Candidates running for Orange City Council are foreseeing the town exploding soon and they want to serve citizens. They also want to eliminate litter and improve the appearance of Orange.
In addition, some said it is important to get a hospital.
A forum for the candidates sponsored by the group Citizens for an Improved Orange was held Thursday evening at Lamar State College-Orange. A sparse group of people, mainly consisting of friends and family of the candidates, attended.
Single-Member District 2 Councilor Brad Childs is running unopposed for his seat. He attended and spoke briefly, but was not on the panel with the candidates from contested races.
David Derosier was the moderator and each candidate got individual questions.
Incumbent At-Large Position 6 councilor Bill Mello was absent. He has been undergoing treatment for a malignant brain tumor.
Also running for the at-large spot are former Orange County Sheriff’s deputy David C. Bailey, longtime educator Caroline Mazzola Hennigan, and Pastor Charles Ray Thomas, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor last year.
All registered voters in the county can cast a ballot for the position.
All three candidates for the Single-Member District 4 position attended. Annette Pernell, a paralegal, is the incumbent for the spot.
Also running are Mary McKenna, who has previously served in the position and is head of the Southeast Texas Hospice.
Alan Mesecher, a real estate investor who is currently on the city’s Historical Preservation Commission, is also running.
Only people who live in the single-member district are allowed to vote for the position. The district is mainly the Old Orange Historic District and the Cove neighborhood and candidates must reside in the district.
The election will be Saturday, May 4, and early voting will start Monday, April 22.
Mesecher is going to twist up an old rivalry. McKenna held the seat and then Pernell beat her. McKenna came back in 2013 and beat Pernell. Pernell beat McKenna in 2016. All of the vote totals were close in the three elections.
Mesecher said his ideas for improving the quality of life in Orange includes improving health by helping to get a hospital. The city all needs to improve its appearance, particularly on 16th Street, which provides the first impression of Orange. Entertainment will be improved with a movie theater so people do not have to drive out of town. He also thinks industry is affected because the city needs to offer quality for the executives coming into town. A sports complex would be a great asset, he added.
In addition, he wants more city enforcement of the housing codes to get owners to clean up lots. Substandard houses should be either repaired or removed. “Rents are at a premium and we need better housing,” he said.
McKenna said health care is important. “I know very well we need a hospital. I’m in the health care business,” she said.
Supporting and encouraging small businesses is also one of her priorities. “I think Orange is about to explode,” she said. Small businesses have a “unique” place in working with industry and big business, she said. She also supports the city’s economic development corporation, which has helped small business owners develop or improve their businesses.
Pernell said Orange has a lot of beautiful homes in the Historic District (all three candidates live in the district) that need to be rehabilitated. Also, lots of vacant lots could be used to build houses. She said the city could get a program to help low and moderate income workers learn to build credit so they can become homeowners.
She thinks many existing storefronts in the city could use “a facelift” and the appearance of the city can be imrpoved. She also would like to see more enforcement of the city codes.
All registered voters in the city’s four single-member districts are eligible to vote for the two at-large positions on the council and there is no residency requirement for the candidates. The four live in different parts of town. Mello, the incumbent, lives on West Sunset Drive, David C. Bailey lives on Tulane Road, Charles Ray Thomas lives in the Hillbrook subdivision, and Caroline Mazzola Hennigan lives in the Oak Creek Village subdivision.
Bailey said economic development is the top concern for the city. He also wants to improve the infrastructure, particularly in downtown, and he wants to work to bring together “the community as a whole” with everyone working together.
Hennigan said she has been listening to people and her top priority is “drainage, drainage, drainage.” She said the city should continue to work with the county and drainage district on projects.
She also wants to continue the city’s efforts in economic development. She said she is a grandmother and is “very excited” about a possible sports complex and the upcoming recreation center because they appeal to families.
Thomas said he wants to see what the people of Orange want to do and then get it done. Getting and keeping jobs in the community is his top priority, he said. He also wants to lobby to see would can be done to get a hospital in Orange. His mother is 75-years-old and he is concerned about her having to go out of town to a hospital.
In addition, he would like to get “precinct captains” for neighborhoods so they can help oversee the communities and then report back to the council.
-Margaret Toal, KOGT-