Wilbert Austin

Wilbert Austin meets with a resident at the Bledsoe Miller Community Center in 2010.

Four District 1 residents have filed to complete the term of Councilman Wilbert Austin, who stepped aside this week for health reasons.

They include Waco Main Street manager Andrea Barefield and three candidates who have run against Austin for the District 1 seat in the past.

Roy Dell Walthall, a retired McLennan Community College professor who lives in the Timbercrest neighborhood, ran for the seat in 2006, when Austin won his first election. Mark Shaw, a real estate manager, ran for the seat in 2004 and challenged Austin last year.

Cecil McDowell, an East Waco cafe owner, challenged Austin in the 2014 election, winning about 25 percent of the vote.

Barefield, who grew up in Waco as daughter of former councilwoman and Mayor Mae Jackson, returned two years ago to head the city’s new Texas Main Street program. That program, administered through the Texas Historical Commission, is intended to support economic development and historic preservation in Texas downtowns.

Barefield is employed by City Center Waco, which the city helped create to implement its Imagine Waco Plan for Greater Downtown. City Center Waco gets $310,000 a year from the city of Waco through a development contract.

The filing deadline for the seat is 5 p.m. June 2. The Waco City Council is set to interview candidates at the 3 p.m. work session at its June 6 meeting and could swear in the winning candidate at its 6 p.m. business session.

The selected candidate will fill out the remaining one year of Austin’s two-year term. The district includes East Waco as well as the Cameron Park, McLennan Community College, Texas State Technical College, Timbercrest and far South Waco areas.

Austin, 76, a pastor and 11-year council member who has been fighting a resurgent stomach cancer, submitted his resignation Wednesday to Mayor Kyle Deaver. The council will hold a reception for Austin at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Waco Convention Center’s McLennan Hall.

For more information on the vacant District 1 seat, stop by the city secretary’s office at City Hall or call 750-5750.

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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