FILE PHOTO Ralph Bennett and Tommy Walton
By Tony Farkas
GROVETON — Two current members of the Groveton City Council are looking to become mayor.
The position is up for election, as the incumbent Byron Richards passed away from COVID unexpectedly.
Early voting ended Tuesday, and the regular election will be from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday. Polling will be done at the Groveton High School Auditorium
Currently the mayor pro tem, Ralph Bennett said he wants to continue to bring about improvement in the community.
“I want to complete the projects we had started, such the downtown renovation and the water well, something me and Byron Richards had started on,” he said.
Bennett has served 14 years on the council, and currently is the Trinity County minority rep on the DETCOG board. He worked for 35 years at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, having retired from security in the Windham School District.
Additionally, he is treasurer and secretary of the Parker Ridge Cemetery Board in Groveton, and has more than 100 hours of continuing education from the Texas Municipal League.
“I’m experienced, and that is key for someone being mayor,” he said.
Aside from infrastructure, Bennett said the city needs to bring in new businesses, and especially needs to improve our road systems. He also intends to work with the state to make sure there is adequate broadband coverage in the area.
“My top priority right now is securing a water well to have a reliable water source for the city,” he said. “This will become a fight down the road, but it is important to the growth of our community.”
Grant funds are the key to moving the city forward, and Council Member Tommy Walton said his main focus will be the continuation of numerous projects that are in process.
A few of those include water meter replacement, wastewater retention pond renovation, purchase of a water well, downtown renovation and water line replacement — in all about $7.1 million.
“Most of these projects are not something that the residents see every day, but are necessary to the running of an efficient city,” he said. “This is the result of lots of planning and lots of searching for grants. My goal is to qualify and obtain as many grants as we possibly can. It will make our projects move slower than what I would like, but we have to live within our means and I think the voters of Groveton will expect no less.”
Walton said Groveton is a small town with a limited tax base, and if the city tried to do these projects with raising property taxes, taxes would be so high that no one could afford to live here.
Other areas of focus include making City Hall and the Mayor more accessible, and involving residents in special projects, making use of any professionals in the area for their advice and knowledge. Additionally, the beautification of the city of Groveton is also high on Walton’s list of priorities, and all of it needs to be dealt with in a five-year plan.
“Running the City is not a one man show; it involves the Mayor, the City Council, the office staff, the road and bridge staff, the Police Department, animal control, etc.,” he said. “The Mayor is there to help guide the direction and plan for the future. I will always be focused on our future.”