my experience with this business gives me the opportunity to help Big Spring in the challenges we are going to face,” McLellan said. “I deal with a budget everyday. When you deal with a budget, you deal with revenue and expense — you try to create your own revenue and hold down expense — and come up with that little thing we call profit. Because, without the profit, you're not going to make it in this world.
“I truly believe this has helped me and prepared me to make a vision and follow that vision for Big Spring. Proverbs 29:18 says, 'Where there is no vision, the people perish.' We have to have a vision in this town, and we can all have a vision if we work together and understand we are going through challenges now. There are a lot of challenges out there in running a city.”
McLellan said infrastructure will have to be a major concern moving into the coming years, as demand on the city's water and sewage facilities grows, thanks to the potential growth of the Cline Shale oil play.
“We hear this word, 'infrastructure,' and it's almost an ugly word, it really is,” McLellan said. “But let me tell you, without infrastructure we don't have a city. The infrastructure of a city is what makes it a good or a bad place to live. Now, do we want to continue living in a bad place, or do we want to make it a good place?
“I think the $8 million in sales tax is a number that has been thrown out there and it is going to give us a tremendous opportunity to do things we need to do in this city. I looked at the projection for this year in sales tax in the city budget is $5.2 million. I think $8 million is a better number and I say, if that number is achieved, we spend every dime of that on water lines. I think that's what we all want. We want the city to stop the leakage.”
McLellan said another resource the citizens of Big Spring can't live without is the city administration and employees, a resource the city will have to make a marked effort in keeping in the coming years.
“We can't run this city without employees,” he said. “I couldn't even open my (business) doors without employees … One of the things we have to do is modify payroll. I heard on the radio that Sonic and McDonalds are going to have to go up on their salaries. A lot of those employees are teenagers without families. Our city employees have families. I'm a family person. My family has to come first. We have to develop situations here where we can pay these employees and retain these employees.”
Rodman, who was born in Big Spring and spent many years in the U.S. Navy, said his time in the military has prepared him to lend his plans and ideas to running the city of Big Spring.
“These ships were complex and they are just like running a city. It was a floating city,” Rodman said. “I was raised with honor, integrity, courage and commitment. Those are my core values. The navy helped me hone those to a fine edge. I handled a budget of more than $7 million. As training officer and assistant operations officer, I ensured my 396 sailors and 17 officers who served under me were sent to schools and properly trained and even had enough left over to buy some new equipment for the aviation department. During my tenure, we never lost an aircraft and that's a record.”
Rodman said when he came home from the Navy, the face of Big Spring — both good and bad — caught his immediate attention.
“When I came home, I bought a home and got a job at Scenic Mountain Medical Center as a medical technologist, which I have a degree in,” he said. “I looked around. I saw some people working hard and I saw some people struggling … In this service to my fellow man, to my fellow citizens, I am sorely convinced I can lead this city, because of my unique skills and leadership I acquired in the Navy and my core values.
“I can interface with the oil industry. We have this Cline Shale play coming on and it's coming on fast. What I want to do with that is to make Big Spring the hub and bring these drilling and production companies and pipeline companies in here to headquarter right here in Big Spring. Not Colorado City, not Snyder, but right here. I have the abilities to speak with these people and understand their unique problems and also understand the problems we face here as citizens of Big Spring and Howard County.”
The city's tax rate is another major concern for Rodman.
“Another goal I have is to work on the tax rate,” Rodman said. “By keeping the tax rate low, we attract businesses. A lot of these businesses have a certain criteria about demographics, but we're fixing to grow and we're fixing to grow at a phenomenal rate. So, we need to keep that tax rate low. For the first time in 30 years, we have reached $6 million and $8 million in sales tax revenue and we need to keep that going by staying away from bond issues. We should only use a bond issue if it's an emergency.
“With the infrastructure, I want to work on these water mains. There's new technology out there that will line our water mains and prevent these breaks and give a service life extension to the water and sewer mains of 30 years. That means less man hours.”
Early voting in municipal and school board elections is set to run from April 29 until May 7, with polls open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily. Election day is May 11.