Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross is running for re-election in May against political newcomer Dr. Sherwin Kahn, a retired chiropractor and social activist.
Ross is running on his track record as mayor of a town that was the fastest-growing city of its size in the country last year. Kahn said Georgetown has much more room for improvement in race relations and reaching out to the underprivileged.
Ross, who is running for his second three-year term, said that during his tenure Georgetown became the first city in Texas to switch to 100 percent renewable energy, voters passed the largest bond in the city’s history, the city started its own ambulance service and finished building a new 76,000-square-foot public safety facility.
The city is also involved in some of its largest road projects ever, he said.
“I think the last three years have been the most historic in the history of our city,” said Ross, a 56-year-old accountant who owns his own business. “For me it’s all about being a pragmatic leader and getting things done and working well with the City Council and city staff and the people I was elected to serve.”
Ross said, if re-elected, he wants to help finish projects that already have started, including building the city’s largest park, Garey Park, on 525 acres of land donated to the city by Jack Garey, and constructing the Southwest Bypass, the largest road project in the city’s history. It involves extending Leander Road to Texas 29.
Kahn, a 63-year-old who has never held a political office, said Georgetown needs to do more for its residents, including providing more affordable housing, programs to help homeless families and being more welcoming to minorities.
“One of the things I hear from people of color coming to Georgetown is they don’t want to come here at night,” Kahn said. “I would like to see if there’s a way for to make it so that Williamson County and Georgetown are not dangerous places to be if you are a person of color and driving in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Kahn has a history of social activism in the community. After some residents asked the City Council in 2014 to join a list of Texas communities vowing to turn away Central American migrants, Kahn started a petition for residents who supported providing shelter to migrants.
He also started a petition in 2016 against the Old South Ball, a Civil War-themed dance at the county courthouse. Kahn was involved in an unsuccessful effort to get a Confederate soldier monument moved off the courthouse square.
He said that if elected he would like to start a diversity festival “that honors all the people who have made Georgetown great.”
“I want to promote equality and respect the dignity of all people,” Kahn said, “not just those connected by money or politics and religion to the people who currently rule our community.”
Kahn criticized Ross, saying the mayor meets with developers immediately while delaying meetings with social activists.
Ross said that isn’t true. He said he’s been to 356 meetings in the past year, including a series of dialogues about race called “Courageous Conversations.” The subject about people of color feeling discriminated against in Georgetown did “come up,” Ross said.
“I’m not minimizing that some people do feel discriminated against, but we are working on that every day by being out in the community and attending events that folks invite me to and reaching out to everybody in Georgetown,” he said.
Ross also said the city of Georgetown gives $400,000 every year to social service agencies.
He said Kahn isn’t qualified to be mayor because he has never held elected office, served on a city board or held a leadership position. Ross also criticized Kahn for not coming to two candidate debates in March.
Kahn said he didn’t go to the first debate, sponsored by Texans4Truth, because he was warned by other candidates “they would record the event and then sample it and misuse it.” He said he didn’t go to the second debate because he had the flu.
Kahn said he has met with smaller groups, including the Sun City Democratic group. “My feeling is whether I win or lose I can get my message out there,” he said.