The Examiner's Endorsements for city elections and BISD Board of Trustees for 2017

The Examiner's Endorsements for city elections and BISD Board of Trustees for 2017

Early voting kicked off April 24 in Beaumont with just a trickling of its populace turning out to select city leadership. During the first three days of early voting for the May 6 election, just under 2,000 voters made their way to one of Beaumont’s five polling locations – Rogers Park, Beaumont City Hall, Beaumont ISD Administration Building, John Paul Davis Community Center, and Johns Library, with an added roughly 300 mail-in ballots received by election officials. Voter apathy has always been a problem for any election; still, 2,300 voters is just a small percentage of the voting population, and an even more miniscule representation of the tens of thousands of residents who will be affected by the decisions made by those we place in office.  

The last time Beaumont had a municipal election, roughly 6,500 voters cast a ballet in contested races that included the mayor, at-large representation and multiple ward seats. City of Beaumont election results denote that 4,500 voted during early voting.

Even then, few votes separated many contenders. Less than 50 votes separated candidates for Beaumont’s Ward 1 in 2015; and Ward 4 was forced into a run-off election after none of the three candidates garnered majority vote.

Every vote counts, and The Examiner’s endorsement follows.

Mayor Becky Ames

This is a no-brainer. Longtime Mayor Becky Ames is seeking to stay on council in the capacity she’s served the city in for the last 10 years – and we endorse her in that bid for re-election 100 percent.

Mayor Ames has been nothing but good for Beaumont. Since taking over as the head of the dais at Beaumont City Hall, Mayor Ames has led with dignity, passion, and integrity, and has at all times stumped for the good of the people of Beaumont. Which was nothing new – she did the same thing as a councilwoman, a position she held for more than a decade before running for mayor in 2007.

Always calm, cool, and collected, Mayor Ames chairs the City Council with wisdom and patience, and with a genuine effort to see all sides of any proposition. She is an avid supporter of growing Beaumont in all its neighborhoods and has worked with every member of the council to accomplish what needs to be done for the community without petty squabbling with her cohorts.

“It’s another great day in Beaumont,” has become her tagline – and she deserves to wear it as a badge of honor. Because of the leadership of our mayor, Beaumont has seen many great days, and with her at the helm of our city, those days will surely continue.

“For Beaumont’s future,” Ames says, “I hope we continue the progress we have made to keep our city in excellent financial condition, enhance customer service to bring city government closer to our citizens, maintain safety and security throughout the city, continue programs than strengthen our city’s infrastructure, as well as beautification projects to make our city more inviting for residents and visitors.”

Gethrel “Get” Williams-Wright

 At-Large Councilmember Gethrel “Get” Williams-Wright – is endorsed by this newspaper because she is a councilmember that knows who her boss is – the people.

Always serving at-large, Wright has never been one to be accused of favoring any precinct in her charge over the other. Wright has been a strong supporter of funding much-needed city infrastructure repairs and neighborhood upkeep, enhancing the quality of life of all Beaumonters, and standing behind, beside, and in front of our police, fire, and city employees. Wright has earned the endorsements of both the firefighter and police officer unions, without a doubt due to continued and never-wavering endorsement of the work these heroes perform day in and day out to keep the city she serves safe.

We, too, believe Wright has done the job that has been asked of her – and she will continue to work for us, the people, if allowed to continue as an elected councilmember.

“It is my humble, yet ambitious, desire to continue to serve the citizens of our great city,” Wright says, “focusing on infrastructure improvements, economic development and community safety.”

Virginia Jordan

Ward 1 Councilmember – The Examiner endorses Virginia Jordan in her bid because her energy and voracity is something the city of Beaumont could surely use a good dose of.

Along with the tried and true in our endorsements for Mayor and At-large representation, this newcomer offers promise as being a council representative that truly supports the constituency. If she’s half as fierce an advocate for the citizens of Ward 1 as she is for the residents in the Oaks Historic District, the city of Beaumont will benefit from the election of a real people’s champion.

Now retired from a 30-year post at Total Petrochemicals, Jordan is looking for an outlet to parlay her supervisory, financial and social skills – and the city of Beaumont is lucky she has her sights set on working for us. For more than a decade, she has worked to promote and revitalize Beaumont’s Oaks Historic District, which is now the largest historic district in the state of Texas, and has volunteered her time on city boards and commissions, and was instrumental in bringing the Ida Reed Dog Park to the city.

“I’m running because I think there are things I’d like to see run better,” Jordan says. “I want to be part of the solution to bring Beaumont up to be a destination city. Rather than a city that people run through, I want Beaumont to be a place people run TO.”

After the first three days of early voting, less than 5 percent of Beaumont’s registered voters had taken the opportunity to cast a ballot in contentious city and school board elections. Despite this being the first Beaumont ISD Board of Trustees election since long before the Texas Education Agency came in an ousted the last elected school board, there is little excitement to show for voters having the opportunity to do better this time around.

Unfortunately, some of the lackluster momentum of this very momentous election may come from the fact that many races have failed to garner candidates worthy of excited support. At the Beaumont ISD, not all races have produced candidates who have earned this newspaper’s endorsement. Other spots on the BISD ballot are overrun with viable, capable, honorable individuals that make it a tough choice.

These candidates, however, deserve our support, and The Examiner’s endorsement follows.

Mandie Peel

At-Large Trustee

BISD’s Board of Trustees needs a Mandie Peel on its team, and The Examiner whole-heartedly endorses her At-Large candidacy.

Although this race drew the most contenders, with six candidates vying for two at-large seats, Peel stands out.

