With a pair of hotly-contested city council races coming to a head in the May 10 election, the announcement that a pair of candidate forums have been scheduled comes as welcome news.
The Van Alstyne Chamber of Commerce will sponsor two forums on April 14 and April 28 at Grayson College’s south campus, 1455 W. Van Alstyne Parkway. The forums will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The May 10 election will feature six candidates squaring off for two city council seats. A third seat, that of Place 3, has already been decided as Robert Jaska is running unopposed. Jaska was appointed to Council in January to serve out the remaining term of former alderman John Jennings, who moved out of the city.
In Place 1, incumbent Kaaren Teuber will face off against Larry Cooper, James Lewis and Sandy Hill. Teuber has served on the Van Alstyne City Council for two years while Cooper is throwing his hat in the ring for the first time, as is Lewis and Hill.
In Place 2, incumbent Jim Smith has re-filed and will square off against Timmerle Kelly. Smith is in his third term on Council, while Kelly ran for mayor against Teddie Ann Salmon in the 2013 election.
The format of the forums will vary. In the first session on April 14, moderated by Grayson College South Campus Dean Kim Teel, the format will be a standard one with candidates answering submitted questions and those coming from the chamber. In the second forum on April 28, the form will be a roundtable discussion and attendees are invited to bring their own printed questions along with a copy for Chamber president Wendelyn Tilleman, who will be moderating this session. She said she hopes that this type of forum can serve as a respectful question and answer session for both attendees and candidates.
Tilleman told the Leader that these forums come at a key point in time for the city.
"Van Alstyne is on the brink of transformation," said Tilleman, "one that will retain the downtown/small town reputation while congruently becoming a destination for shoppers, diners, musicians and artists, students and families. For the past six months, there has been a tangible positive energy level growing in Van Alstyne — among the businesses, schools, individuals and the various organizations. People are starting to work together and pool ideas as well as resources. This is so very exciting!
"By hosting the Meet the Candidates Forum," added Tilleman, "the Chamber hopes to further this energy by providing a platform for the involvement of VA’s citizens, be it through submitting a question for the Candidates, attending the forums or even watching them on YouTube. But of course the ultimate way to voice your opinion is to vote. Van Alstyne generally has about a 10 percent turnout for local elections. [It’s] time to increase that dismal percentage."
The chamber president added her insight into the minds of Van Alstyne voters.
"The citizens of Van Alstyne, I have noticed, are quite opinionated; some with little or no tolerance for the old ways, others for the new ideas," said Tilleman. "The irony is that the new ideas will actually help to preserve the quaintness of our lovely town. We need to combine both ways of thinking in order for Van Alstyne, and ultimately all of us, to prosper."
Regular voting on May 10 will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Van Alstyne Public Library, 151 W. Cooper St. Early voting will take place at Van Alstyne City Hall from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 28-29 and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 30 - May 6. City Hall is located at 242 E. Jefferson St.