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

Conversations with Candidates: Mark McBrayer for Lubbock City Council District 3

Mark McBrayer
Mark McBrayer

For the first time in several years, there will be new representatives on the Lubbock City Council after the May municipal election. That includes District 3, which covers much of central Lubbock. The only candidate for the position is Mark McBrayer.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: Introduce yourself to us and share some of your background.

Mark McBrayer: Well, I'm not a lifelong resident of Lubbock. But we moved here when I was about four or five years old in the late 50s. And I've been here ever since. I went to school here at Monterey High School, went to Texas Tech, graduated from Tech. My wife is from here - we married, raised our family here. And my grandchildren live here in Lubbock now. We've lived in the District 3 area, the Tech Terrace area. I've probably lived there over 50 years and so it is my home. It's very much a part of me and I’m looking forward to this opportunity to represent my neighbors and other people I don't know in that district.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: I admire that dedication to a specific neighborhood. So just to go a little bit deeper than that. Why are you running for city council?

Mark McBrayer: I've reached a point, I guess, in my life, where I think that's an opportunity I wanted to take advantage of. I've owned some businesses in Lubbock, and I've been an attorney for the past 20 years. But, again, I have grandchildren who live in this town. I've lived in this town most of my life and I think it has a great future. So at some point, the people who live here and want to see Lubbock succeed for themselves or family, their grandchildren, they need to step up and run for office. It's a wonderful thing that I don't have an opponent, but it's a little frightening, too, that you might actually have an election someday nobody wants to run. I’m not content to just let other people take that task on. It was something I felt like I could do and was willing to do and was ready to do.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: It's obviously not unprecedented, but still an unusual situation to only have one person running for this seat. So I'm curious to know more of your thoughts on that.

MM: I know that three other people took out the applications for the position, two of whom I know, one of whom I don't know. Either they were smarter than me and didn't turn them back in or just decided it was something they didn't want to do. One of them I talked with, I probably had three or four conversations, long conversations with him before he decided he was not going to run. And basically, I assured him that even though he and I probably didn't agree on everything, one thing we did agree on is that we both were very committed to our district. So it's very important to me and I will look out for his interests, and I think he was convinced of that. So anyway, I'm happy to do it.

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

Mark McBrayer: Quite a bit. And now, knowing that I’m going to be seated on it in May, I've been attending them for the past couple of months just to see what they're dealing with. Get conversant with not only the issues that are facing them, but I joke, with all the little abbreviations they use for everything. They throw those around a lot, and of course, if you don't know what they are, you just have to scratch your head. And so when I hear PUF and PIDs and all these other things they throw around, I want to know what they're talking about.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: It's kind of a different language sometimes. I understand that as someone else who also is there at almost every single meeting.

Mark McBrayer: Well, and I met with Jeff Griffith, who holds the position but is not running again quite some time ago, and he gladly gave me his two volumes of the city budget, which are about six inches tall, shoved them across the desk to me and said ‘Here, have them you can look at them.’ And so I've been going through those, too. So there's quite a bit.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: Well, I'm sure going through those meetings, you've probably identified this already. What's something that you know you'll need to learn more about in this position?

MM: Well, there are a couple of things. There's a unified sort of development code that we've got coming up. I need to learn a little bit more about how that's going to be, how that's going to work. I think it's probably a good idea, in many ways, but there's much I need to learn about it. I've asked a lot of questions about our water and how we are situated for that, because it doesn't matter how much you want Lubbock to grow or think that that's a great thing for Lubbock. If we don't have the water to support it, then we don't need to be focused on that. We need to be just in a maintenance mode. But I think I've been convinced by everybody I've talked to that we have a good 100-year water plan, with just a few things we need to look at.

This change over to ERCOT is a done deal. But there are still a couple of issues that the city council will have to decide about, the future of LP&L and some of the assets that it owns. So that's something I'm going to have to get dug into. Impact fees are another thing that people talk about a lot. Policing is obviously one of the most important things and top on my list, public safety. We've gone to sort of a different set up here in the city, with our police department in different zones. And so I want to learn how that's working. Because it's fairly new and it's different. But I want to make sure that it's addressing people's concerns. So those are some of the things.

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

Mark McBrayer: The priorities for people who live in a city like Lubbock… public safety's number one, top of the list, you've got to address that. Of all the core duties of a city government, it's probably the one that sits at the top of practically everybody's list. So you've got to make sure that that is being done well and meets people's expectations.

And everybody backs out of the driveway into a street. Everybody wants to know that those streets in their neighborhood that they travel on are maintained and safe. So that's, I think, a second-tier concern, right up there near the top, though, for most people. And then me, personally, and the people who encouraged me to run for this office and who are supporting me in this. Some of our concerns are to make sure that Lubbock still is that environment is known for having a low tax rate, a low cost of living, because we think that's part of our appeal going forward into the future for people to move here, families start businesses here, is that this is a low cost of living, low taxes, but with a great infrastructure, great university, great medical facilities. It's a wonderful alternative to a lot of other cities in Texas. I think a lot of people don't want to move to Texas, but they're going to look for alternatives to Dallas and Austin and Houston, San Antonio, places that have high taxes, high cost of living, and other issues that I think Lubbock offers a great alternative to. And most days, wonderful weather. Just today we're sitting here looking at the dust. But other than that, Lubbock’s great.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: Exactly. This interview will go online a little later, I think it's fair to say that there will probably be dust in the air then, as well. What about any issues specific to District 3?

Mark McBrayer: District 3 is one of the older districts in Lubbock. It's built out, there's no place for people to actually come in and build new houses or anything unless some houses are taken down. There's very little space for that. It's got older retail, a lot of what I would call local businesses. 34th Street is what I call Lubbock’s small business boulevard, mom and pop shops, whatever you want to call it. People who make their living directly from their business, that's their livelihood. I want to make sure that Lubbock continues to be a very good environment for those people.

One of the reasons I'm running is, although our love of our city didn't do a bad job during COVID, I think, like many places, we didn't weigh in the balance with the health concerns, the impact of decisions we make on businesses. And when we start making decisions about necessary businesses, I want to say ‘Necessary to whom?’ Businesses are necessary to the people who own it. So I thought a lot of decisions were made poorly. Lubbock did a better job than most, I'm not trying to criticize, we were all trying to figure our way out through that. But I want to make sure we don't make mistakes like that again.

The bond issue. A part of it concerned 34th Street, which runs through my district. I think that was not handled well by the city. And so we need to take a look at that again. At the end of my street, they're always digging up, we always have problems with the water. I think taking care of the infrastructure in an older part of the city, is just one of the kinds of things that we need to make sure that we take care of and we're not all just concerned about what's happening in new areas of town.

Sarah Self-Walbrick: And lastly, how would you like to see Lubbock change during your time on the council?

Mark McBrayer: In my priorities, one thing is I would like our city council to be a little bit more transparent in how it handles matters. And I think, again, that was one of the problems with the bond issue. It was a whole lot of money loaded into a Broadway project, huge amount of money. The people didn't really understand how in the world that was going to be spent on Broadway. Broadway is a problematic street anyway, for anybody who drives down it. And so I don't think it was well thought out, and I think that's probably the reason the vote went against that because it was not presented well. People on the council weren't being totally forthright with the public about what was going to be involved in that.

But I just think it's important for people in the city to feel like their city council listens to them, is in tune with them. And of course, our city council had two issues that went to the voters. City council went 7-0 on those two issues, the public went exactly against them, which shows that they were probably a little bit out of touch with their public. I feel like I'm more in touch with the public. I was on the side of both those issues that the voters voted with. And I just think we need a city council that reflects the thinking, the priorities, the goals, the values of its citizens a little bit better, and I hope to do that.

Early voting for the municipal election begins April 25 and goes through May 3. Election Day is 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.