Mandie Peel deserves the community’s support – not because she’s a mother, not because she’s a smart businesswoman, not because she’s young and energetic, even though all the aforementioned qualities alone would make her the ideal candidate for any school board lucky enough to have her. Peel, though, is much more than the pieces of the whole, and she is what this community needs most right now – a candidate for ALL people.

Her drive to represent the city as a whole rather than one faction of the community is admirable – and she hasn’t been content to stay in one spot in hopes of catching straggling votes citywide, either. Instead, she put her tennis shoes to the pavement in neighborhoods north, south, east, and west to let the voters get to know the woman who is asking the community to let her serve it.

Peel has turned over every rock every voter could be hiding under to reach non-traditional families, non-native English residents, young, old, all races, all religions…

And, this firehouse is not new to community outreach. She has been a strong presence in the community long before she held any political aspirations, and this election is not a spring board for bigger things and loftier offices, but a calling to community service that Peel has chosen to answer for no other reason than to do the right thing because it is in her means to do so. She has shown a passion for serving the Beaumont community through her many volunteering and giving efforts including the Beaumont Children’s Museum, Lamar University, Girls' Haven, The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club, the Symphony League of Southeast Texas, as well as physically and financially supporting many other non-profit organizations in Southeast Texas.

Mandie Peel is an experienced businesswoman, philanthropist, and community organizer; and most importantly, she says, “the mother of five amazing children,” giving her a stake in the outcome of BISD.  Now the wife of a prominent doctor with a CEO title and successful career under her belt to her own credit, Peel fought her way to where she is from being a first-generation college graduate and single mother and understands the value of hard work. She is unmatched in this election, and we couldn’t support her more.

Denise Wallace Spooner

At-Large Trustee

Every voter in Beaumont gets three votes for representation on BISD’s Board of Trustees, two of which are At-Large Trustees, and Denise Wallace Spooner has earned The Examiner’s endorsement for this seat along with Peel.

Soft-spoken and kind to all, this bucket of sunshine is no frail flower. Spooner has honed her chops in the trenches of BISD, working her way up through the ranks from classroom teacher to district administration during her three decades as an educator.

Spooner has been with BISD through the good, the bad, and the ugly – and she managed to keep her reputation untarnished, her students’ academics center of focus, and her spirit unbroken by the tough years of state takeover. Not only did she persevere, she thrived, succeeded and has now graduated on to the next great life adventure – retirement. But, like any good public servant, retirement only gives her more time to focus on her true life’s work – which just so happens to be looking out for what’s best educationally for Beaumont’s youth.

“Now that the BISD audit has been completed and the Board of Managers have implemented sound financial practices, our focus should be on developing the best possible education plan for ALL students,” she says. “Failing is not acceptable.”

Spooner has dedicated her life to seeing the community of Beaumont succeed, and even in retirement has kept up civic obligations and remained active within the community as part of many organizations including the Hebert High School Alumni Association, NAACP, Emerging Young Leaders, Tops Ladies of Distinction, Leadership Beaumont, the Beaumont Association of Retired Teachers, and the Texas Retired Teachers Association.

Jonathan Owens

District 5 Trustee

The Examiner endorses Jonathan Owens in what is perhaps the most closely matched District race in BISD’s election. Both men running for the position – Nathan Cross and Jonathan Owens – are equally passionate about enriching the educational opportunities of the students of BISD; both are goal-driven, dedicated thinkers whose wit and book-smarts make each a force to be reckoned with; and both would serve selflessly and admirably in any elected seat. 

With such great attributes harnessed by both, it’s unfortunate there can be only one. BISD stakeholders are fortunate, however, that “the one” can – and should –be Jonathan Owens.

He may be new to politics, but Owens isn’t new to BISD. Born and raised in Beaumont, Jonathan Owens is a 1998 honor graduate of Central High School where he was active in student government, National Honor Society, and the marching band. Owens is proud BISD alumni and hopes to ensure that future generations of BISD’s students have good reason to feel the same affection for the district where they received their fundamental education.

Jonathan Owens is a breath of fresh air for a board that needs some youthful, effervescent support to the core of what BISD actually is – a network of campuses that serve the educational needs of students who Owens can relate to.

His desire to serve on the school board, he says, “is to provide sound governance, focused on student outcomes, for the district,” and he believes that the district should use every dollar and every resource available to serve the best interest of students. He believes that, with this vision, our district can be the great institution it is destined to be.

And we believe in him.

Kathy Bell-Schexnaider

District 2 Trustee

The Examiner endorses Kathy Bell- Schexnaider in her bid for District 2 Trustee because her dogged advocacy tactics and general disposition to fight for what’s right would definitely come in handy as BISD moves forward with reclaiming its position in the community as an institution deserving of our advocacy.  

Serving this community for more than 20 years as the MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) advocate in Jefferson County, she has cried with families who lost loved ones to drunk drivers, fought for justice for victims in court, sat through testimony and pored through evidence that depict scenes nightmares are made of just so that victims don’t have to go it alone.

Schexnaider can be found most days at the courthouse, staying on top of Jefferson County prosecutors to seek justice for the victims she is dedicated to assisting, fighting for victims’ benefits, and educating the public on the deadly consequences of drinking and driving.

Her passion for preventing drunk driving deaths has carried her decade after decade in pursuit of her quest – a mission she tackles tirelessly, oftentimes thanklessly, and without much fanfare.  And, now, she has set her heart on the affairs of BISD. How blessed our community really is.

“I thought long and hard on whether to put my name on the ballot,” she says. “I believe the BISD board needs fresh, new people and their perspectives to bring trust back to the community.”

And trust is something Schexnaider definitely brings to the table. For that reason, she has this newspaper’s support.