We Endorse Dean Ueckert for Lewisville Mayor

Date 2009/4/27 21:10:00 | Topic: The Editor's Column

In Lewisville, the position of Mayor is one of leadership more than it is of authority. The Mayor presides at City Council meetings, but has no veto and no vote, except in the case of a tie. The Mayor does not control the agenda, but has the same power as a council member to add an item. The Mayor has no hiring authority, and no powers of appointment. What the Mayor does have is the ability to get the attention of the public, and persuade a Council that respects him.

Although the Mayor and Council are paid a token $50 per meeting, you can consider the office as a volunteer position for all practical purposes. The Mayor’s job doesn’t just come into play on Monday nights twice a month at City Hall. There are committees, and meetings, and ground breakings, and grand openings, and charity events, correspondence with staff, conferences, and meetings with constituents.

City government can be complicated. Not only does the city have the most direct interface with the citizens in a variety of departments, but there are federal and state mandates with many rules and restrictions on what we can do. Unlike the federal government, a city cannot print more money, or borrow on a whim to cover consistent budget deficits. Unlike the state government, the city cannot delegate. The buck stops here, and all the politicians must live directly with the results of their decisions.

Because of all of these reasons, Lewisville needs a Mayor with experience working within the system. A Mayor should be a good listener, able to connect with a variety of sometimes competing interests to get to the truth of the matter. A Mayor should take a long-term view in all that he does, taking care not to get too side-tracked with things that are out of his control.

Above all, I think the best Mayor would be one who the average citizen might never see on the news or read about in the newspaper. Controversy is counter-productive; consensus and pragmatism should be the order of the day. A Mayor needs to be able to disagree with the Council or some of its members – strongly at times – but still be civil. Throwing stones at every opportunity is not going to make anyone want to follow. Lastly, having the history of living here and seeing the successes and failures of our city government is key to knowing where we are going and seeing how to get there.

I have spent a good amount of time this season talking to candidates, hearing goals and ideas, and looking at their backgrounds. I’ve also heard from a lot of local citizens, telling me stories both good and bad about both candidates – Dean Ueckert, and Winston Edmondson. Here is my take on both candidates:

Winston Edmondson

Although I had never met Edmondson prior to this election, or seen him at any Council meetings that I could recall, I was somewhat optimistic when he filed for the office, that he would bring something positive to the race. When we met, he was very cordial and expressed a willingness to complete an interview with us. We connected on Facebook and began corresponding by email.

Early on though, Edmondson started to take the race where it did not need to go: overly aggressive and dishonest mud-slinging.

The first salvo was a video that Edmondson produced and posted on his website that misrepresented Dean Ueckert’s position regarding the relocation of Delay Middle School to the former Milliken Campus. The City Council has no control over where LISD locates its campuses. The school district was seeking some variances from the city’s development ordinances over drainage, parking, and landscaping. Edmondson took a clip of Ueckert talking about his approval of a landscaping variance, and implied that the approval extended to moving the school to that location.

Next, Edmondson tried to imply that the city government didn’t care about park facilities in Old Town verses the rest of town, simply because a neighborhood park in Old Town had porta-potties (installed at the request of the residents) versus the permanent restroom facilities in the larger city-wide park, Central Park. Of course, just a few phone calls and emails debunked the entire thing.

Then, incredibly, Edmondson made a move that couldn’t possibly have benefited him: He lashed out at another candidate in a city council race, not even running against him. He would take frequent pot-shots over the issue of illegal immigration throughout the campaign, apparently oblivious to current efforts and legal limitations on the authority of the City. More on that later though.

What should have killed his campaign was the revelation that Edmondson misled people about the length of his Lewisville residency (only 22 months – not 4 or 20 years), and not only was Edmondson NOT REGISTERED TO VOTE in Lewisville at the time he filed for Mayor, but he had not ever voted in a municipal election, and had not voted in the 2008 general election. The fact that he had a radio talk show where he talked about presidential and congressional politics, but then failed to vote would seem to indicate that his philosophy is “do as I say, not as I do”.

