New Kyle Mayor Lucy Johnson, who won 52.6 percent of the vote in a special election Saturday night. Photo by Lance Duncan.
KYLE — Just 18 months after winning her first election to fill the unexpired term of a resigning Kyle city councilmember, 26-year-old Lucy Johnson took the mayor’s seat in a special election Saturday.
Johnson defeated Mayor Pro Tem Michelle Lopez, 529 to 476, to fill the remainder of Mike Gonzalez’s mayoral term. That term expires in May 2011.
Gonzalez resigned to run for Hays County Precinct 2 Commissioner as a Republican. Gonzalez is opposed in the March 2 primary by Hays CISD Trustee Mark Jones.
“I feel really thankful to my supporters because I know that tonight was only possible through them and their hard work,” Johnson said soon after her victory was official. “It was their determination that got me elected tonight, and I know that now I have to work hard for them and the people of Kyle.”
A Kyle-area native and graduate of Hays High School, Johnson joined the Kyle City Council in August 2008, winning the majority vote in a four-way race. She won the unexpired term of former Councilmember Mike Moore, who resigned to spend more time with his family. Johnson won the full three-year term outright without an opponent in May 2009.
Immediately on joining the council, Johnson jumped into the budgeting fray, contesting expenditures large and small as the city raised its tax rate 10.24 cents.
Johnson’s election could signal belt tightening by the city, which has raised its property tax rate more than 50 percent — from 27.07 cents per $100 of taxable value to 42.4 cents — in two years. More than half of the tax rate, 24.1 cents, is earmarked to service the city’s $73 million of indebtedness for more than a dozen big-ticket items.
In recent years, the city has discussed another $30 in debt to build a $20 million recreation center, along with a police station and a library. Johnson has said the rec center probably is too rich for the city’s blood right now, while Lopez has advocated at least putting the question before voters. The city has not yet called a bond election on any of the projects.
Lopez, who resigned her at-large Place 1 council seat to run for mayor, will remain in her position until May, when her term expires. Lopez was not required to resign because less than a year remained in her term when she announced her run for mayor last month. Lopez could remain on the council without interruption if she wins the election for her seat in May.
Lopez could not be reached to comment on the outcome of the mayoral race or to say if she plans to run for her seat again in May.
The Kyle City Council also will seat two new members as a result of Saturday’s election. Kyle native Jaime Sanchez won a majority vote in a four-way race for Johnson’s at-large Place 5 seat, which she resigned to run for mayor. In a race for Councilmember Ray Bryant’s Place 6 seat, which represents the eastern portions of Kyle, local banker Russ Heubner defeated Planning and Zoning Commissioner Rhonda Cox in a close count.
Sanchez won his election with 473 out of 951 votes cast. Kyle firefighter Mike Fulton finished second with 403 votes. Two other candidates — Jon Claeton and John Simmang — each received less than five percent of the votes cast. Claeton finished with 43 votes, while Simmang claimed 22 votes. Sanchez will fill out Johnson’s term, which expires in May 2012.
Sanchez ran unsuccessfully for the Kyle City Council in 2006, while he was suing the city over a piece of downtown property that he purchased at a tax foreclosure sale in 2003. When Sanchez began fencing the property, the city showed him maps indicating that the property belonged to Kyle and ordered him to stop.
Sanchez sued the city and won a settlement for $35,000, arguing that the city could do no better than produce a plat from 1883 and a map from 1968, and that the city collected taxes on the property for decades before he purchased it.
Huebner defeated Cox, 170 to 156, in the city’s eastern district. Heubner will fill the remainder of Bryant’s term, which expires in 2012. Bryant resigned to run for Hays County Precinct 2 commissioner in the Democratic primary, for which he has no opponent.Email | Print