A file photo of the San Marcos City Council meeting chamber. Early voting for the November general election begins Oct. 13.

San Marcos City Council candidates shared their campaign platforms revolving around affordable housing, job market recovery and the city’s response to COVID-19, during a Sept. 10 virtual forum.

Of the 12 candidates running for office, five are running for mayor, two for City Council Place 3, two for Place 4 and three for Place 5. Mayoral candidates Michael Hathaway and Justin Harris were not present at the forum.

Incumbent Mayor Jane Hughson seeks reelection with a platform looking to bring more jobs to San Marcos. Hughson mentioned her lowering of the tax rate, as well as finding a compromise over zoning ordinances with investors and city residents. To Hughson, bringing in jobs opens doors to amending several city problems.

“I will continue to work to ensure growth is positive for our residents,” Hughson said. “We’ll attract corporations that pay a living wage and attract good benefits. A good job is an avenue to homeownership.”

Juan Miguel Arredondo, a mayoral candidate, is a current member of the San Marcos CISD Board of Trustees and has served on local school boards since May 2015. Arredondo views his perspective as in-tune with what San Marcos needs, as he has lived in the city and studied in its schools his entire life. Arredondo’s platform consists of addressing affordable housing in San Marcos and the city’s COVID-19 response.

“Some people don’t want to see poor people moving in next door, and you see that rhetoric all the way at the federal level,” Arredondo said. “I think if we actually address San Marcos’ housing crisis, and if we opened up for all citizens, we would see that our neighborhoods are not at risk of being invaded by those ‘less than,’ because there is no such thing.”

Randy Dethrow, a mayoral candidate, is running as a democratic socialist and cites Sen. Bernie Sanders as an influence for his platform of expanding affordable housing in San Marcos and addressing the projected mass evictions in the wake of COVID-19.

“All of these people are getting kicked out of their homes because they can’t afford [them], and I just think that’s a bad business model,” Dethrow said. “I thought the point of capitalism was to offer the best product for the lowest price. You want to keep your customers. How do you keep your customers when you’re kicking them out all the time?”

Ed Mihalkanin, City Council Place 3 incumbent, has served on the council from 1996-2000, 2001-2006 and Dec. 2016 to now. He is running for reelection with a focus on workforce development, stating affordable housing problems cannot be solved until people are trained and educated to improve the city’s workforce.

“I will try to the best of my ability to listen to as many of my fellow citizens and to read as much about the issues, get as much information as humanly possible and really be a sounding board for my fellow citizens,” Mihalkanin said. “It seems to me you have to be a representative and, at the same time, do all that you can to bring your own skills to bear.”

Alyssa Garza, City Council Place 3 candidate, is originally from Laredo but has called San Marcos her home since 2008. She is focused on tackling and developing her knowledge of affordable housing issues in the city, stating the importance of seeing her community members as part of the solution rather than the problem.

“I was moved to run for office after [living in] our community for several years and realizing that there was much room for growth in terms of what’s necessary to address our community’s basic needs, and provide opportunities for folks in our communities to not just survive but to thrive,” Garza said.

Mark Rockeymoore, City Council Place 4 incumbent, is running for reelection to complete and solidify current initiatives he worked to implement during his year and a half in office.

“Fear is something that is guiding a lot of decision making processes these days,” Rockeymoore said. “And here at the local level, we need to keep in mind that we are all in this together that we cannot do anything apart… No matter which one of us wins office, what is best for the city and what is best for its people is what is best, and I am going to be working toward that, from this point until the election and after.”

Shane Scott, a current candidate for Place 4, has lived in San Marcos for about 33 years and previously served on City Council from 2010-2015. He is a small business owner with an obtained real estate license. He says he is running because he believes the San Marcos business community has no voice in the council.

“We produced a lot of jobs for this community, and now it’s kind of at a standstill,” Scott said. “I’m not blaming COVID for that because the reality is, there is a lot of micromanagement that has caused problems for people to grow in this community and our businesses to grow. So COVID aside, we need to change how we think about our business community.”

Zach Sambrano, City Council Place 5 candidate, was born and raised in San Marcos and graduated from Texas State with a degree in political science. He currently works as a manager at the San Marcos outlets. Sambrano’s campaign is primarily focused on affordable housing and transparency, saying his familiarity with San Marcos locals give him an advantage.

“I believe that transparency hasn’t been there for local citizens, especially a city with very low income and middle-class neighborhoods,” Sambrano said. “I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me asking for resources. [They] say, ‘even though I voted for this person, I don’t have a connection with them at all, and I don’t know how to reach out to them. I don’t feel comfortable.’”

Omar Baca, a decorated former Travis and Williamson County firefighter running for City Council Place 5, looks to represent the whole of San Marcos and be transparent with constituents. Baca also supports the relaxing of land development code and zoning ordinances to allow more variety of homes for the diverse households across San Marcos.

“I think the human aspect is the most important part,” Baca said. “So I would support [loosening restrictions] because I [do] believe that the impact is negative. But I would also keep my mind open to good data because we can make decisions based on our opinions, but we have to ask the right questions and get the right data.”

Vice Chair of the San Marcos Planning & Zoning Commission Mark Gleason is running for City Council Place 5 on a platform of expanding jobs while maintaining the restrictions on land development and zoning ordinances many other candidates across the ballot panned as restrictive to non-traditional households in San Marcos.

“I will seek opportunities to attract high-paying jobs to San Marcos,” Gleason said. “High-paying jobs yield more opportunities for single-family homeownership and will expand the property tax base to relieve some of the tax burden on homeowners and small businesses while providing a means for our citizens and families to flourish.”

Early voting in San Marcos begins Oct. 13. Polling locations can be viewed on the city website.

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