When questioned about his voting record at two local Republican forums, Edmondson’s excuse was that he is 31 years old and has 4 kids. Further, he claimed that there were no conservatives to vote for. I would think that Michael Burgess and John Cornyn would beg to differ, as did the majority present in the audiences. Yet Edmondson has the audacity to have the campaign tagline of “Lewisville: Worth Fighting For” – just apparently not worth voting for.

Then, recently when candidate Brandon Bertrand dropped out of the race, it came to light that apparently Bertrand and Edmondson had forged some sort of deal that if one of them won, then he would appoint or hire the other one as some sort of Chief Ideas or Innovation Officer for the city. This was not only a naive ethical mis-step, but showed a basic lack of understanding of the Mayor’s authority.

Although Edmondson was cordial to me even through my phone interview about he and Bertrand’s deal, once our commenters started pointing out the ethical problems with such a deal, Edmondson then made a puzzling move against us: He threatened legal action, but failed to dispute the deal, ask for a retraction, or any other possible remedies. Nope – just went straight to the legal avenue. I asked him to have his attorney contact me, but I’ve yet to hear from them.

Edmondson did explicitly and publicly deny anonymous comments on the blog that he had been previously evicted and had lawsuits against him. Edmondson told the Dallas Morning News that there had been some evictions that he had to file against Katrina refugees were in his properties. We verified through open records that there were indeed lawsuits and apparent eviction proceedings against him, and sent him our research for his comment. He never responded. Our research also failed to substantiate any of Edmondson’s claims about the Katrina refugees.

Just before the Old Town Candidates forum, in which former Lewisville Mayor and current County Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell was the moderator, Edmondson posted a strange and misleading blurb on his website with Bobbie Mitchell’s picture, asking her to please not endorse him (or anyone else), and claiming that he would accept her endorsement in private and be "sworn to secrecy". For her part, Mitchell told us that wanted nothing to do with Edmondson’s campaign, and was upset at her picture being used in such a way to imply that she would support Edmondson. She also took offense at the notion of “funny business”, stating that she asked each candidate the same questions and had no problems being an impartial moderator. Mitchell says that she told Edmondson early on that she intended to support and endorse Dean Ueckert for Mayor. Mitchell attempted to call Edmondson to ask that he remove the post, but when she called the number listed on his campaign website (972-200-0935), she was told that it was a wrong number. Mitchell had someone else dial that number, and again they were told that there was no Winston Edmondson there. The next day this other person was able to reach Edmondson on that number.*

Judge Becky Kerbow, (J.P. Pct 3) who served as the time keeper for the forum, and had presided over a default judgment against Edmondson last year in her court over an unsettled debt, also found herself targeted by Edmondson, who posted a blurb on his Facebook page misrepresenting a voluntary truancy prevention program instituted by Judge Kerbow.

Aside from the problems with integrity and lack of experience, the most visible (though certainly not the most important) issue of this campaign cycle has been that if illegal immigration and its effect on the City of Lewisville. In his discussion of this issue, Edmondson shows both a lack of knowledge and contempt for following the rule of law, but he also sets up a disingenuous argument that is basically a false dichotomy:
• Edmondson is against illegal immigration and wants immigration law enforced.
• Dean Ueckert likes illegal immigration, and not only looks the other way, but personally sends written invitations and bus passes to Mexico on a daily basis, inviting immigrants to come to Lewisville.

The truth of the matter is different though. Our city council, including Dean Ueckert has worked to address the effects of illegal immigration on the city, passing several ordinances and attempting others – such as the day labor shelter, which would actually have made it easier to patrol and observe, probably resulting in an environment less friendly to illegal workers, and more humane for legal day laborers.

The biggest issue with the immigration enforcement “debate” is that people like Edmondson, who propose to do this or that at the local level simply fail to realize that these things have already been looked at and thought about by those with much more knowledge and experience. There are federal and constitutional issues with a lot of what is being suggested. Aside from that, there is also a monetary cost and/or strings attached to other ideas that have been judged just too costly.

