Robinson residents opted for change Tuesday, ousting three long-term veterans of the city council and electing new faces.
Incumbents Mayor Bryan Ferguson, 56; Mayor Pro Tem Rusty Steed, 67; and Councilman E. Warren Johnson, 63, lost their bids for re-election.
Seven people ran for the three at-large council seats. Now that the new members have been elected, the council will appoint the city’s mayor at its meeting immediately following the swearing in for the newly elected members.
New council members include Jimmy Rogers, who received 831 votes, or 21.1 percent; Steve Janics, with 713 votes, or 18.1 percent; and Vernon Leuschner, who received 665 votes, or 16.88 percent.
Challenger Lucy Harper received 557 votes, or 14.14 percent.
The three incumbents finished with the three lowest vote totals.
Ferguson, who has led the city as mayor since 1999 and served on the council since 1996, received 491 votes, or 12.47 percent. Ferguson, a Blue Bell Creamery territory manager, said after the final vote totals came in that he was disappointed in the results.
After more than two decades on the city council, Steed was voted out Tuesday, with 363 votes, or 9.22 percent.
Johnson, who had served 17 years on the city council, lost his bid for re-election with 319 votes, or 8.1 percent.
Throughout McLennan County, 9.25 percent of registered voters cast a ballot Tuesday, or 11,606 people out of 125,418.
Most of the Robinson candidates emphasized the need to improve infrastructure while also attracting commercial development, and residents demonstrated their desire for new people to carry out those goals.
Call for change
The newly elected council members each said residents’ overwhelming decision to overturn the council was an obvious call for change.
Rogers, Panera Bread joint venture general manager in Waco, said election results were a demonstration of residents’ desire for a change in action on the city level.
“Our citizens are very concerned with our street program, and the road construction doesn’t meet their standard,” Rogers said. “Personally, I want to work on economic development to create the commercial tax base we don’t have and compete with other municipalities.”
In late September, residents turned out in force at a public forum, upset over misread water meters and high bills. The 250 to 300 residents also voiced concern with lingering road maintenance issues and faulty sewer lines. The city fired the meter reader responsible for the misread accounts, but residents continued to express frustration with a lack of communication coming out of city hall.
Leaders have emphasized that the city didn’t begin collecting taxes until 1992, and then the rate was only half a cent per $100 of property value, leaving little available for infrastructure improvements.
Leuschner, a co-founder and member of Old West Cowboy Church, and a member of the Texas Equestrian Trailriders Association, said he thinks residents have set the bar high for the new council, and he plans to meet those expectations.
“I attended the city council meeting tonight, and if this city council tonight would have acted (this way) a year ago, the outcome tonight wouldn’t be what it is,” Leuschner said.
Janics, a detective with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office and 25-year veteran of the Waco Police Department, said he has lived in the city more than 30 years and he’s ready to bring a better level of accountability to the council.
“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get working with the rest of the council people, especially the newcomers like myself,” Janics said. “The citizens spoke. They’re tired, I guess, of the same old politics and wanted to see change.”