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One new face joins 2 incumbents on Shenandoah council

May 9, 2019

The Shenandoah City Council will look a bit different after the May 4 election saw one new addition elected to a two-year term along with two stalwart incumbents winning re-election.

The 2019 Shenandoah municipal election had only one contested race, the position 2 seat held by incumbent Ted Fletcher, who was being challenged by Andrea Konzem. In other races, Charlie Bradt was not challenged for his position 4 seat and former council member Byron Bevers announced he was not seeking re-election and was replaced by Dean Gristy in the position 3 seat.

Fletcher looks to continue work

Fletcher was elected to his second two-year term in office, defeating challenger Andrea Konzem by one of the larger margins in the history of Shenandoah elections, which date to the 1970s when the small city became incorporated.

Looking ahead to his second term, Fletcher said he is eager to work on several important issues facing the 2.2 square mile city that has more than 3,000 residents. Among the big issues, he said, are managing development with a growing population, a continued focus on law enforcement efforts and ensuring residents are safe and free of crime, and working to improve mobility in the city as it continues to grow, both commercially and residentially.

“The three biggest things I focued on in the campaign were growth and development, mobility and also public safety. If the city is going to double in size in the next five to 10 years — it could be quicker than that — then we need to focus on these three areas to keep Shenandoah strong,” Fletcher said. “I think we’re going to be at full build-out in three to five years. We’re only 2.2 square miles, but the population will likely grow by 3,400 to 4,000 people.”

A renewed emphasis on law enforcement and policing issues is high on his agenda, Fletcher added, noting that while the current staff of the city’s police department has done great work on many levels, a growing population as well as more commercial development will mean more officers are needed, as well as high-tech policing efforts like automated license plate readers to identify potential criminals who come into the community.

“Our police and fire services will be taxed by the new residents (moving in),” he said. “It takes planning for all of this. We may (in the future) look at creating our own ESD — emergency services district — and we could develop a task force to help reduce commercial crime. You can add extra license plate readers at all our commercial developments that will help police, for example.”

Gristy says his experience will help him

The replacement council member for Byron Bevers is Dean Gristy, a two-decade resident of Shenandoah who has served on the Shenandoah Planning and Zoning Commission for six years. He is currently the commission chairman. According to an article in March, Bevers decided to not register for re-election, citing the opportunity to serve the community in different ways.

Gristy said his experience on the Planning and Zoning Commission has given him an intimate look at the inner workings of the city’s most ambitious projects and a keen eye for what projects would would work — or not — for the city. Gristy describes himself as a conservative with a focus on fiscal responsibility — a theme he hopes to continue to build upon on if he is elected to the city council.

“(Being elected) Is great. I’d been approached by folks over the years asking about the city council and they had asked me to consider running,” Gristy explained. “It just made sense now to run with my time on the ( Planning and Zoning )commission coming to an end.”

Gristy, 55, has lived in Shenandoah with his wife and two children for more than 20 years. His daughter is 12 and his son is 23, he said. In his professional life, Gristy said he works in a “niche” segment of the insurance industy, and he is licensed to do insurance work in several neigboring states.

As for his goals while in office, Gristy said he hopes to work to provide citizens the services the city is expected to provide, which he said is the first and foremost priority for the council and city. Other areas he hopes to make an impact include improving mobility in the city, keeping a focused eye on growth and development and also maintaining what he called a “strong” Shenandoah for future generations.

“Transparency is something I want to move toward providing,” he said, referring to continuing efforts at the city to be more open with residents. “I like the (long-term) agenda the city has as it stands now. We’ve been very discerning with what kind of growth we’re experiencing. I think to this point, we’ve done a pretty good job developing the city to the point that our only goal is to do things that are conducive to a family-oriented city.”

Bradt ready for another two years

Council Member Charlie Bradt ran unopposed for his second consecutive term on the council in the Position 4 seat. The veteran local politician has also held the city’s mayor seat in his lengthy career. Bradt’s tenure in the city began more than 35 years ago, in 1983, when he was appointed to fill an unexpired seat on the council and was later elected to fill the same position. Seven years later, Bradt ran and won the mayor’s seat, where he served for one term.

In the early 2000s, Bradt was appointed to the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, where he served until he was elected to his present council seat in 2017.

“I am pleased to have two more years to work for the citizens and continue the forward movement Council has made in the last two,” Bradt said in a March 2019 statement. “I will continue to look at what is best for the city as a whole when making my decisions and casting my vote.”

All three council members are slated to be sworn in during the Wednesday, May 22, Shenandoah City Council meeting. The canvassing of votes is scheduled for Wednesday, May 15.

jeff.forward@chron.com