Just today, Edmondson continued to show prejudice and ignorance by suggesting on his website that city leaders would be responsible for any Swine Flu deaths in Lewisville because illegal immigrants would have spread the disease.

Edmondson makes a lot of logical leaps here in his assumptions about immigration. First, he assumes that all day labor is illegal. (it’s not) He assumes that since the people he sees standing around at Huffines Plaza look Hispanic, they must all be illegal immigrants. Then he assumes that solving the solicitation and loitering problem at Huffines Plaza can be solved by zoning ordinances (zoning doesn’t trump the U.S. constitution). Then he assumes that by addressing this one area, it would solve the illegal immigrant problem. Then he assumes that any problems being caused by illegal immigrants would go away when the illegal immigrants move on, completely ignoring that much of the issues are more related to socio-economic levels that one would expect given rents and property values.

* Correction: We originally reported that Bobbie Mitchell had called on Edmondson to remove the post referencing her. In fact, she called to ask him, but could not reach him. We regret the error.

Dean Ueckert

Early after he filed for the office of Mayor, and before I even had any sort of interview planned, I met Councilman Dean Ueckert one night to discuss his philosophy on things and try to get an understanding of what kind of person he is. About 2 hours into our talk, my wife joined us, and we talked for another two hours.

I’m always a bit hesitant to take up too much time when talking with an elected official, because I know they’re busy and probably have more important people to talk to than me. But I will tell you that Dean is totally engaged and enthusiastic when talking about his goals for the City of Lewisville. And though I have in the past disagreed strongly with a couple of the votes that Dean Ueckert has made, what I realized is that he is a listener and a seeker of facts.

Ueckert doesn’t approach any topic as a matter of dogma or partisan agenda. In fact, although he considers himself conservative, and typically will vote Republican, he states most emphatically that partisan politics have absolutely no place in city government. We strongly appreciate that, because in today’s hyper-polarized society, partisan rhetoric seems to do more harm than good when elected officials must work together to get things accomplished for the citizens.

One thing I have learned in my relatively short set of interactions with Dean Ueckert is that he is someone who seems to place a much higher value on truth than appearances, and results over credit.

I recently was able to convince Dean Ueckert to let me ride around Lewisville with him with a video camera, just asking him whatever questions came to my mind. I hope that I can get those clips edited and posted soon, but what really struck me was how often that he would ask me (off the record) not to quote him on something until he could go double back and re-check the facts. I looked at him stunned and asked just what the heck kind of politician he thought he was, and why would he care about double-checking the facts? I was being facetious, of course, but I was impressed that he didn’t just rattle off some pat answer for this or that.

There was also the issue of LISD moving Delay Middle School to the Milliken Campus. Dean knew that citizens were frustrated, and he shared those frustrations. Yet, as a councilman, he knows that LISD’s school board has the authority to make that decision, not the council. It was further complicated by deed restrictions that the Milliken family had inserted into the deed when they donated that land to LISD, and LISD stood to lose the land if they didn’t take the action they did. In several excruciatingly long Council meetings, Dean Ueckert and other Councilmen spent hours talking through the new plans and going over the district’s request for variances – which Ueckert voted against. Still, his opponent, Winston Edmondson went on the attack against Ueckert, claiming that Ueckert was in favor of the move and would not stand up for Lewisville.

Though Ueckert could have easily silenced Edmondson and others by introducing a resolution to the Council to state opposition to the move and request LISD to reconsider, that was a punch he pulled, instead preferring to work the back channels with LISD, trying to get a meeting with them and some of the concerned parents. Though it wouldn’t make the newspapers, this move also wouldn’t alienate LISD board members and make them harder to work with.

I’ve had people contact me personally to tell me stories about Dean and his involvement and volunteerism in the community. One woman who had organized an outing to clean litter from a local group’s adopt-a-spot told of how disappointed she had been to find that she was the only one to show up and clean that day until Dean Ueckert showed up with his gloves and garbage sack. There were no media present, and it wasn’t a photo op. In fact, I’m fairly certain that if Dean reads this he might be a bit embarrassed that I’m bringing it up.

