Election Time: Frenship school board, Wolfforth and Lubbock city candidates share views

With Frenship Independent School District Board of Trustees, Wolfforth City Council and Lubbock City Council candidates vying for several available seats, frenshiptoday.com got the candidates’ views on various issues facing Frenship citizens.

FISD board candidates

What are the top three things you hope to accomplish if elected?

  • Ken Gassiot: · Work toward establishing Frenship ISD as the premiere school district in the state of Texas.
    — Immediately address the growth needs of the district, particularly in facilities and staffing.
    — Consider all internal cost cutting means available to raise teacher salaries.

  • Michelle Kiser:
    — Prepare to expand the growing school population by possibly creating a magnet school, another high school or consider other options available.
    — Assist in creating the strategic plan which lays out plans for the next five years.
    — I would like to research the teacher salary and see where we can raise the teacher salary with the budget that we currently use.

  • Troy Vanderburg:
    — I would like to foster an environment that continues to pursue excellence and does not accept mediocrity.
    — I would like for the district to make a plan that it will be able to follow to accommodate the next 10 to 15 years of growth. This plan will have to address facilities, staffing, and how to keep students actively engaged and involved as individuals in a district with a large enrollment.
    — I want to provide the best possible education to every student, provide excellent benefits and salaries to all of our staff, while being a good steward of the tax payer’s dollar.

    Do you attend school board meetings now? If so, how often?

  • Ken Gassiot: I currently am not attending school board meetings, but stay current with school board happenings via meeting minutes.
  • Michelle Kiser: Currently, I do not attend school board meetings.
  • Troy Vanderburg: Yes. I have attended every regularly scheduled board meeting since I filed my candidacy. Before I changed careers and became a banker I worked as either the chief financial officer or business manager for three school districts, including Frenship. I am very familiar with how a school board operates, what the members are empowered to do, and what their limitations are. I am also very familiar with the legalities that are involved in serving on the board. I am fortunate that my previous career would allow me to transition into a spot on the school board with a minimal learning curve.

    What would cause you to consider raising taxes?

  • Ken Gassiot: Raising taxes is an issue that is not preferable, unless it involves doing so for the educational benefit of students and also involves comprehensive community input. Those reasons include, but are not limited to, construction of new facilities, hiring of additional staff to enhance our learning environments, and addressing issues that involve the wellness and safety of our students. The entire community should be involved in the consideration of a special election or bond election that would increase taxes on our community. Public and open meetings should be held over a period of time and offered at various intervals to allow our community to understand the reasons and justifications for such action. Finally, the community should receive communication by a variety of means to participate in such conversations.
  • Michelle Kiser: I would consider raising taxes if the district’s debt service increase dramatically where the district is unable to sustain payment.
  • Troy Vanderburg: I do not, and don’t believe that any rational person wants to raise taxes. Raising taxes would only be a choice when all other viable options are exhausted. The state used to determine how much money it would send a school based upon what was called the “tax effort” of the district. If a funding mechanism like the one that used to exist is again enacted by the legislature, one that requires local taxes to be raised in order to maximize state funds, then I would consider it at that point.

    If you were forced to make budget cuts because of state problems, what specifically would you do?

  • Ken Gassiot:
    — Internally reduce expenses within administration and at all schools.
    — Eliminate unfilled positions.
    — Reduce or eliminate professional development funds and travel expenses.
    — Reorganize or consolidate staffing.
    — Streamline communication costs.
    — Reduce or eliminate non-required courses.
    — Actively seek grant funding.
    — Forgo pay raises for all levels of employment, including administration.

  • Michelle Kiser: I would first look to see how the money is being spent and see if the money is being spent responsibly. I would then make a decision based on the information obtained. I believe that one should research where money is being used before making budget cuts.
  • Troy Vanderburg: In a district the size of Frenship there is constantly employee turnover. In most any business or organization, personnel costs are the largest line item in the budget. As a position becomes vacant I would make sure that we are looking at that opening to see if we truly need to fill it or can absorb it with existing personnel. I would not be willing to leave any position unfilled that is going to negatively impact students. I would ask the district to prioritize items based upon the impact that their loss would have on students. The items with the least impact on students would be cut first.

