All three Cleburne mayoral candidates weighed in on their plans if elected. Of the three Cleburne council races voters will decide on Nov. 3, the mayor’s race is the only opposed contest.
Mayor Scott Cain seeks his fifth term opposed by John Paul “J.P.” Lowery and Tommy Molloy.
The opening of the long-awaited Chisholm Trail Parkway originally prompted Cain to seek office eight years ago.
“That gave us an opportunity to re imagine our future,” Cain said. “I laid out ideas about how we could prepare for the coming growth and asked the community what they want to look like, feel like over the next 20 years or so. So we focused on building the foundation for that future early on, updating our charter, addressing ordinances and zoning and so forth. We talked about improving communications and transparency.
“A big thing was improving the community’s morale, which was at an all-time low. A lot of people said our best days were behind us, but I refused to believe that.”
Cain, when asked to grade his first four terms, said that’s a question best answered by others.
“I’ll leave that to residents and history,” Cain said. “I know we’ve accomplished some things, but I’m never satisfied. I always want us to strive to do better. I feel in some ways we’ve got a lot done especially in road improvements and seeing the community come together. We’ve taken big swings at some big projects.
“I’ve been disappointed in delays on some of the retail part [at Cleburne Station] but pleased by the housing starts and seeing downtown finally come back to life. That’s something deeply personal to me having grown up in this community. For any progress though, I’m just a small part of a bigger city team and community.”
The biggest challenge, Cain said, has been adjusting to the slowness of government action.
“I get a little impatient,” Cain said. “I want to get it done right then, but sometimes it takes a little time. The downtown sidewalks for instance took longer to get across the finish line than I had hoped. But I’m glad it’s done and it coincided with a lot of businesses opening back up and it’s been exciting watching downtown come back.”
Cain, 53, sums up the past eight years as remarkable.
“A lot of credit for that goes to a lot of people,” Cain said. “To know that maybe I had a small hand in that is very humbling.”
One of the best parts of being mayor, Cain said, is the view from the front-row seat.
“Some of the things I’ve enjoyed most is talking to school kids about a bright future,” Cain said. “Seeing neighborhoods come together whether its after a tornado or an Operation Cleburne Pride project. Seeing our community go from an attitude of our best days behind us to being excited about what’s coming next.”
Cain said he hope to continue serving as mayor to do his part to plan for the growth coming while ensuring that Cleburne maintains its special small-town character.
“That’s rare that communities can do that,” Cain said. “If people wanted big, suburban areas they’d move to the Metroplex. Here we have a rich history and sense of community. Family, friends and faith are the big three. And the next decade is going to be exciting. The past decade we laid a foundation for our future. Over the next 10 years we’re going to see the walls go up on our future and see it start taking form. My hope is we’re building a future that our children and grandchildren want to return to.”
Cain owns and operates a law firm in town.
John Paul ”JP” Lowery
Lowery, 54, said he threw his hat in the ring in part because of Cleburne Station inaction. Cleburne voters, in 2015, approved $25 million in bonds to purchase land for a stadium and a mixed-use retail and restaurant development. The stadium opened in 2017 but retail has yet to arrive.
“We haven’t got the mall and the shops built out there,” Lowery said. “We passed it, were told it was a done deal. I’ve got articles from [Times-Review] talking about it. We got the stadium built, haven’t had a lot of revenue or events this year just because of the nature of the COVID-19 situation. But we need to get to Cleburne Station being built, at least started. Over the last couple of years I’ve collected 19 or so newspaper articles where people were saying they’re breaking ground at the end of the month, this is going on, it’s all going to happen. And yet, here we still are with nothing out there.
“The long and short of it is that I came to a tax protest deal and tried to discuss [Cleburne Station] and was pretty much ignored by the people down there. I thought that was not a good thing and that got me into the mode of learning more about what we’re trying to do there.”
Lowery named Lake Pat Cleburne as another issue of focus if elected.
“I want to concentrate on the lake and expansion of our wastewater treatment plant,” Lowery said. “That has to be a priority. If we’re looking at water supply for our 30,000 residents how are we going to have enough water supply for the 60,000 projected to be here by 2030?
“I also think the lake holds a lot of potential for activities for families and in general want to focus on making sure there are things for younger people to do around Cleburne. Another focus would be the east side, which has suffered through the years while progress was made in the city’s west and north areas.”
Lowery said he applauds efforts of late to revitalize downtown but believes city grant programs should be expanded to additional areas of the city. City officials initiated the grants to spur renovation of buildings downtown, and in certain instances other areas of town.
Having worked as a supervisor at the Cleburne Home Depot for the past 10 years, Lowery said he remains involved in Christmas In Action and other volunteer organizations with a heart toward helping veterans, widows and elderly residents in need.
“To make sure that people on fixed incomes who don’t necessarily have the means to take care of their house or have the resources to do that can still get the help they need,” Lowery said. “That’s really where my concentration is, to help them out.”
Which in part means fostering community involvement, something Lowery intends to work toward if elected.
“Every position on city council and the school board except the mayor’s race has already been decided,” Lowery said. “There’s no opposition. We need to get more citizen participation. I’ve had a discussion with Scott Cain and one of the things brought up is that nobody votes, and he’s right. I’ve talked to a lot of people the last few months and that’s a big thing. We’ll see how it goes Nov. 3. But, we’re talking about our future and we want to make sure everyone gets input.
Lowery mentioned that Cain was a grade below him and Molloy a grade above in Cleburne High School.
“They’re both good guys,” Lowery said. “I just hope that, whoever wins, they’ll be open to input from the others.”
“I just feel I can make some positive changes for the community,” Molloy said when asked why he joined the race. “That’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Molloy, 57, is confined to a wheelchair having broken his neck seven years ago. Before that he worked at the Walmart Distribution Center for 12 years.
“Being handicapped looking at issues on that would be a big focus if I’m elected,” Molloy said. “With the new sidewalks and downtown revitalization I’ve seen the new ramps and those things going in, which is a good start for our handicapped residents.”
Molloy added that he plans to focus on development and helping those in need if elected.
“A lot of people on the east side are wanting restaurants and business over there,” Molloy said. “I tell people I’ll have to work with city council if I become mayor but working on ideas for the east side is something I’ll try to do. That and trying to help the homeless people and getting them off the streets.
Molloy mused that it’s been a strange year with the mayoral election, originally scheduled for May, getting pushed to November and the challenges of COVID-19, which have hampered traditional campaign events to say the least.
“I want to get more things in the community,” Molloy said. “Things for the city to get people together like we used to have years ago. Things like downtown concerts, Springfest, having the churches coming out and things like that. If I’m elected, I plan to do more things to bring the community together.”