Apr 21 2011

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District 3 candidates air views and qualifications

The Longview Chamber of Commerce has hosted the three candidates for the City Council District 3 seat–local businessman  and concerned citizen Wray Wade, community organizer Victoria Wilson and community servant and businesswoman Kasha Williams.  The three expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to share their opinions with chamber members.
Wade started out by informing his listeners about how he graduated from Longview High School before attending Pacific Northwest University, where he earned a graduate degree.  He also studied in Japan, honing his linguistic abilities.  This enables him to run his own business translating English into Japanese and vice-versa for assorted businesses and government entities.  In 2004, however, he was forced to leave his thriving business in New York and return to East Texas when his sister died suddenly, leaving five young children.
Williams is also a Longview native.  She is a graduate of Prairie View (Texas) A&M, and has amassed volunteer hours while serving in many capacities on area boards.
Wilson came to Longview from New Orleans, and is quick to point out that although she is not a lifelong District 3 resident she got there “as quickly as she could.”  After living in northern Longview for almost a decade she made a calculated move to the south side, making it her home and a base for running for the District 3 seat.
Below are the questions and how these candidates answered them.
What do you believe your role is in the City Council?
Williams said she would be an advocate for the district while scrupulously following the city’s charter.
Wilson aims to collaborate effectively with the mayor and other city council members to address the needs of the district.  “It is not a question of North and South.  The Civil War was over 150 years ago.”
Wade explained his main priority is the welfare of the residents of the district, and hopes to work closely with the city and district to achieve the greatest effectiveness by getting them on the same page.
What is your vision for Longview over the next 5 years?
Wilson loves the word “vision.”  She praised Mayor Jay Dean and the city council for the great vision they already have for Longview. She intends to plant her boots firmly and strive to achieve the vision as a worker for District 3.  She plans to emphasize establishing a property maintenance code.
Wray has a simple and straightforward vision–to make Longview residents proud of their city.  His aim is simple and appealing.  “I grew up here, and kids used to play on the streets then.  Not anymore.”  He hopes for major revitalization in South Longview.
Williams looks for a flourishing community with a strong, profitable infrastructure made possible through successful businesses.  This would include safe streets.  As for improving the status of the entryway at Interstate 20, she hopes to work with the state representative and see what more can be done.
In order of importance list the three most important issues facing Longview.
Wade emphasizes reinvestment in the citizens of District 3 in order to create a district constituents are proud of, and working closely with the mayor and all other districts to figure out how to make Longview a great city overall.
Williams sees economic development and expansion of the local tax base as paramount. She also pushes crime prevention by urging re-establishment of community policing.  The third plank in her platform is community mobilization. She looks to exploit a valuable resource–the city’s best minds.
Wilson agrees on the importance of economic development and an expanding tax base. She also points out that Longview is the only major city between Dallas and Shreveport that has been expanding away from Interstate 20. Because of this approximately 33,000 cars with cash-carrying passengers pass the city daily without stopping for food, gasoline or to spend money for any other reason simply because it is not convenient.  She believes that making Longview a more attractive stopover for travelers would make it more prosperous.  This would also solve another shortcoming.
Although LeTourneau College has grown from just 100 students housed in old army barracks to a sprawling, state-of-the-art campus enrolling legions of our country’s most gifted, promising students, few of them remain in Longview after graduating.  Although impressed with the university, they and their families become disillusioned with the city itself as they drive past the vista of broken-down and boarded-up homes and businesses on Mobberly Avenue and Estes Parkway.  Crumbling and abandoned structures and homes give a negative impression.  LeTourneau grads generally pack up and head for more profitable-looking locales rather than stay in town and lend their skills to making it a better city.  Wilson sees establishing a university district as a major move toward greater opportunity.
Do you support the current street bond?
“Absolutely.This is a solid bond and this is a great time for it,” said Williams.
“I completely support it.  I applaud the task force and Mayor Jay Dean and City Manager David Willard for the work they have done,” said Wilson.
“I fully support it.  I live on Green Street, and see students coming home from school–Foster Middle School.  They have to walk in traffic because there is no thoroughfare for pedestrians,” said Wade.
What is the single biggest challenge facing the City of Longview?
Wilson believes Longview needs to become a more connected community in order to make citywide cooperation feasible.  The community suffers from a disconnectedness that hampers communication.  Also, there are many industries in Longview.  The designations should be reined in and marketed to the outside world.
Wade started out here by congratulating the city for designating a retirement community. He next looks to make Longview into a city that will entice young, educated former residents to return and live as well as they would elsewhere.
Williams considers the budget the main issue.  She recommends that the city exercise due diligence with the budget.
If elected, what would be the most important tasks for your first 100 days in office?
Wade would be working hands-on with businesses and citizens. This would be effective in acting on the clear plan he intends to create to address the challenges facing the district.
Williams would reach out to the key thought leaders not only in the district, but throughout Longview.
Being very tangible, Wilson would concentrate on finding an artist to finish the mural in Teague Park’s amphitheater.  She would also address the matter of updating local property codes.  “I will be going to constituents to tell them I am ready to work for you.”
District 3 is a part of the whole complex organization.Briefly describe how your work in a group environment helps you get things accomplished.
Williams pointed out how she was the top producer in her sales team in corporate America, which required her to work effectively with others. This was also the case with her family business, which made her establish efficient working relationships with assorted medical professionals and entities.
Wilson noted how she raised $2.5 million to complete Galveston’s Opera House. She has also counseled young people, worked with Bing Canion–chief of juvenile detention at Marvin A. Smith.  “I love working on a team.”
Wade spoke of how he was a member of the Lobo State Championship football team of 1986.  Interculturally, he has the ability to work across the aisle.  “When one wins, we all win.”
Why are you the best candidate for District 3?
Wilson spoke of her bountiful life experience.  A member of St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, she also referenced the city’s Hispanic population as being essentially a hidden people.  She encourages everyone to go out and vote.
Wade described how the heartbreaking 2004 phone call informing him of his sister’s death forced versatility on him.  Compelled to pull up his deep, prosperous New York roots and return to Longview to become surrogate father for five nieces and nephews made him expert at another unfamiliar task.  One of the five has already graduated from college, one is a college junior, one a freshman, one is a high school senior and the last is a high school sophomore.  On top of all this Wade has even started a new business–I-20 Sports on Loop 323.  He also helps students earn sports scholarships.  He views his responsibility to Longview as ever-expanding.  He purchased the financially ailing Barber School on High Street and re-opened it simply because he believes the city needs a barber school.  His students graduate prepared for careers.  “Again, my platform got bigger,” he said.  “God brought me to this point.  I have a track record.  I have the college degrees.  I have the experience and I understand the struggle.”
Williams points to her already-established close working relationship with the mayor and city council as major attributes.  Because Longview does not have a huge metropolitan area her past volunteer work has made her familiar with the city’s functions.  “I bring you my business acumen,” she said.  “I am committed to serve.”

Left to right: Candidates Kasha Williams, Wray Wade, Victoria Wilson

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