    Current Frenship school board members have stated that increasing teacher pay is their primary goal. Is this a top goal for you?

  • Ken Gassiot: Absolutely!
  • Michelle Kiser: Yes, it is a goal that I think needs to be considered.
  • Troy Vanderburg: This is a goal of mine. Frenship teachers are paid less than many of our competing districts. Frenship has had great success in many areas and I think that the pay of our staff ought to be reflective of this success. In my experience it is usually less expensive to pay more to keep good people than it is to hire new folks and try to get them to the level of performance you desire. Usually by the time you spend the money in hiring, training and developing the new person, you have lost productivity and expended more funds than would have been spent to retain the employee who left for more money in the first place.

    Frenship High School’s student population is growing. Should the district build another high school, or should the district continue adding on to the current school?

  • Ken Gassiot: In my opinion, Frenship needs to consider building another high school, simply because this option holds the greatest potential for long-term planning. It would prevent overcrowding at Frenship High School and ease the burden of those teachers and students. Frenship ISD is one of the fastest growing school districts in Texas. To continue with that growth and meet the long term goals of the district, plans should include looking closely and strongly at a new high school.
  • Michelle Kiser: I think there are many options that could be considered. Of course building another high school is an easy one, but I do believe that all options need to be considered and the pros and cons for each should be addressed. A decision should be made based on the strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of each option. I would base my decision on the information provided.
  • Troy Vanderburg: I am reluctant to build another high school for two reasons. First, the costs associated with building and staffing another high school are incredibly high. You have to build second athletic facilities, administrative offices, and specialty classrooms such as science labs. These are all quite expensive. Then you have to hire administrative personnel to support the school and these positions are costly.
    The other reason that I would be reluctant to build a second high school is because I think it could potentially divide a community. The school district should be a “unifier” and should be something that the community as a whole supports and takes pride in. As the Bible states and as Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I really want the school to be a unifying force in our community.

    What is your opinion about new Superintendent David Vroonland?

  • Ken Gassiot: Dr. Vroonland appears to me as an innovative and in touch administrator. He holds insight and experience on how to grow Frenship ISD. He is an available and present administrator who understands how schools work. He believes in involving the community and works at building relationships.
  • Michelle Kiser: I believe that he is an asset to Frenship ISD and has good ideas on how the school district can grow. He has great experience from Allen ISD and I truly believe that he will lead Frenship into the next leading school district.
  • Troy Vanderburg: I think that David Vroonland is a sincere person who truly wants Frenship to be better than any other school district. He strikes me as intelligent and very well organized. He seems to be the type of leader that lets a person do their job but will hold them accountable if they do not perform to the required standard. I know for a fact that he personally visits each campus routinely and actively engages with students, teachers and staff. My opinion is quite favorable.

    Who are your major supporters?

  • Ken Gassiot: Financially, I am being supported by friends and family. I have not accepted financial donations from any business. I have involved those in my campaign that have a vested interest and whose sole priority is kids.
  • Michelle Kiser: The major supporters for my campaign are my family and friends. Without their support, I would not be able to continue my goal of becoming part of the Frenship School Board.
  • Troy Vanderburg: I don’t think that my support comes from any one segment of our community. I have friends and acquaintances who work for the school and who work in the private sector. Many of my friends have degrees and are professionals. Many of my friends do not have degrees and are not in management positions. I have three kids and they attend school at all levels of the district; high school, middle school, and elementary. The parents whom I talk to and know at all the schools are quite supportive. The staff members that I know and talk to within the district are very supportive. The fellow members of the Frenship Foundation Board that I serve on have been very supportive. I really believe that my support comes from all segments of our district.

    Wolfforth City Council candidates

    What are the top three things you hope to accomplish if elected?

