Having been on City Council since 1994 and involved with the city before that, Lewisville Mayor Rudy Durham has seen significant changes to the city from elected office.
“When I first got on some planning and zoning and some other committees, we were in an old post office that was just right over here on the corner where the parking lot is on the west side of the building,” he said. “That was the city hall at that time.”
Where challengers Winston Edmondson and Penny Mallet are asking that the council and mayor take a more proactive approach to city governance, Durham represents the status quo in more ways than just his incumbency. Durham, who has a real estate degree from what is now the University of North Texas, has worked at his day job at the Denton County Appraisal District, for which he serves as chief appraiser, even longer than he’s served on council. Durham advocates that the council continue to focus tightly on the city’s highest priorities, such as the 2025 plan.
Despite almost a quarter century in elected office for Lewisville, he’s running for what would be his second term as mayor. In Lewisville, the mayor presides over council meetings, but does not vote. Durham said experience is the primary qualifier for the job.
“It’s almost everything,” he said. “A lot of people think they hire and fire and sweep the floors and mop the bathrooms and all that, and that isn’t what we do.”
Durham said council should stick to the basics of city governance, which he listed as water, education and transportation, as well as they can, either directly or by supporting other entities like the school district. He said everything else is secondary.
“There’ve been people, currently and in the past, who’ve said ‘I’m going to go in there, and I’m going to meet with everybody, and even if they live in another city I’m going to go out and if they ask me to go out to them I’m gonna go out to them, and I’m going to try to get their problems solved,’” he said. “Well, that’s great, but you don’t have enough time to do all that. You have to stick to what you do here, and don’t get into every other issue that’s out there.”
Durham also said the city needed to focus on lobbying higher governments to get them to pay for two of those basics — education and transportation. School funding has become a national issue with statewide teacher walkouts, and Lewisville ISD has been so vocal about waning funding from current officials that Texas is suing them over it. The Texas Department of Transportation is planning to pay for the recent expansion of I-35E with express lane tolls over the next 50 years, since they were also unable to pay for it up-front.
“They don’t have enough money in the state budget right now — and part of this is because the federal government has cut it back — they don’t have enough money in the state budget to maintain the existing roads they have,” he said. “How much new capacity can you have if you don’t have enough money to pay for existing maintenance?”
One change Durham does want to see is mostly cosmetic — Durham said he wants to see more utility lines moved underground. This is much more expensive than stringing them up across the city, and while it makes the lines less vulnerable to wind and weather, Durham said he primarily wants them underground to make the city look nicer.
This is a change he’s been pushing for years, and one the city has implemented opportunistically by requiring new lines to be placed underground, or requiring them to be moved underground when work is already being done on them. This mentality was on display at the last City Council meeting, when the council allowed a new line that couldn’t go underground to be put up in exchange for two more lines being moved underground.
Late last year, Durham was singled out for holding both the position of city mayor and chief appraiser for the county. Though this is not illegal and there is no overlap between the jobs, Paul Bettencourt (R- Houston), vice chair of the intergovernmental relations committee in the Texas senate, has said he will try to make it illegal in the next legislature, which begins in 2019. Durham said he isn’t worried about this happening, but that he would step down as mayor if forced to pick between the two positions.
Vacancies on City Council, including the mayor, may be filled by appointment if the term is less than 12 months. If it is more than 12 months, a special election will be called.
Local elections are May 5, with early voting starting April 23. In addition to the mayorship, seat two on City Council and seats one and two on the LISD school board will be up for election.
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