For what it’s worth…Here’s How I plan to vote in the May 4 election and why

By Ashley Bean Thornton

All the races in the May 4 Join General Election in McLennan County are non-partisan.  Ahhhh!  How relaxing!  It’s so nice to take a break from partisan shenanigans and just try to consider folks on their merits and ideas.

Just for the sake of conversation, here’s how I plan to vote in the May 4 Joint Election and why.  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Waco ISD School Board Place 6

Candidates: Keith Guillory (incumbent), Lauren Caldwell

This is the race I am most passionate about!  I will be voting for Keith Guillory.  Keith’s kids are WISD kids. (His opponent is homeschooling her kids.)  Keith is the incumbent, and I like that he has a little experience serving on the board under his belt.  Most important of all to me, Keith is laser-focused on literacy.  He has worked on literacy projects for the district for years, starting in 2008 way before he ever ran for school board.  For the last two years he and his wife Tracy have hosted the Centex Teen Bookfest on the Brazos, a fantastic daylong celebration of literacy for pre-teens and teens in Waco.   I think Keith has been a solid addition to our school board. His literacy work is “above and beyond the call of duty.” I want to see him serve another term.

To be frank, Keith’s opponent worries me.  As a life-long Baptist, Christian American I am a strong believer in the separation of church and state.  I have been sad to see other school districts get ensnared in distracting conflicts started by religious groups who seem to believe that they are somehow more attuned to “the voice of God” than the rest of us. Keith’s opponent is a member of a church that is part of the “For Liberty & Justice” movement based in Fort Worth.  I do not feel good about this movement.  On their website they state, “The Lord has and is transforming Tarrant County, Texas, and now For Liberty & Justice will start the journey of expanding to all 254 counties of Texas to bring righteous reformation statewide.”

Waco is a majority Christian community.  I don’t know for sure, but If I were guessing, I would guess most, if not all, of our current school board profess Christianity.  Waco ISD already enjoys productive partnerships with local churches who provide valuable activities including reading clubs and afterschool enrichment. Yet, as the constitution requires, Waco ISD also does a pretty good job of avoiding the “establishment of religion” and respecting the religious diversity of our community.   I am worried that Keith’s opponent does not share our interpretation of the constitution or our respect for religious diversity.  I think we are doing OK so far using commonly held values, an appreciation of diversity and freedom, and good sense to balance the separation of church and state here in Waco.  I don’t think we need folks from Ft. Worth to come down and give us a dose of “righteous reformation.”

Keith Guillory is focused on safety and academics.  I think that’s where the focus of our school board trustees should stay.  I don’t want to get into some big kerfuffle over making our schools more “righteous.”  I want our kids to learn to read, and do some math, and to think for themselves.  I will definitely be voting for Keith Guillory.

Waco Mayor

Candidates: Jim Holmes, Aubrey Robertson, Eric Brown

Most of the information I have about these three candidates comes from reading the Trib and attending the recent Candidate Forum hosted by the Lester Gibson Leadership Luncheon.  I have also had a few casual conversations with Jim Holmes through the years.

I thought all of the candidates had good things to say at the candidate forum.  Mr. Brown has only lived in Waco for four years.  He strikes me as a good, passionate person who needs a bit more experience living in Waco and being involved in the Waco community to be a really viable candidate for mayor.

So, for me, it comes down to Mr. Robertson or Mr. Holmes.  That’s a tough choice for me. I was all in for Holmes before the candidate forum.  I don’t always agree with Mr. Holmes, but I find him approachable, willing to listen, and curious – all good traits for a city leader.

On the other hand, I really liked a lot of what Mr. Robertson had to say at the forum.  I liked his line about liking development, but not “development for development’s sake.”  I share his concern, if I am expressing it correctly, that some of the progress we are making in Waco is only progress for people who have the money to enjoy it, for other folks it’s just making the property taxes go up.

On the other, other hand, I think Waco has suffered in the past from lack of investment in things that make our community inviting and enjoyable – like venues for the arts, and an attractive downtown.   I think those kinds of investments do pay off for a community in the long run by enticing people to come here and spend their money in Waco proper and by helping to attract companies with good-paying jobs.

Overall, I am pleased with the accomplishments of our current city council.  I feel like they have done a pretty good job of balancing the needs of the people who live here now, with investments that will hopefully pay off in the future.  Also, I kind of feel like it’s good to have some experience on city council before jumping straight to Mayor.

All that to say, I will probably end up voting for Holmes, but I don’t feel strongly either way.

McLennan County Appraisal District Board Members 


  • Place 1 – John Kinnaird (uncontested)
  • Place 2 – David Schleicher, Perry Felton
  • Place 3 – Dennis DeGraff, William (Bill) W. Vernon Jr., Linda Hatchel  

These are all new positions.  This is the first time we will be voting on any of them, and everyone in McLennan County will get to vote on all three places. The winner of each contest will assume office.

This was all new to me, so I had to do some research to try to even understand what these positions are about.

Here is a little contextual information I cobbled together from Trib articles and a few explanatory notes from candidate David Schleicher:

Similar to the way a school board hires and fires the school superintendent and decides the budget for the school district, the McLennan Central Appraisal District (CAD) board hires and fires the chief appraiser, sets the budget for the appraiser’s office and thereby (hopefully) ensures the CAD is being run properly.  The CAD deals with about $28 billion in taxable property each year.  Its figures are then used by local governments to set tax rates.

The CAD does not have a direct impact on individual appraisal disputes. The appraisal review board, whose members are appointed by a district judge, considers appraisal disputes.

Currently, the CAD board has five voting members appointed by the largest taxing entities in the county: Waco, McLennan County, Waco Independent School District, Midway Independent School District and La Vega Independent School District. The Texas Legislature decided CAD Boards also needed members sent by the taxpayers to look out for the citizens’ interest.

After the May 4 election, the board will be expanded to eight voting members, including three new voting members elected by the voters of McLennan County.  These new board members receive no pay, and those wanting to be elected to the board must pay a $400 filing fee.

For Place 2 I will probably vote for David Schleicher.  Honestly, I just know him better. I have known him and different members of his family for years.  I’m sure knowing him is the biggest influence on my vote, but I also think his training as a lawyer and his former service on the Waco ISD school board have prepared him to do a good job in this role.  I have also served on a board with Felton, and he seems like a perfectly fine person.  I just don’t know him as well.

I do not know any of the candidates for Place 3.  I did a quick search on Facebook and a quick Google search, and as far as I can tell with that small amount of research, all three seem like terrific people who advocate for good things in the community.  I will probably end up voting for Linda Hatchel, just because, all things being equal, it seems to me it would be nice to have at least a little gender diversity on the board.  I would love to hear from anyone who knows any better about these three.

There you have it!  For what it’s worth, that’s my take on the folks on my ballot and how I think I’ll end up voting!  I would love to hear what anyone else thinks!

The main thing I think is that we are lucky to have so many good folks who want to serve our community in these elected positions!  Now it’s time for us voters to get out and do our job!  See you at the polls!

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