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In this series, Texas Tech Public Media sits down with candidates across the board to discuss issues facing their constituents.

Conversation with Candidates: Bill Felton for Lubbock City Council District 5

Voting in Lubbock
Sarah Self-Walbrick/Texas Tech Public Media
Early voting for the Lubbock Municipal Election is April 25-May 3. Election Day is May 7.

One of the seats on the municipal election ballot this year is for city council District 5. That's southwest Lubbock. Bill Felton is one candidate running for the position.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: To start, just introduce yourself to us and share some more of your background.

Bill Felton: Well, I'm up there in years. I'm running kind of late in life. But I have been a councilman and mayor elsewhere. I've also been a congressional candidate down in the Houston area. What I'm really doing is… I don't really need or want to be a councilman. I want to help change the system here. And if it takes me to run and get the word out, then I feel I have a duty to do this. Too many times, I've seen these positions, literally, bought. And the classic example is, back eight years ago, and I won't mention the names. But in Council District 3, a very well-qualified, talented lady lost by five votes. And think of it, just five votes, she spent $11,000. Her opponent, you won't believe what he spent, $77,000. Those last five votes are pretty expensive. This is the kind of nonsense and improvement that I think our system needs here. And I have other things I want to do. I want to get, finally, the road paid on 98th between Upland and Alcove. For 20 some years now, this has been a quagmire after it rains. And I have other ideas too. But I'll spare you that right now.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: Why are you running for city council?

Bill Felton: I've already been on council and mayor elsewhere. I really want to help change the system here. I feel I can be an outside observer, and I can be objective about it as an outsider whereas a lot of the traditions here with all the lawn signs and everything else. No, I'm not going to get caught up in that rat race of who can spend the most to buy the job. If they can’t elect a person based on their qualifications and their record, then I'm sorry. But I'll do what I can to change the present system as I see it.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: How often have you attended city council meetings in the past?

Bill Felton: Well, in all honesty, I have not been a regular attendant at city council meetings. But I have spoken twice before council. I spoke during the sanctuary city debate and I also spoke about the charter change. I've been to hundreds of council meetings elsewhere. Though I'm interested in the city government, I've been a subscriber of the A-J for 20 years. So I do keep up with the news of city council. I read it religiously. But no, I have not been a frequent spectator at town hall meetings, in all honesty.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: What's something that you know that you'll need to learn more about if you're elected?

Bill Felton: Well, when I was a mayor back east many years ago, we had a landfill problem. And I would like to know more about recycling and the money that we're spending on landfill costs. They're called tipping fees, at least they were back where I come from. And I think if I think we can cut back this delivery, or I should say pickup, of our trash. I have a large dumpster and they come twice a week. I don't know what everybody else in the city has as large of dumpsters I have. But I really think that people would recycle, it would save the landfill problem and also probably cut back this door to door trash pickup twice a week. I like to see it reduced to once a week. And so I think that needs looking into.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: That's interesting. I haven't heard that one before, so I appreciate that. 

Bill Felton: Well that’s because of my past background, where a landfill in South Jersey, it was wetlands, and that was our biggest problem. How do we get rid of our trash? So we recycled everything - glass, cardboard, you name it. I like what I see here, but I don't think it's been taken seriously enough to get everybody involved.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: Tell us about some city wide issues that you think need to be addressed.

Bill Felton: Well, as I said, I'm real big on recycling and I'd like to see all the well-traveled streets and roads in the city paved before we get caught up with these grandiose ideas. For downtown, I think $40 million on the last bond issue, or it was $60 [million], I'm not sure. And the other thing about a bond issue is it went down to defeat even though the A-J was in favor of it, because the people just didn't know whether this total amount, $160 million or so, was going to be spent. What I would like to see is a definite line item allocation. So we know exactly where the money is being spent, and not just have a big slush fund.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: And what specifically in District 5, do you think needs to be addressed?

Bill Felton: We have a neighboring street - called it a dirt road, if you will, that be a better name for it now. Adjoining my Regency Park subdivision, and we've been after them, for what seems like forever, to have this 98th Street paved between Upland and Alcove. This is a real quagmire. As matter of fact, our chancellor of the university lives just at the first house in and beyond our subdivision on 98th Street, and if he didn't have a four wheel drive, he couldn't even get to work. It's not just for him. It's for everybody. Now we have a new subdivision, just south of us, on 98th. It’s 710 lots. And most of them are built up now, and these people are inconvenienced. And we have even more construction going on at Alcove near 98th. So that to me is the the hottest issue right now where I live.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: That's important. We learned during the redistricting process that District 5 has seen the most population growth in recent years. What challenges and opportunities do you think come with that?

Bill Felton: I think first of all, we want equity here in the districts. We have far more residents and registered voters in District 5 than any of the other five districts, have six in all, of course. And I really think that we need parity. There's some districts that are just underrepresented. Now, I know it means a change for a lot of people from their normal voting habits. But it's unfair for District 5, which I'm in, to have the much larger role of residential, not to mention, registered voters. Try to walk all of District 5, forget it - there are about 25,000 just in District 5, or maybe it's even more.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: I hadn't thought about the registered voter part of that question. That's, that's an interesting point to bring up.

Bill Felton: I guess if you're running for higher office, you make sure you start with District 5. Even though it's spread out more, we have more registered voters. And that's another thing I would like to see in Lubbock, I'd like to see a major registration emphasis. I think people should take an active part in our government and I've always been in favor of that. In fact, when I ran for mayor back in New Jersey, between Labor Day and Election Day, I registered 500 voters during my campaign. In fact, during this coronavirus two years ago, I was out registering voters registered over 100 and gave applications to many others. I think that we could be very proud in Lubbock to have our city the best represented with a voter turnout and the percentage of people who are actually registered. This is a high priority of mine. And it covers not only Lubbock, but Lubbock County, and again, I've always put a big emphasis on getting people involved. That's what it's all about to have good government.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: And lastly, why should voters cast their ballot for you?

Bill Felton : Well, if they want a change. But in all honesty, I don't expect to be elected. I signed a modified financial reporting form. And I have no expectations of winning. But I want to get this message out. As a matter of fact, I pledge not to spend more than $920 - that's the maximum for a modified financial report. I spent $300 to date just on flyers. And actually I don't think I'm gonna have to spend much more, I got a 3,000 of them for $250. Plus, I've gotten some reports from downtown to the registered voters walk list and so forth. So I don't expect to be elected, but I want to get that message out that we need to change. So there are four good candidates. If I had a preference, I would choose my neighbor and a doctor. I've always thought that we need more doctors in politics than just lawyers. I have a legal background, that includes me. But I do think we need more physicians in politics, so I recommend Dr. Jennifer Wilson.

Early voting is April 25-May 3 before Election Day on May 7.

Sarah Self-Walbrick is the news director at Texas Tech Public Media, where she leads the news team and focuses on underreported stories in Lubbock. Sarah is a Lubbock native and a three-time graduate of Texas Tech University. She started her career at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.