  • Charles Addington: I want to continue to be proactive in solving the problems that this wonderful city faces. We have a tradition of excellence and I feel I have been able to contribute to that over the past 10 years. We have been a leading city in the surrounding area and I want to diligently continue to support that.
    I want to continue to try and foster growth in the city, not only residential but commercial also. We have to rely on residential taxes a tremendous amount and we have been pushing to increase our commercial tax base.
    I want to continue to support the needed emergency services in our community. Our police, fire and EMS, and maintenance departments are outstanding and trying to improve daily and I want to support that.

  • Dan Newberry:
    — Continue to improve and add water and sewer resources as needed to stay on top of city growth. We also must continually plan for future water needs.
    — Continue to make sure emergency services are the best we can provide for our citizens.
    — Work to support business and housing growth in Wolfforth.

  • April Whiting:
    — I will be accessible to citizens, listen to their concerns and be their voice on the Council. By phone or e-mail, in the grocery store, at a soccer game, or out by the mailbox, I hope people will know my face and my name and come to me to discuss city issues such as trash and snow removal and street signs. I am a people person. Often we don’t know who to go to with these issues.
    — I will encourage residents to be involved in improving their neighborhoods by meeting and watching out for each other. Neighborhood groups can bring about great things for the community, as we saw in the funding and building of Frenship Mesa Park by neighborhood residents (for which we won a “Neighborhood of the Year” award in 2009).
    — I will encourage a bigger turnout for city elections — such as the one upcoming. Out of over 3,500 residents in Wolfforth, about 150 people vote in municipal elections. More people should be involved in the political process, with clear information about where and when to vote.

    Outside of your own neighborhood, what problems does the city face?

  • Charles Addington: I believe currently we have to rely on residential taxes and we need commercial businesses. We have tremendous budget constraints and we must continue to be financially prudent but never let our essential services falter. Our citizens have grown accustom to be taken care of to a high degree and we support that.
    We must continue to revitalize our community by supporting and improving our whole town. We must push to revive our older parts of town and help in any manner possible to accomplish not letting our city seem divided.
    A problem we face that is essential is our need to continue to provide infrastructure and maintain it while the city grows.

  • Dan Newberry: Staying up to date and ahead of city growth as it occurs.
    Also future water needs must be continually looked at and planned for.

  • April Whiting:
    — Generating revenue through attracting more local businesses to Wolfforth.
    — Improving the quality of our water.

    What would cause you to consider raising taxes?

  • Charles Addington: I, as well as all the other councilmen, do not like to raise taxes. If you look at cities in our region and cities our size, we have tried to be diligent in maintaining a low tax rate. With this being said, if the essential functions of our community are not being met, our employees are not being taken care of, and/or growth is not being supported then we must do what is necessary and prudent.
  • Dan Newberry: In order to maintain the high level of services available to our citizens and businesses, additional taxes should be considered to help Wolfforth stay on the cutting edge of positive growth.
  • April Whiting: There is very little that would cause me to favor more taxes. With our economy still in recovery, people struggle financially. It would have to significantly benefit every citizen of Wolfforth.

    Where does the city need to invest in its infrastructure? Prioritize your top three areas.

  • Charles Addington: Our water and sewer needs are paramount. We have updated a tremendous amount of infrastructure in the past three years and have managed to stay ahead of our current growth. The problems with our water quality are being addressed with a long range initiative and we have finished a new sewer lift station.
    We must continue to provide for and encourage excellence in our emergency services
    We must continue to be proactive in evaluating our water and finding additional sources to obtain water.

  • Dan Newberry:
    — Water and sewer needs and requirements.
    — Adequate space for our emergency services programs.
    — Providing adequate work space for our city staff and workers.

  • April Whiting:
    — Making a specific plan to improve the quality of our water.
    — Roads, sewer, and utility lines — these are a necessity for all residents.
    — Maintaining the beauty of our three parks, library, and other city properties.
    I want to learn more about these issues from experienced city officials. I have an open mind and am a quick learner. Infrastructure is a complicated issue; we need informed workers to make wise choices with tax dollars.

