Marlin residents Demetrius Beachum, John Keefer and Shirley King are vying in the upcoming mayoral election May 6 to become the voice that leads the divided community of about 6,000 to a sense of unity and collaboration.

With early voting starting Monday, the candidates are trying to inform voters on their approaches to a city fraught with too many complainers and not enough actors, they each said.

Demetrius Beachum

Beachum, the head pastor and founder of the Marlin and Temple church Ministry of HOPE, has been the talk of the town since last week, after a local news station brought up Beachum’s criminal history.

Beachum has been convicted of one misdemeanor in 2011 in Hill County involving theft of property by check. He has been arrested four times in Hill County and at least twice in McLennan for various traffic violations and not paying a few traffic fines between 1998-2013, according to Texas Department of Public Safety records and officials with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office. Beachum said the incidents were simply a mismanagement of funds, and he has learned from his mistakes.

Beachum decided to run because he sees the city needs someone who can bridge racial gaps within the community, he said. Until residents can address and expose the racial issues on the south side and north side of the town, there may always be an issue, he said.

The first point in his three-pronged plan for the city is about supporting the education system through solutions like renovating the high school and the football field, starting a campaign called “Marlin Lives” or “Marlin Lives to Win” to change negative mindsets to positive ones, developing mentoring programs and a more consistent presence at school board meetings and motivation rallies to show support for the students.

The second point in the plan involves revitalizing the city’s infrastructure by addressing inconsistent trash pickup, code enforcement issues, abandoned homes that make the city look run down, and restarting a neighbor accountability system to address one block at a time, among other things. Beachum wants to find grants to help the city clean up unattractive parks, encourage the chamber of commerce to be more active and address inadequate waterlines that may be destroying roads and creating potholes.

And lastly, everything goes back to building a sense of unity, he said. He wants lead the way for organizations to partner together to overcome some of the city’s obstacles.

John Keefer

Keefer, who owns Progressive Insurance in Marlin and has lived in the city for 18 months, also wants to unite the community but said he knows the city has no control over or ability to govern what happens within the school district. Keefer is also a first-time politician, he said.

He’s taking a business approach to the community as someone who owns more than seven insurance companies across the state, he said. Since he moved to Marlin, he’s attended almost every city council meeting to stay involved in his new home, he said.

After comparing the other candidates for the position, Keefer threw his hat in the ring as someone who could bring Marlin some incremental new ideas, he said. As a business owner, his ability to look at financials and crunch numbers could be the leg up the city needs, he said.

“People say it’s very petty, but the biggest issue Marlin faces is communication. Communication drives everything. It drives everything. Nothing works,” Keefer said.

He wants to have consistent public forums outside city council meetings and throughout the city, to learn what residents truly want their city to be like, he said. Depending on who you talk to, the biggest point of contention with Marlin residents is either racial tension, feeling they’ve been left behind or the neglect of infrastructure in the town, including washed out roadways, potholes, overgrown lots and more, Keefer said.

Shirley King

For King, Marlin is home. It’s where she grew up and where she returned to build a life after school, she said. She started a few student mentoring programs, including one that’s been going strong for 25 years. She also volunteers for Meals on Wheels throughout the week to stay connected and invest back into the lives of her neighbors, she said.

“Everybody’s complaining about how bad Marlin is, and I don’t see Marlin that way,” King said. “I see Marlin as Miracle Marlin. … I moved back to Marlin in ‘81 because I wanted my children to have the same small community unity I had, where people were concerned about each other.”

As mayor, she also wants to teach residents how to show respect for each other again and how to value what Marlin still has, even if it isn’t much, she said.

“As the mayor of Miracle Marlin, there’s a lot to be done. We know the streets need to be done. We know we’ve had problems with the water. We know we have problems with our schools. We know the economy is bad,” King said. “But the thing of it is, you have to work with what you have, and when you don’t have a whole lot to work with, then you work with that until you can build on it.”

The city also has two city council elections for the Precinct 1 seat and Precinct 3 seat, according to Marlin’s website. Early voting is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through May 2, except for next Saturday, May 1 and May 2, when polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., at Marlin City Hall, 101 Fortune Street.

For more information on voting , visit www.marlintx.net or call the city secretary’s office at 883-1450, ext. 228.

Shelly Conlon has covered K-12 education for the Tribune-Herald since July 2016. Prior to the Tribune-Herald, she was the managing editor for the Waxahachie Daily Light, and an intern for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

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