By the time Mayor Brian Loughmiller leaves the office in 2017, he will have given 15 years of his life in the service of the City of McKinney. In the afterglow of his final re-election, he spoke to TownSquareBuzz.com about the experience of his final election and what he can accomplish in his final four years in McKinney’s city government.
Loughmiller’s 2013 re-election as mayor is his fourth successful run for city office in McKinney. But he had never before had an opponent file to run against him at the last minute – let alone someone file to run against him at the last minute, then decide to drop out of the race after the stated deadline.
Due to a quirk of the McKinney election rules, would-be challenger Derrick Johnson’s name was still on the ballot on May 11. Johnson, who decided to suspend his campaign shortly after declaring his intention to run, had only 72 hours from the time of his filing to run to officially withdraw from the race. He did not withdraw with that 72-hour window, which ensured his name would be on the ballot. Thereby, Loughmiller was forced to campaign against voter confusion and voter apathy.
Loughmiller secured 2,497 of the 2,919 votes cast. His share amounted to 89.95% of the votes. Johnson received 279 votes (10.05%).
Loughmiller says he heard from many people who congratulated him after Johnson suspended his campaign, but Loughmiller knew that Johnson’s name would still be on the ballot, so he decided to campaign as though Johnson was still in the race.
“People thought I was running unopposed, when in reality I was not running unopposed,” Loughmiller said. “That creates confusion. People are thinking I’m unopposed or saying they don’t need to vote now. So that could create apathy.”
To that end, Loughmiller hopes to pursue changes to the city’s charter over his final four years in office that would prevent this sort of thing from happening to someone else.
Loughmiller says that the current system has some negatives for both the person staying in the race and the person dropping out. “I do appreciate the fact after he met with me, Mr. Johnson came out and said, ‘You know, I don’t really disagree with the mayor so I’m not going to run,’ ” Loughmiller said.
“I mean, I think that takes a lot for someone to do that. But I guarantee you that he did not anticipate still being in the race and still being required to file reports and still the perception being there that he is in a race that he doesn’t want to be in. In reality that is somewhat unfair to him as well.”
Loughmiller told TSB, “We need to look at the city charter to make sure it’s up to date. At this point in time, we have to make sure that our election rules are consistent with state law.”
Loughmiller sees three changes that need to be made to the election rules to prevent these types of issues in the future.
First, as the rules stand right now, a person can run for public office without being a registered voter. The person is only required to register to vote within 30 days of the election. But if that person does not register to vote, they are then not eligible to serve in the public office that they are running for. So there could theoretically be a situation where a winner of a mayoral or city council election is unable to serve because they did not register to vote.
“If somebody wants to run for office, they need to be a registered voter,” Loughmiller said. “It also gives the ability to go out and if there’s a question of what is this person’s general philosophy, if they haven’t voted in any previous election, there’s no way to know what that person’s philosophy is.”
Loughmiller said he’s voted in every election since he’s lived in McKinney: “Every bond election, every primary…everything,” he added.
Second, Loughmiller hopes to see greater importance placed on the filing requirements for all candidates for city office. Currently candidates are required to file a campaign finance disclosure, listing all of the contributions to their campaign. They are also required to file a personal financial disclosure.
The purpose of the personal financial disclosure is, as Loughmiller put it, “to see if there is a potential conflict of interest” between a candidate’s personal holdings and any city business. “It’s not really that intrusive,” he said. There are no specific amounts listed on the forms – simply if the person’s holdings are over or under various dollar amounts.”
Currently, if someone does not file these documents, it does not preclude their name from being on the ballot. Loughmiller sees this as a problem. “If you’re putting yourself out there (to run for office), it’s the whole issue of public trust,” he said. “You (the public) can look and see what interests I have in property, etc.”
Finally, Loughmiller hopes to change the 72-hour window for a candidate to withdraw from an election. “We’re doing our voting electronically,” Loughmiller said. “It’s not like we’re printing out ballots. I would think the technology would be there to have someone’s name removed from the ballot. It just gets back to that same issue of the general public —when they go the polls, what do they understand.”
Loughmiller said he didn’t mind going through the campaign process. He said he always appreciates the opportunity to speak with the citizens of McKinney, but “we need to focus on the real issues that we are facing in McKinney.”
Loughmiller hopes to get these changes enacted by the 2015 election. “We’re going to have two open seats in 2015 and three more in 2017,” he said. “It’s important for the voters to know if the people running are qualified candidates or not.”
Loughmiller said he hopes to see more people stepping up and running in the next several rounds of elections. “You want to have people who are willing to step up and run for office,” he said.
“When we (as a council) do board and commission appointments, we have to look at people who might be a good candidate who might run for city council,” he said. “I’m not saying we’re trying to pick our successors. I’m just saying we try to create a vehicle that gets people more involved in volunteering. That’s really what I think we need to focus on.”
The idea of volunteering for service is something Loughmiller sees as the paramount of importance for civil servants. “The beauty of this system is because it’s not a salaried position; you hopefully make decisions without having to worry about losing your job,” he said. “Hopefully, you make decisions based upon what’s best for the community.”
Also looking forward to his final four years as mayor, Loughmiller said he’s excited about the development that will begin around Highway 75 once the construction is finally completed. “I think McKinney is really poised for good growth,” he said. “When you watch the development as it’s gone north from Dallas, it’s happened on the back of infrastructure. I think it’s our turn. I think we’re in a great place to start seeing that growth.”
The groundwork for the development around Highway 75 has been in the works for many years and Loughmiller said that McKinney is very close to seeing the fruits of all of those construction headaches. “We’ve got some good ideas about retail planning and development,” he said. “I would hope that over the next four years that we can work towards that.”
Loughmiller also hopes to see the construction on the Gateway Hotel started and completed with the first two years of his final term. He also hopes to continue to bring more jobs to McKinney. “I truly believe that people can live and work in McKinney,” he said. “I would really hope to keep the jobs here in McKinney.”
He said he also wants to bring some additional improvements to the city’s governmental operations. Loughmiller said the city is understaffed in several areas and needs to convert to an electronic filing process for the submittal of prospective building plans to the planning department “immediately.”
He also says that City Manager Jason Gray needs some help at the executive level. “We have 860 employees in the city of McKinney,” he said. “We need to have an executive structure commensurate with a private company of that size.”