Three Alamo Heights City Council incumbents foiled tough challenges by a trio of political newcomers in hotly contested May 5 races.
Meanwhile, a member of the Olmos Park Planning and Zoning Board claimed an open council post. In addition, Terrell Hills voters once again approved a street-maintenance tax.
The incumbents campaigned on maintaining momentum in addressing issues such as revitalizing the Broadway business corridor.
However, the challengers’ supporters blamed the officeholders for polarizing the community following council approval of a multistory apartment complex in 2015.
The once-controversial project, underway at Austin Highway and Broadway, is the biggest building project in Alamo Heights in years.
The endeavor once again became an issue during the election. Critics slammed the incumbents as favoring a perceived high-density, incompatible development over preserving a community’s character.
Place 3 Councilman Fred Prassel had the tightest win — fending off Mallory Geis by four votes.
“I am grateful that the residents have decided to let me continue working with other city leaders as we chart the path forward,” Prassel said.
Place 4’s Lynda Billa Burke, a former San Antonio councilwoman, beat Joe Gardner, an accounting firm owner, with 61 percent of the vote. She was relieved that a particularly bitter campaign had finally ended.
“I’ve worked hard and will continue to try and leverage funds to address drainage, parking and business development,” she said.
Place 5 Councilman John Savage defeated Sallye “Jane” Allgood, an Army veteran, with 51 percent.
“The voters opted to retain a council that has worked well together, concentrates on the city’s basic mission, and gets the job done with an eye on fiscal responsibility,” Savage said.
Some residents during the campaign received anti-incumbent literature.
It featured a series of cartoons depicting how then-council members Prassel, Savage and now-Mayor Bobby Rosenthal gave the green light to a special-use permit for the apartment complex. The project involves some retail space.
The illustrations characterized the developers as focused solely on the project’s financial potential, and most of the council members as too compromising.
The incumbents’ supporters, in response, formed a political action committee, Alamo Heights Citizens for Progress. They said the opponents’ backers employed campaign dirty tricks.
Deanna Rickabaugh garnered 65 percent of the votes to claim the Place 5 council seat; Casey Fry declined a re-election bid. Rickabaugh beat Jordana Decamps Mathews, a VIA Metropolitan Transit board member and Mathews Consulting Group chief executive officer.
Rickabaugh said she seeks only to be the best possible elected representative, listening to all residents on different issues.
“I don’t have an agenda,” she said. “I hope to represent my neighbors by being well-informed on matters that come before the council and deliberate and thoughtful in my decision-making.”
She added: “I ran because I love the neighborhood and think that governing at the local level can be very impactful and gratifying. I have the time to devote to this and feel called to serve.”
Rickabaugh also said the local open-carry controversy, which has put Olmos Park in the national spotlight, was a non-factor in the campaign. Two members of a firearms-rights group were recently detained by police after carrying long guns in public; however, Texas law allows the practice. The city later rescinded a local ordinance that contradicted the state law.
Mayor Ronald Hornberger and Place 4 Councilman Kenyon McDonald drew no challengers.
Olmos Park voters also reauthorized the local sales-tax portion that funds city street maintenance.
In addition, Olmos Park voters approved a property-tax freeze for residents age 65 and older. Eligible residents must apply with the city and get a homestead exemption.
Ninety-one percent of the voters casting ballots reauthorized the street-maintenance sales tax.
Terrell Hills held no council elections, as Mayor Anne Ballantyne and Councilman John Low both ran unopposed.
Construction company President William Mitchell was the lone resident to file for the seat vacated by Charles Parish, who’s retiring after 30 years at City Hall.
Area Alamo Colleges District voters tapped District 9 trustee Joe Jesse Sanchez to finish the final two years of the late Jim Rindfuss’ term.
Sanchez, appointed last fall to the District 9 post, topped Felix Grieder, a USAA process engineer and Air Force veteran, by 72 votes.
Sanchez has sought to capitalize on his 45-year-plus career as an administrator and teacher at three local school districts and as an instructor at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.