    Wolfforth is expected to continue growing. What problems will the city face with this growth?

  • Charles Addington: With growth comes infrastructure problems. We must continue to be positive in our efforts to grow and again be proactive in efforts to not only maintain infrastructure but establishing new infrastructure. The financial constraints that we face on a daily basis must be prudently evaluated while never impeding growth. With growth comes the need for new water towers, miles of pipe, streets and street maintenance, emergency services, wells and pumps, vehicles and engineering, all of which cost money but are essential.
  • Dan Newberry:
    — Present and future needs as related to infrastructure and making sure these are in place when required.
    — Staying on top of staffing needs as our city continues to grow.

  • April Whiting: Expanded city services: sewage, water, road maintenance, emergency services — police and firemen. However, I see growth as a chance for positive effects like job opportunities, tax revenue, and new voices in the community for positive change — something to look forward to.

    What should the city be doing now to prepare for growth?

  • Charles Addington: I believe that all of the answers to the questions above are preparing for growth. We must be aggressive in our efforts to grow our commercial base and support our residential base. We need to continue to establish our relationships with businesses and builders and foster in kind relationships that benefit our city. We need to be prudently looking at our investments and maximizing our finances to support growth.
  • Dan Newberry:
    — Looking ahead and putting in place adequate water and sewer resources.
    — Consider and plan for future water needs for our city.

  • April Whiting:
    — Project a positive environment that would attract businesses and individuals to Wolfforth, such as the Harvest Festival put on by the Chamber of Commerce each fall.
    — Continue to clean up and revitalize areas of town that are rundown.
    — Look forward to and plan for future growth in all areas: businesses, homes, emergency and police services, infrastructure.
    — Public Relations: a greater connection between citizens and city officials will make a better transition for new move-ins to Wolfforth.

    Who are your major supporters?

  • Charles Addington:
    City of Wolfforth Employees
    Wolfforth Police Department
    Wolfforth Fire and EMS
    Many old friends and employees of Frenship ISD

  • Dan Newberry: I would hope that Wolfforth citizens as a whole are supportive of what I have and am doing as a city councilman.
  • April Whiting: Residents in the Frenship Mesa Neighborhood, my husband Jason, my children and my friends. People have expressed enthusiasm to have a new voice on the council and in our city government, and the unique perspective of a woman and a mother of six. I hope that even people I haven’t met will become my supporters, and that I can represent them well.

    Lubbock City Council candidates, District 5

    What are the top three things you hope to accomplish if elected?

  • Karen Gibson: Make sure the Bond projects that were voted on in November are completed in a timely manner and as economically as possible. I will do all I can to promote stronger code enforcement in all areas. I believe Lubbock is one city and although we have 6 districts represented, we should all work together.
  • Stephan Lampman:
    — Change the way the city deals with small businesses. About 90 percent of small businesses in Lubbock are not allowed to display what they sell in their own parking lot. About 10 percent can display everything they sell in their parking lot.
    — Taxes need to be lowered for businesses and all that live in Lubbock especially in district 5.
    — The city needs to stop hireling Dallas based companies to do feasibility studies. The city council is the one hired by the citizen to make decisions, not a Dallas-based company.

    Do you atttend City Council meetings now? If so, how often?

  • Karen Gibson: I attend City Council meetings regularly.
  • Stephan Lampman: I attend about two meetings a year.

    Which council member are you most like and why?

  • Karen Gibson: I am not like any of them. I am my own person.
  • Stephan Lampman: None. I am my own person.

    What would cause you to consider raising taxes?

  • Karen Gibson: It would have to be a last resort. I would have exhausted all other means to raise revenues and cut budgets to the minimum.
  • Stephan Lampman: A major catastrophe that affects district 5.

    Are you comfortable with what the city has done to secure a long-term water supply?

