Two political newcomers are contending for the Precinct 2 Bellmead City Council seat on May 9, one with the backing of the current councilman, the other with backing from a rival council member.
Travis Gibson, 43, is running at the urging of Precinct 2 Councilman Kevin Wilson, who is stepping down after seven years.
Gibson, a special education aide and coach at Carver Middle School, is facing Oralia “Marty” Hernandez, 50, a substitute teacher. She was urged to run by Councilman Gary Moore, who has clashed with Wilson on various issues.
Two other seats on the ballot are uncontested. Alfreda Love, 37, a school administrator, is the only candidate to replace Precinct 1 Councilman Carlos Luna. Doss Youngblood, the Precinct 5 incumbent, is unopposed.
In this city of 10,000, where elections often only draw a few dozen voters, Hernandez and Gibson are focusing on personal interactions with neighbors in their eastern Bellmead precinct.
“With my dad, I learned that you have to get out and do grassroots campaigning, going door to door,” Gibson said, referring to longtime McLennan County Commissioner Lester Gibson. “When I got out and started talking to people, they tell me they’re glad I’m running. . . . I want to be a person who can answer questions for them and get them more involved in city council meetings.”
Gibson said he didn’t hesitate long when Wilson called him and asked him to run.
“I’ve been around politics since I was about 10 or 12 years old, and I always thought about doing that, representing the community. . . . I want to continue to see Bellmead grow. It’s a great place to live,” he said.
Gibson, a father of five, said he has been involved in the community by coaching Pop Warner football and serving on Bellmead’s Building Standards Commission.
Wilson, who appointed Gibson to the commission, said he did “an excellent job.”
Wilson himself said he is stepping down to focus his time on his role as a board member of the Rapoport Academy charter school. He acknowledged that he has been frustrated at the council’s lack of interest in improving the appearance of Bellmead.
For example, last year the council overturned a ban on using 18-wheelers for storage on roadways, despite Wilson’s objections.
“Other folks are more interested in leaving things the way they are and think things don’t need to be cleaned up,” he said.
Councilman Gary Moore not only opposed Wilson on that issue but at the same meeting accused him of improperly meeting with a former city manager.
Hernandez said she sees Moore as one who listens to citizens. She said she, too, is for improving the city’s appearance and code enforcement.
“We need to clean up Bellmead,” she said. “We need to work more on bringing business in to enhance the economy. . . . We have too many people who don’t keep up their property, and too many animals roaming the street.”
She said she wants the city to continue pushing for the cleanup of junkyards along Bellmead Drive, which she sees as a deterrent to enticing new businesses to town.
“When you come into Bellmead, what’s the first thing you see? A junkyard,” she said. “This has been an issue for many years.”
Hernandez said that as a member of the city’s park board, she has been involved with plans for new park development.
Hernandez said her life experience raising children as a single working mother has prepared her to listen to people’s concerns and solve problems.
“I’m a strong believer that you have to be part of the solution,” she said.
Hernandez said the council needs someone like her who can speak Spanish and reach out to Bellmead’s large Hispanic population.
“There’s a lot of Hispanic culture in Bellmead,” she said. “A lot of them don’t get heard, and a lot of elderly people are afraid to speak out. I’m encouraging them to be involved.”
A 2013 Census report estimated that Bellmead is 17.5 percent black, about 38 percent Hispanic and 42 percent non-Hispanic white.