Incumbent and former District 1 representative Gerard Hudspeth was sworn into city council as mayor on May 17 alongside newcomer and truck driver Brandon Chase McGee and former mayor and council member Chris Watts, who took at large Places 5 and 6, respectively.
Hudspeth won against opponent and former Place 6 holder Paul Meltzer with 52 percent of the vote. A total of 15,928 votes were cast in the mayoral election.
This will be Hudspeth’s second term as mayor and his fourth term as a city council member. He ran for District 1 representative in 2017 and won before being reelected for the seat in 2019.
After former mayor Watts hit the term limit in 2020, Hudspeth campaigned and won, making him the first African American mayor of Denton. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the election was pushed from May to November and then resulted in a runoff — meaning Hudspeth served one year and four months as opposed to a traditional two-year term. Hudspeth attributes this to part of the reason why he chose to re-run in 2022.
“I really wanted a full term to try to achieve some of the goals I want to achieve and affect some of the changes I want to affect,” Hudspeth said. “For example, if we were to build a park, it would take one year. If I would have taken office, and we started building the park that day –we’d be done four months before I was back on the ballot, to put into perspective how long it takes to get things done.”
Issues Hudspeth hopes to address in his upcoming term include lowering tax rates, increasing the efficiency of road construction and public safety.
“If we focus on those core things, [the council doesn’t] disagree on a lot,” Hudspeth said. “Those are all things we can universally agree on.”
Hudspeth’s election opponent, Meltzer, gave up his Place 6 seat to challenge Hudspeth in the mayoral election this term rather than re-running for his seat. Watts ran against Amber Briggle for the at-large seat and won with 51 percent of the vote. A total of 15,485 votes were cast.
Watts previously served as the District 4 representative for three terms from 2007 to 2011 and mayor for four consecutive terms. He concluded his final term in December of 2020.
Watts attributes his reasoning for running for Place 6 to his “[concern] that important decisions are being made without strong foundations of data and facts,” according to his campaign website. He also pledged to “[initiate] new partnerships with regional and state agencies in seeking funding for roads and other infrastructure,” “offer new, cost-effective initiatives” and “establish a sustainable source of revenue for an Economic Development Fund.”
Watts did not respond to the Daily’s requests for comments.
Place 5 was taken by McGee, who won against member of the Police Chief Advisory Board Daniel Clanton with 54 percent of the vote. A total of 14,881 votes were cast.
“I was really happy he won,” Deb Armintor, former Place 5 council member and UNT professor, said. “The person he was running against I think would have just been a big step backward.”
Armintor has served as a council member for the past two terms but decided against running this term due to mental health reasons. She has been an advocate for increasing minimum wage, implementing a citywide nondiscrimination policy and the decriminalization of marijuana. During the swearing-in ceremony, Armintor and Meltzer were each awarded a proclamation for the two terms they served on the city council.
As of now, Armintor has no plans to return to city council in the future. She plans to continue her work as an activist.
“I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished even though there’s so much farther to go,” Armintor said. “It felt really good to be stepping out of city hall knowing that I’ll be coming back, but as a member of the public and activist again.”
After hearing Armintor’s former seat was open, McGee chose to run in the election.
“I looked around and I had some questions about why some decisions were being made,” McGee said. “I wasn’t happy with some of those decisions and there was an open seat, so I decided to run.”
McGee additionally chose to run for council because of his status as a blue-collar worker. He has worked for AAA Cooper as a truck driver for 10 years and currently serves on both the Denton’s Zoning Board of Adjustment and the board of New Leaders of Council nonprofit.
“There aren’t too many people like me, as in regular blue-collar workers, involved in the decision-making process,” McGee said. “Yet, I contend we are the ones that are most affected by the things that are done. At some point, some of us actually have to run for office and get elected so we can represent us in the best way.”
During his term, McGee plans to address issues including public safety and health, infrastructure and environmental protection. Specifically, he plans to push for mental health care, increasing air quality via planting more trees and investing money into streets and sidewalks.
“I’ve found there’s lots of areas of overlap between myself and my colleagues,” McGee said. “I really want to hone in on those, and I contend that if we spend all of our time focusing on those areas of agreement, there won’t be a lot of time for contention.”
After Meltzer’s leave, an election was held to nominate a mayor pro tempore. Brian Beck, District 2 council member and university educator, was nominated as mayor pro tempore by District 4 council member and public school teacher Allison Maguire. The nomination was passed with votes from Maguire, McGee, Vicki Byrd, District 1 council member and former law enforcement officer, and Beck.
Featured Image: The Denton City Council chamber sits empty before a meeting on March 22, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane