A “hostile takeover” of the city government? A look at Marlin politics


MARLIN, Texas – Residents of the town of Marlin were hoping to put the political drama behind them more than two years ago when voters sent a new administrative team to town hall.

But the ride has been bumpier lately, as some describe what they call a “hostile takeover” of the city government.

“I just wanted to see what was going to be covered and what will be discussed,” Johnny Cooper, a Marlin resident, said at the start of a recent city council meeting.

The people of Marlin have learned that sometimes there is no better show in town than City Council.

Town leaders say that now, for the first time ever, Marlin has his very first all-minority council.

But don’t think for a minute that this common frame of reference guarantees consensus.

“This article has already been vetoed. Anyone have any questions? Said Mayor Carolyn Lofton, who vetoed an agenda item from the previous meeting after a controversial discussion over the City Manager‘s salary.

Lofton said it seemed clear to him: four council members had an agenda.

“They were on a fact-finding mission to get information about the rumors they heard,” Lofton said. “The way they did it might not be the best way to do it.”

With the new board members, Lofton uses every possible parliamentary hurdle to keep the meeting from falling into the hands of the board majority.

Why? Four council members constitute a quorum, giving them the ability to force the City of Marlin government to do things their own way.

“Orders and bylaws as amended by the Town of Marlin. I support this, but I have a question,” said a council member.

Lofton never had unanimous support, although it seemed, more often than not, the old council saw it their way. It reopened a closed park, launched a road program and took potential investors through town.

But the group of four – Henderson, Armstrong, Ponce and McDavid – had started asking for files and voting to hold special meetings to discuss topics important to them.

Had the group hijacked the Marlin government?

“The central question tonight is whether to move forward with the Lofton style of government or return to the Keefer-era style of government,” said Derrick Hogget, owner of the Marlin business, s ‘addressing the mayor, council and those present at a recent meeting.

As people struggled to explain the new discord, part of the discussion focused on John Keefer, the former mayor.

Keefer had, and has, a problem with the new administration’s handling of the flow of information to board members.

“Mainly, not giving them all the information so that they can make decisions, and we have a lot of it, that was stuff that dated back to my time, so I knew the facts behind,” Keefer said.

Keefer argues that for everything you’ve seen coming from city leaders, it always came with something voters didn’t see.

One of those things was the city manager’s salary increase that was hidden among other city employees in Marlin’s budget documents.

Lofton says his team has been very transparent about increasing all of the city’s employees, even gaining one of four new council members.

“A council member came over and said it was part of the council members who were looking to get rid of our city manager, and he said he admitted we had to give him a chance, we weren’t there. ‘hadn’t done it,’ she said.

And Keefer says he’s stepped away from his role as a critic of the city government.

“Since the election, you won’t survive a single posting for me,” Keefer said. “I am not there to disparage, I am here to gather the facts.”

But that still leaves an important question unanswered: Did the former mayor conspire with members of the city council to dump the current city manager and install him in his post as some believe?

The people of Marlin say the unanswered questions and the drama must end.

“I hope the people of Marlin get some help and everyone stand together and turn the town around,” said Debra DeCamp of Falls County.

“Every time I go to meetings, no one can give exact numbers on where we are, what we need and what we have,” she said.

This quote described the previous administration, where in a meeting, council members walked out in protest as then-mayor Keefer attempted to explain how he, instead of a contractor, ended up renovating a building in the city.

Keefer also had problems with the council when the police chief retired. Keefer wanted then-sheriff Ricky Scaman to take over temporarily, even making a deal with county chiefs to make it work.

But back at town hall, council members rejected the sheriff’s solution, sending Keefer back to the drawing board with a stack of nominations.

A few years later, voters sent a new team to mayor, and Keefer points out that the new group’s own brand of “fuzzy math” has made council members question finances and legal opinions.

“The board is questioning things that it feels, I believe, based on discussions with board members, there are trust issues, there are major transparency issues,” Keefer said.

Four members of the newly elected city council, the city’s first “all-minority” council, apparently agreed and began to sprinkle the administration with questions and requests for special meetings, which Mayor Carolyn Lofton did not see. to come.

“No, I think I didn’t,” Lofton said. “Not until we had a meeting and these things started to come out. Well, there was some misinformation going around that the new board members had heard.”

Let’s face it, the city of Marlin government has not had an easy time in most people’s lives.

However, if disagreements and discord continue to reign and nothing is done, who is it for? Anybody.

Council members were not the only ones to receive specific information. Citizens came up with a narrative involving former Mayor Keefer, ordering the quorum he allegedly influenced to fire City Manager Cedric Davis and install Keefer in the post.

“I want to ask the rebel council if there is any truth to the rumor that they are considering appointing Keefer as city manager. Is that why they met him privately after council meetings? Hogget asked.

Keefer has long criticized what he calls shortcomings in Davis’ resume.

Davis, the former mayor of a Dallas suburb and the first person of color to run for governor of Texas, insists he is more than qualified for the job and names Alan Grindstaff, his predecessor who worked under Keefer and became the target of a Texas Ranger. investigation for calling for a police “ticket quota” in violation of state law.

Keefer and his city council also fired Grindstaff when, as Keefer puts it, Grindstaff and the city council’s plan for Marlin “diverged”.

Keefer spends his time these days, as a classic entrepreneur, building businesses from scratch, like Marlin’s only gym.

Keefer is also helping revive underperforming businesses, like a butcher shop, which began to thrive during the pandemic when Texans became more focused on “eating local.”

Like many of his investments, Keefer sold the butcher’s shop after making improvements and helping it stand on a more solid financial footing.

He makes no apologies for his interactions with city council members and says every citizen should speak to their representatives on a regular basis.

When it comes to getting “your people” elected, Keefer says, these kinds of situations sound great in political thrillers, but are much more difficult to pull off in real life.

“People can say I’m behind this, that I put my people on council to give the mayor a hard time. Did I do it? No,” Keefer said. “I think it’s kind of hilarious that people think I could convince people to give the mayor a hard time. I’m not the evil puppeteer people mean. I don’t think I have the ability to. be a puppeteer. “

Even if he did, there is no law preventing any of us from getting our favorite people elected, as long as we do it honestly.

Some observers simply call it a “plot twist” in the long-running and ongoing drama they call Marlin’s politics.

“Council members, the mayor and everyone else, they all have a role to play,” Cooper said.

Others call it politics as usual because it seems Marlin City Council has proven time and time again that it thinks and acts independently at times, no matter who is in charge.

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