Hewitt election ward map (copy)

This map of shows the boundaries of Hewitt’s wards.

Hewitt City Council candidates Erica Bruce and Betty Orton are headed to a runoff election after none of the eight candidates secured at least 50.01 percent of the votes.

A runoff date is tentatively set for Dec. 15 to fill the at-large position.

Bruce received 1,406 votes, or 32.7 percent, and Orton received 805, or 18.7 percent.

The term for the seat ends in May.

Bruce, 43, is a toxicologist and medical researcher at Baylor University.

“I’m overwhelmed by the support that I’ve received. My supporters came out to the polls and voted and I’m really thankful for that,” she said. “I hope that they will continue to support me and support the change that we need in Hewitt.”

She has said she has the ability to think critically, solve problems and listen to residents’ concerns.

Bruce has been an active participant in council meetings for the past 18 months and has publicly called for Mayor Ed Passalugo and council member James Vidrine to resign in response to multiple complaints city employees have filed against them.

She also is the only candidate of the eight who filed a campaign finance report with the city, which shows contributions from Mayor Pro Tem Steve Fortenberry.

Orton said Tuesday night that she believes her experience in working with the city makes her the best person to sit on the council. Orton, 81, retired in 1998 after working as Hewitt city secretary for 19 years. She also served six months as interim city manager in 1983. Orton said she is a conservative who does not want to see taxes increased. She said she wants to build up the city’s reserves and ensure residents know how their tax dollars are being spent.

“I’m going to give it the best shot I can and hopefully I can pick up some of these other voters and candidates,” she said. “I’ve got to get busy.”

Former council member Kurt Krakowian resigned the position in July. The resignation came five months after the council appointed him to the at-large position vacated when Alex Snider moved out of the city for work in March.

The list of candidates also included Royal Bradley; Lloyd Coffman; Paula Smith; Kathy Krakowian, wife of former council member Kurt Krakowian; Lisa Hepple-Martinez; and A.C. “Tony” Martinez, husband of Lisa Hepple-Martinez.

Bradley got 95 votes; Coffman got 468 votes; Smith got 320 votes; Krakowian got 398 votes; Lisa Hepple-Martinez got 299 votes; and A.C. “Tony” Martinez received 509 votes.

There were 4,300 people in Hewitt who cast a ballot in the race and 1,715 who under voted, which means the resident had the chance to make a selection and chose not to.

Most of the eight candidates who ran for the vacant seat said their interest in politics was ignited by turmoil in recent months that started after a city employee filed a complaint against a council member.

More city employees have filed complaints since mid-May against Passalugo, Vidrine and former council member Kurt Krakowian.

The election came the day after contentious matters continued in the city. The city council, in a 4-2 vote, agreed Monday to a mutual separation agreement with its longtime city manager, Adam Miles. Miles is one of the city employees who filed complaints against the mayor and Kurt Krakowian. Miles left his position immediately and will receive an $88,000 settlement, of which, $33,000 will be paid by the city’s risk pool, the Texas Municipal League.

Hewitt elections are typically held in May and with much smaller turnouts.

There has not been a Hewitt council election since 2015 because candidates have run unopposed. Just 168 people voted in May 2015, 1.97 percent of registered voters in the city.

A 2012 election was canceled because of a lack of opponents, and in 2011, 346 residents, or 4.16 percent of voters, cast their ballot.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.

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