But the point is that it speaks to his dedication to actual service to his community. Because though it may be easy to claim to have all sorts of ideas for improving Lewisville, Dean has the actual experience doing so. His longevity in service speaks much louder about his character and dedication than any words that I or anyone else could write. Having joined his first city board in 1991, 18 years ago, he has taken on a variety of responsibilities both with city government, and in the community. He has served on the City Council since 1998, 10 years.

Ueckert has had a published home phone number for years, and is very available and approachable. He is a man who will listen to all points of view. He is respected by his peers on the Council and I have no doubts that he will bring real leadership to the table, not just of the Council itself, but of the many concerned citizens who will follow him.

I could go on and on, but I don’t think I could add much more than to just add my name to the large list of local endorsers, whose opinions you will probably respect more than my own:
• Bobbie Mitchell – Former Mayor and Current Pct. 3 Denton County Commissioner
“Having known and worked with Dean for over 15 years, I know him to be the best candidate for the job of Mayor. Dean has proven himself to be a dedicated public servant to the citizens of Lewisville and he has my total support to lead us as Mayor of the City of Lewisville. In these tough economic times we need experienced and committed leadership in our city.”

• Gene Carey – Current Mayor of Lewisville
“Dean Ueckert is the perfect person to succeed me as Mayor. There is no one better prepared to step into this position.”Mayor Carey added, “This is a critical time in our city’s history. We need a Mayor who is experienced in dealing with businesses and citizens, a Mayor who is familiar with the day-to-day operation of our city, a Mayor who can work with staff and who can deal with our state legislators on tough issues. Dean has all of these qualities and I believe he is fully qualified to step into the Mayor’s position. Dean has my full endorsement.”

• Dickey Grant – Owner, Old Town Meat Market
I have lived in Lewisville for 46 years. I have owned the Old Town Market in Old Town Lewisville for the last 32 years. I have known Dean Ueckert both personally and professionally for the last 25 years. I believe that Dean has the knowledge and understanding of the challenges that the City of Lewisville faces in its future. As a small business owner like me, Dean brings important experience to the City that will help direct our future growth and success. I believe Dean will be an excellent choice for the next Mayor of Lewisville.

• Doug Killough
My vote for mayor of the City of Lewisville will definitely be cast for candidate Dean Ueckert. I take this position because I believe that Mr. Ueckert is by far the best candidate for the position and that he will do an excellent job as mayor for the citizens of the city of Lewisville. He has shown through his involvement in city government and his participation in many various city activities throughout the last eighteen years, that he is committed to serving the citizens of Lewisville and continuing to make Lewisville a quality place to live and work. I encourage you to look closely at Mr. Ueckert's experience and qualifications that will make him an effective leader in city government. From a personal experience I can assure you that he is a man of strong character and integrity.

• Alvin Turner
Dean Ueckert has the experience and knowledge to work with the City of Lewisville to bring about the changes needed in our community. Please join me in supporting and voting for Dean Ueckert as Mayor.

• Dr. Scott McDearmott, MD
Dean is a great volunteer in the community including service at Medical Center of Lewisville. We have worked together on board service as well as city projects through DCTA. I am proud to endorse my friend Dean Ueckert for Mayor of Lewisville.

• Dr. Russell Stover, DDS
I support Dean Ueckert for Mayor of Lewisville. Dean's concerns about the potential impact of city policies upon the businesses and citizens of Lewisville were proven to me in his position as council member a few years ago. Dean brought to my attention that a proposed road closure near my office could have a negative effect on nearby businesses and citizens; he subsequently advocated our positions. Thanks for your help Dean!

• Greater Lewisville Association of Realtors
The Board of Directors and the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Greater Lewisville Association of Realtors, Inc. voted to support you for election as Mayor for the City of Lewisville.

We applaud you for your continuing service to our community.

• WhosPlayin.com Blog - Life and Liberty in the Lone Star State

• Greg Tierney – Lewisville City Councilman
• David Thornhill – Lewisville City Councilman

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