PA mayor’s race heads for runoff
Port Arthur residents will get a second chance to decide who will lead the city for the next three years.
Incumbent Mayor Derrick Freeman and challenger Thurman “Bill” Bartie received the most votes in a crowded field and will be on the ballot in a runoff election next month.
Saturday’s contest, which drew five candidates, was one of several municipal races across the region. The winners included incumbents on the Beaumont School Board and the Vidor mayor’s office.
A roundup of the results:
Beaumont voters chose two incumbents and a newcomer to fill open seats on the school district’s board.
Denise Wallace-Spooner and Robert Charles Dunn were elected to the at-large seats with about 33 percent and 29.3 percent of the votes respectively.
A.B. Bernard, an incumbent, won 61.9 percent of the votes.
Wallace-Spooner previously said teacher recruitment is one of the biggest issues the district faces, something the board has started trying to address by using the district’s budget to make salaries more competitive.
She also was a part of and agreed with the controversial decision to appoint Shannon Allen as the lone finalist for the district’s open superintendent position.
The choice shows teachers there’s opportunities for advancement in the district, which could lead them to stay.
Dunn said discipline is the district’s biggest problem, which he said can be solved with administration and parent participation.
He wasn’t a part of the superintendent search, but said he thought if the board was being transparent, it would have opened the search nationwide. However, he said he plans to work and move forward with Allen.
Bernard also said he wants to see greater parent and community involvement, thereby “changing the narrative” from discipline problems to parent-involvement problems and ultimately improving children’s behavior.
He called the decision to appoint Allen superintendent the best the board could make at the time, because of the time it would have taken to open the search and the fact it believed it had a qualified candidate already in the district.
Incumbent Mayor Kimberly Stiebig will get to keep the mayoral seat, which she’s held since she was appointed at the beginning of 2019 after former mayor Robert Viator Jr. took his place as Orange County commissioner.
Stiebig won 73.5 percent of the vote, while Ken Crawford won 26.5 percent.
Stiebig helped lead the council to accept new zoning requirements, which will soon be finalized. She says this makes the city ready for growth, and any change in leadership would have hurt that momentum.
Crawford previously served as the city’s mayor from 2011 to 2015 and wanted to purchase a new trash truck specifically for larger items, such as tree limbs and couches. He also wanted to see mobile home ordinances within the city made more inclusive.
Preliminary results show voters signaled they wanted to stick with what they know, by giving Don Albanese 63 percent of the votes. Jeff Ortiz received almost 37 percent of the votes.
Albanese was first elected to represent Ward 3 nine years ago. He chose to step down from City Council to run for mayor when asked by outgoing mayor R.A. “Dick” Nugent.
His top priority is to improve the city’s streets, along with being creative when it comes to expanding in the landlocked city.
Ortiz ran on a pro-growth platform that prioritized a strategic plan for council and residents’ priorities for the future.
Voters also chose Sylvia Root to serve as Ward 4’s council member, but because a City Charter amendment requiring council members to live in the district they served also passed, this will be her only term in this seat.
If she chooses to run again, she would have to run in Ward 2.
Incumbent Mayor Derrick Freeman received a little more than 35 percent of the votes in Port Arthur. Thurman Bartie received about 24.7 percent.
Freeman, a 43-year-old Realtor, has served one term as mayor and boasts many accomplishments during this time, including being a part of a council that dedicated $17 million to fixing infrastructure — more than in the past 10 years combined.
The city also recently announced Motiva Enterprise’s plans to purchase three buildings in downtown Port Arthur to serve as office space, short-term corporate housing and some retail, a deal he’s been a part of.
Freeman could not be reached for comment Saturday evening.
Bartie, a 64-year-old disaster case manager, also isn’t a stranger to elected office, as he previously served as Jefferson County Precinct 8 justice of the peace. He was suspended from that position, but says he learned from his mistakes.
Bartie’s main priorities are unifying Port Arthur’s government agencies to work together to bring progress to the city. He also wants to emphasize job creation and fixing Port Arthur’s outdated infrastructure.
He said he’s encouraged by the showing that a majority of Port Arthur voters cast their ballot for a candidate that would be a change to the status quo.
“That shows that the majority of the people who participated in the electoral process want a fresh start,” Bartie said. “I happen to be that choice for a fresh start.”
Between now and the June 22 runoff, Bartie wants to continue to tell voters he represents a new direction for the city and show them he is someone who can be trusted.
“I’m ready to get started tomorrow with my sleeves rolled up, well after church, to do what I had to begin this new campaign on trying to be the Mayor of the city of Port Arthur,” he said.