  • Karen Gibson: Yes, I am very comfortable with the plan that the city has in place.
  • Stephan Lampman: Yes.

    Where does the city need to invest in infrastructure? Prioritize you top three areas.

  • Karen Gibson:
    — Public Safety. We are chronically short of our budgeted police officers and we can’t hope to cut a growing crime rate without more police.
    — Streets. We have new development in areas of our city that need streets and MANY streets that are in need of repair.
    — Water. The ongoing project to bring water from Lake Alan Henry and underground water from the Panhandle are important, as well as stronger conservation efforts.

  • Stephan Lampman: Small business. Keep your hands off of LPL. Taxes over burdening the residents in district 5.

    What’s the city’s role in balancing the needs of residents and students in Tech Terrace?

  • Karen Gibson: The police department should be called if there is a loud party or disturbance in any neighborhood. The city should also provide the name and address so the complainant can contact the property owner if the actions are of renters. If the problem continues then the city should take every action the law allows. Property owners should not have to live in fear of out-of-control neighbors.
  • Stephan Lampman: The laws on the books need to be enforced. No new laws are needed.

    What are your thoughts on downtown redevelopment?

  • Karen Gibson: We can’t just let it continue to decay. I support the current plan to use tax dollars for planning and infrastructure replacement, which will encourage the private sector to rebuild our central business district.
  • Stephan Lampman: Small businesses need to be given incentives to move into developing areas.

    What are your thoughts about how the issue of the animal shelter was handled?

  • Karen Gibson: I think the controversies showed this to be an example of what happens when the council takes action before listening to impacted neighborhoods.
  • Stephan Lampman: Was handled badly. A new facility was needed and when open will do a great service for Lubbock.

    What are your thoughts about LP&L buying Xcel?

  • Karen Gibson: Philosophically I like government to stay out of business that the private sector handles just fine. From what I understand, XCEL was for sale and was going to be purchased by someone. With LP&L purchasing XCEL, the city has taken a step to control our own destiny rather than someone else.
  • Stephan Lampman: This was a good thing for Lubbock and will benefit the city.

    What should be up for city charter review and what shouldn’t?

  • Karen Gibson: I have read the charter and understand that there are some confusing phrases and wording that may need clarification. I don’t have any problems with the way our Charter states that the City is to be governed.
  • Stephan Lampman: The city charter is an important part of Lubbock, and should be changed only if citizens of Lubbock desire a change in how it is written. At this time I find very few people in district 5 interested in changing the charter.
    Those I have spoken with said LPL should be allowed to function without competition.

    Do you support or oppose a free-standing visitor center?

  • Karen Gibson: I would have to weigh the cost with the potential income to our city, but as a representative of the voters I would listen to my district as well as the visitors industry regarding whether this would be good use of sales tax dollars.
  • Stephan Lampman: I am opposed to a free standing visitor’s center, as it would be a waste of taxpayer money. We have a great chamber of commerce doing a good job as a visitor’s center.

    What is your opinion of the Buddy and Maria Elena Holly Park?

  • Karen Gibson: I like the concept but just like all other assessments I would make, I would look at the cost vs. the benefit to the city to make a decision. I would have to do more investigating of this issue to give a final opinion.
  • Stephan Lampman: Good idea if no taxpayer monies are used.

    Do you support or oppose saving the Jerry Allison house and moving it to adjacent to the Buddy Holly Center?

  • Karen Gibson: I think this is an idea that needs to be explored to preserve and expand our music heritage infrastructure. I would like to look for private entities that might help to defray costs of projects like this since the city will have to take on the day to day maintenance.
  • Stephan Lampman: I support the opening of the house to the public as it would bring in many more visitors every month including many foreign visitors.

    Who are your major supporters?

  • Karen Gibson: I have talked to numerous people in Lubbock and consider any and all support major, from the smallest donation to the person that honors me with his or her vote.
  • Stephan Lampman: My only supporters are private individuals. I am not supported by any special interest groups.
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