North Texas Daily

A look at Denton’s mayoral candidates

A look at Denton’s mayoral candidates

A look at Denton’s mayoral candidates
April 03
01:16 2014

Obed Manuel // Senior Staff Writer

With Denton Mayor Mike Burroughs maxing out his term limit, the seventh spot on the city council is up for grabs. This year, voters will have three mayoral candidates to vote for on May 10. Early voting will stretch from April 28 to May 6.

Among those in the running are Chris Watts, a former city council member and real estate manager, Jean Schaake, associate dean for the College of Arts and Sciences, and Donna Woodfork, a local talk show host.

The North Texas Daily sat down to talk with each of the candidates to get an idea of Denton’s pressing issues.

Jean Schaake

20_Mayor

Jean Schaake

Jean Schaake has lived and worked in the Denton area for more than 40 years. She moved here in 1973 to teach at UNT, then known as North Texas State University.

Schaake currently works as the associate dean for academic affairs for the College of Arts and Sciences.

During her time in Denton, she has served on the Denton Independent School District and numerous other governing bodies. She currently serves on the Citizens Advisory Committee and chairs the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Schaake said she feels the biggest issue the city will face in the coming years will be the growth in population.

According to city-data.com the population of Denton has increased at least 50 percent since the year 2000.

“The future of large growth is coming and we have to be able to manage that growth by being able to provide the infrastructure,” Schaake said. “For that, we need economic development to assist the citizens with the tax burden.”

Schaake said the city would have to craft a new zoning code that could be applied to historical buildings so redevelopment could avoid speed bumps.

At the same time, Schaake said, the permitting process for new businesses must be made less cumbersome in order for Denton to be attractive to business leaders.

“It’s the tax base that provides the funding for roads, for drainage, for infrastructure,” Schaake said. “We have to be aggressive in recruiting business and industry.”

Chris Watts 

Chris Watts

Chris Watts

Watts has lived in Denton since his family moved here in 1962. He graduated from UNT in 1984. Watts, a real estate manager and attorney, reached the limit of three terms on city council from 2007 to 2013.

He said his priority is to usher in a new kind of administrative culture that will increase the flexibility of the permit process new businesses submit to when moving into the city.

As things stand now, Watts said, the slow process gives Denton an anti-business reputation.

“We need to change our development codes to provide an environment of being able to say ‘Yes’ to new business,” Watts said.

Watts said that bringing in new business and new jobs would expand the tax base and would help the city avoid raising taxes.

“Economic development and quality of life are inextricably linked. To get a good quality of life, you need to have good economic development,” Watts said. “There’s a lot of good things we all want to do, but we’ve got to have the money to pay for them.”

The controversial vote to allow a pad site at the Rayzor Ranch development is his biggest regret as a city council member because he felt the council was cornered into making the decision to avoid litigation, Watts said.

With a group of residents pushing for a new ordinance that would ban fracking in the city, Watts said he supports the effort and backs the ordinance if it were approved through a general vote.

“Being business-friendly does not mean saying ‘Yes’ to everything business wants. The only way you can have balanced discussion is to solicit information from everyone,” Watts said. “You have to make sure you listen. That is the hallmark of public service.”

Donna Woodfork

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Donna Woodfork

Donna Woodfork moved to Denton in 2002 for graduate school at UNT.

She has been hosting and producing a talk show on Denton Public Access since 2005.

Woodfork said that while population growth is a pressing issue, she feels that the completion of the I-35 East expansion is one the city must deal with in the coming months.

“I’m the only candidate talking about how we’re going to have a smooth transition for commuters and residents,” Woodfork said. “If we don’t accommodate, it could be a horrible situation for a commuting worker or a student commuter.”

Woodfork said another one of her priorities would be figuring out a way to increase the availability of public transportation.

“If we have a population of over 100,000, we need a transportation system that can handle that number,” Woodfork said.

Woodfork said that hydraulic fracking is also something the city needs to address.

“Fracking impacts the whole community when it comes to shifting ground and foundational damage,” Woodfork said. “I’m willing to listen to those property owners that want to have that on their property.”

Woodfork ran for mayor in 2012 and for DISD school board in 2013 – both were unsuccessful campaigns. Woodfork said that she ran those times because before the city mattered dearly to her.

“It has helped the citizens to recognize who I am and to listen to what issues are important to me. It’s not about getting your name out there,” Woodfork said. “It gives the citizens a chance to ask questions of me. I’m not a career politician. I’m a citizen with concerns.”

Feature photo: Denton courthouse on the square. Ntdaily file photo

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