The District 5 race in the May 9 Waco City Council election features a well-entrenched incumbent and a challenger who was inspired to run by the racial unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Councilman Kyle Deaver, 51, an attorney and business executive, is facing Robert Cervantes, 40, an Iraq War veteran and Veterans Administration employee.

Deaver was appointed by the council in 2012 to fill the council seat left vacant when Malcolm Duncan Jr. was elected mayor, and Deaver won the 2013 election. In his term, he has been a relatively quiet voice on the council but known for digging into city budget and policy issues in committee work.

Deaver’s district includes West Waco and the sprawling growth areas along U.S. Highway 84 and China Spring Road.

But Deaver listed citywide issues as his biggest priorities: improving streets, bringing in good jobs and implementing Prosper Waco, a communitywide initiative to combat poverty.

“I want to continue to work on Prosper Waco goals,” he said. “There’s no question we have an above-average poverty rate in Waco that’s going to continue to drag us down and keep us from what we want to do in our community. I think the collective impact model has been proven to work, and I’m anxious to see this take shape.”

Deaver said the Prosper Waco initiative will require some financial commitment from the city, but the burden will be shared with many community partners. He said his biggest budget priority for the city is to reverse the decline of city streets.

“I think we have unconsciously deferred maintenance,” he said. “We haven’t been putting enough money into that. (Former City Manager) Larry Groth told us that before he left. But the longer we wait, the more expensive the fixes become. It’s going to be expensive, but there’s no way we can neglect one of our greatest assets.”

He said the city has been spending $2 million to $3 million a year on street maintenance but needs to at least double that amount.

Cervantes declined an interview for this story, citing time pressures.

Cervantes works as an administrator with the Center for Excellence for Research on Returning War Veterans at the Doris Miller VA Center. He and his wife, Kris, are raising a family in the Cedar Ridge neighborhood near McLennan Community College.

In an interview in early April with the Tribune-Herald editorial board, he said he would provide a fresh perspective to the council.

“We need to have more people get involved in local government, more diversity in local government,” he said. “And I’ve kept saying, ‘Why aren’t there more people? Why aren’t there more Hispanics on the board?’ And then it dawned on me: ‘Why not me?’ And so it’s got to a point of put up or shut up.”

Cervantes said the police shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man in Ferguson, Missouri, was a “catalyst” to get involved in city issues.

Cervantes said the recent racial tensions in Ferguson and other parts of the country should be cause for discussions here about community policing.

“Every city has the opportunity to have an event like Ferguson,” he said. “Waco is not immune. We’ve had them in the past. I just want to make sure that everything we’re doing now — I mean, we need to try to mitigate those situations. And having that voice from the outside say something different and raise a different thought and ask a different sort of question is vitally important.”

Policing efforts

Cervantes had no criticisms of Waco police but said he would like to see more efforts to engage police with neighborhoods.

Deaver said he agrees with the importance of good relations between police and minority communities.

“I feel like our police department does a good job reaching out to those communities,” he said. “I have not heard complaints from members of those communities. I think we would be hearing that if we weren’t addressing it properly. . . . I have complete confidence in our chief. I think he does a very good job communicating.”

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