San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

August 10th, 2008
Johnson laps field in four-way Kyle council race

New Kyle Councilmember Lucy Johnson

New Kyle Councilmember Lucy Johnson

By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large

 

 

KYLE – Native daughter Lucy Johnson pulled off an unlikely electoral victory Saturday, attracting a majority vote in a four-way race to earn a seat on the Kyle City Council.

Needing a clear majority to thwart a September run-off election, Johnson took 191 votes out of 379 votes cast in the citywide race to fill the unexpired term of former Councilmember Mike Moore, who resigned in April.

“It was a lot of hard work,” Johnson said. “I have a great team, so many people knocking on doors and getting people out to vote, especially on Election Day.”

Johnson, 24, won on the strength of her local roots as the daughter of Kyle philanthropists Bill and Kate Johnson. Despite being young and single, the life-long Kyle resident trounced three older, married men who have all lived in Kyle for three years or less.

“I might be young, but I’ve definitely had the most years in Kyle,” Johnson said. “I’ve worked hard on this, going to the city council meetings and preparing for this role.”

Chad Benninghoff, a Brackenridge nurse, finished second with 90 votes, less than half as many as Johnson. Ron Barrera, an employee in the state comptroller’s office, came in third with 63 votes. Bob Straub, a retired mortgage broker who has lived in Kyle for a year, took 35 votes.

Straub had expected to take enough votes to enter a run-off election approaching Saturday’s polling, but he conceded late last week that whispers about his former employment with two mortgage companies that have encountered regulatory trouble cost him votes.

The Kyle City Council will canvass the election results on Aug. 19, with Johnson formally joining the council on Sept. 2.

Johnson will take her position just in time for the city council to set its tax rate and budget for Fiscal Year 2008-09 on Sept. 16. Between now and then, Johnson said, she will study the budget and try to find recommendations that would enable the city to forego at least part of a proposed eight-cent property tax rate increase.

“I think, at this point, a tax increase is very likely,” Johnson said. “My goal is to cut that down to size. I want to spend these next few weeks going through the budget, meeting with (City Manager) Tom Mattis and finding out what can be done.”

Johnson said transportation and public safety issues were closest to the lips of Kyle voters as she walked the campaign trail. A recent crime spree on Center Street, along with a number of car burglaries, has brought police staffing to the center of Kyle’s policy debates.

“When someone has their car broken into, everyone in the neighborhood wants to talk about it,” Johnson said.

The proposed budget includes 12 new police officers beyond the 19 presently employed by the city. The officers would bring the Kyle Police Department up to 31, about one per 1,000 city residents. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the average for cities with between 25,000 and 50,000 residents is 1.8.

Johnson also is concerned about the city’s escalating debt service, which accounts for more than half of the city’s proposed 35-cent property tax rate. The city council recently approved a $35.5 million five-year capital improvement plan, which doesn’t include frequently discussed items like a recreational center ($18-20 million), a library ($4-5 million) and a police station ($4-5 million).

“I see that five-year plan as more of a wish list than what I would think would be a realistic list of five-year goals,” Johnson said.

Johnson is a graduate of Hays High School and the Parson School of Design in New York.

The election drew not even five percent of Kyle’s 9,100 registered voters. Johnson’s seat, an at-large position, will go back up for election in May 2009.

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