As they prepare to take office on May 11, the three new members of the Denton City Council say voters in their districts want more access to their representatives.
“The biggest issues I was hearing about is that they really wanted more response,” Brian Beck said. “A lot of it was they didn’t feel like they knew what was going on, whether it was road construction or seeing trees disappear. I campaigned on responsive government, and that’s what they want.”
On Saturday, Beck defeated Connie Baker, the candidate filling the unexpired term of Keely Briggs in District 2 after winning a runoff against Ronnie Anderson in December. Beck also beat a third candidate, Daniel Clanton, on Saturday. District 1 council member Gerard Hudspeth had defeated Briggs in a mayoral runoff in December, vacating District 1.
“What I found in District 1 is that we don’t have many voters,” Vicki Byrd said. “So we knew the numbers going in would be less than 1,000 people. We targeted 1,000 people, and it looks like they all came out to vote.”
In unofficial results, 819 people cast ballots in that race, with 421 of those votes going to Byrd. Byrd defeated incumbent Birdia Johnson, who had filled Hudspeth’s unexpired term after she defeated George Ferrie Jr. in November, and Matthew Irvine.
“Those we did target were very receptive to the idea of having me as their leader,” Byrd said. “Those 421 voters [for me] were ready for a change. They made their voices heard, and they chose me because I speak their language.”
In District 4, newcomer Alison Maguire said she found similar complaints as Beck in his district.
“I think that District 4 was ready for a change,” she said. “I think that there were a lot of people in this district who weren’t happy with [responsiveness]. And there was a lack of transparency. That’s what I heard from a lot of voters as I spoke to them.”
Maguire defeated two-term incumbent John Ryan.
With Deb Armintor in the at-large Place 5 seat, the council on May 11 will include three women. This will be the first time that has been the case since 2016, when Briggs, Sara Bagheri and Kathleen Wazny were on the council. In 2001, it was Mayor Euline Brock, Roni Beasley and Jane Fulton. The year before that, Brock, Beasley and Sandy Kristoferson were on the council. And in 1997, Brock, Beasley and Kristoferson served.
“But I did not run my campaign on being a woman,” Byrd said. “And I did not run on being an African American. So we’ll just put that right there.”
Asked if they would have done anything differently to win reelection, two of the three council members provided similar answers.
“I’m sure I would have, but not much,” Ryan said. “One of my issues I had is that a flyer was delayed by seven days. So it didn’t make mailboxes until Friday of early voting.”
Johnson simply answered, “Yes.”
“But I’m not ready to talk about that right now,” she said. “I have no regrets, and I will move forward. I think I made quite the impact on the city.”
Baker could not be reached by Monday afternoon.
‘I will welcome them’
The current council — Johnson, Hudspeth, Baker, Jesse Davis, Paul Meltzer, Ryan and Armintor — will remain intact until May 11. The incumbents offered their viewpoints on the new-look council.
“My focus is the tax rate, police and fire service and making sure we can lower our fees, take care of our streets and infrastructure,” Hudspeth said. “I will welcome them in and help them where I can. I’m sure we will agree more than we’ll disagree.”
The mayor also acknowledged the voters’ will.
They “decide if I stay there, and the voters decide who I work with,” Hudspeth said. “And that’s the way it should be. The citizens of Denton make those decisions.”
Meltzer said he looks forward to working with the new council members.
“I’m very excited about the energy they’ve all shown,” he said. “I’m sure they’ll bring fresh perspectives.”
Davis, the city’s mayor pro tem, said he’s “still optimistic for Denton.”
“I know that I have conservative-leaning friends who are worried that the sky is falling and progressive friends feel like a new day is dawning,” Davis said. “Ninety-nine percent of the business of the city has no political slant. It’s about doing what’s best for the taxpayers and keeping the lights on — literally and figuratively. I hope some members of the council very quickly come to the same understanding that business of the city is largely nonpartisan and nonpolitical.”
Armintor said she’s excited about the election results.
“For the first time, we will have a majority of people-first council members representing their constituents.”
Tuesday marks the final meeting for the current council. The work session is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.