West Texas mayors stand together at Lubbock meeting - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

West Texas mayors stand together at Lubbock meeting

Source: L. Scott Mann, KCBD Source: L. Scott Mann, KCBD
LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) -

Mayors from six different West Texas cities gathered in Lubbock on Wednesday to talk about challenges they have in common, and to make sure they have their voices heard in Austin.

Lubbock Mayor Dan Pope called the meeting, along with Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson, Midland Mayor Jerry Morales, Odessa Mayor David Turner, San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter, Big Spring Mayor Larry McLellan.

Abilene Mayor Anthony Williams was invited but was unable to attend.

Mayor Pope said the meeting was primarily about building relationships, focusing on the strengths of West Texas and the issues that all these cities have in common.

The mayors said they did discuss the special legislative session and West Texas' relationship with Austin, but that this was not the primary focus of discussion.

Pope mentioned that four of the invited mayors had been doing their jobs for less than 15 months.

"Although less than 15 percent of the population of our state lives west of I-35, many of the resources that this state counts on are in West Texas, whether it be oil and gas or the fiber that's produced from our cotton, or from other parts of agriculture...beef cattle in particular," Pope said.

The mayors met for more than five hours behind closed doors, and they plan to meet again.

The mayors heard from representatives from the Health Sciences Center and from Plains Cotton Growers.

Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson said, "There's six of us, so we spent 30 hours today building friendships."

Odessa Mayor David Turner said, "As West Texans we are born and raised to be independent, in some instances that can hurt us, especially when we go to Austin. It's better if the people of West Texas and the Panhandle can stand together and go to Austin."

"We drive the West Texas economy...and they need to hear our voices. They need to know we need safe roads, we need our share of the money to repair the roads. Many times it goes to the other side of the state," Turner said.

Midland Mayor Jerry Morales said, "I think in the future we can come together and share some ideas that will save our communities money and help our communities grow economically and be fiscally responsible..."

Big Spring Mayor Larry McLellan said, "We should always strive to get together with other mayors. We all have the same problems, we all have the same goals."

San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter said she was grateful for the meeting, "It makes you feel better to know that other people are sharing in the problems that you share and that you're not uniquely alone in that."

"We here in West Texas are tired of hearing about I-35 and what goes on in Austin and what drives our economies because of what happens in Austin. Strength in numbers is always important and today I think we got strength in numbers. We want to utilize that and we will utilize that going forward."

The media was not invited to the five-hour closed door session.

Mayor Pope said, "I wanted it just to be mayors today. I thought it was important for us to talk about the things we face as mayors."

Pope said they talked about state issues for a short time at the end of their meeting.

"Most of those conversations were about roads and TxDOT, and around water," Pope said.

All the mayors expressed concerns about policy in Austin and their desire to make sure sure West Texas was fairly represented there, but Mayor Pope said, "I think it would be a mischaracterization to say we spent all our time talking about Austin. We spent most of our time talking about what we're dealing with locally."

"It was not driven by frustration with the legislative session," Pope said. "I think it makes sense for West Texas to stand together."

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