Retired businessman Tom Scherlen is making a second run for Amarillo City Council in an effort to represent Place 3 on the council. Scherlen, the current president of the Amarillo Senior Citizens Association and former CEO of Austin Hose, previously ran against Eddy Sauer in 2021, garnering 43% of the vote. He is now looking to supplant him, as Sauer chose not to run for reelection. During his 38 years with the company Austin Hose, Scherlen ran five branches in three states servicing seven different states.
“I feel like I have a lot to offer with my business experience, and I want to bring that kind of experience with the city, being able to balance budgets and looking at problems from a business perspective,” Scherlen said. “We really need to learn to listen to the citizens as their representatives.”
Scherlen said that one example of the city not being prepared to deal with a problem was the reactionary nature of the previous council’s inability to deal with the solid waste personnel issues last year, which led to a temporary stoppage of twice-a-week pickup. The pickup schedule resumed at the beginning of January.
“We cannot continue to do things exactly the same way that we have been doing things in the past,” Scherlen added. “We cannot ignore the will and vote of the people. Too many people on council have never run a business in their life.”
While acknowledging that the Amarillo Civic Center will need a workable solution in the future, Scherlen said that the city clearly did not work with voters to find a workable solution. He said that the city should have tried to get a better idea of why the people had rejected funding a new renovation for the civic center the last time that they voted.
“I did not like the method that they were suing to pay for it myself,” Scherlen said. “I honestly think if the city gets more input from the voters, they can come up with a workable solution; we have to be better listeners.”
Regarding the recent school bond elections, Scherlen said that he was a staunch opponent of the spending that was proposed for the projects in the Amarillo Independent School District (AISD) bond measures. He said that he was responsible for the billboards throughout the city that said no tax increase for that election. All four AISD bonds failed, with three of the bonds having more than 60% of the voters rejecting the propositions.
“The main thing I did not like about the bond election was that I felt that there was too much waste in building a whole new Austin Middle School, rather than fixing the school for much less money,” Scherlen said. “If they had come in and asked for less money, I am confident that they would have got what they asked for.”
If elected to the city council, Scherlen has promised that he will have regular meetings with constituents at least once a month. He said that he would be willing to meet with neighborhood committees and have regular town halls to be able to get a view of the needs of people throughout the city. With these meetings, Scherlen said that there would be a greater understanding of challenges throughout the city.
“Amarillo has not done much in the way of infrastructure in the past 75 years,” Scherlen said. “We have major infrastructure issues, with not having the plan to be able to fix our streets as it stands now. Issues of infrastructure cannot continue to be ignored.”
He said that he has seen great things with the way the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has been bringing new business to the area over the past two years of the current mayor’s administration. With these new businesses being brought to the area, Scherlen has concerns about whether the city has the infrastructure and housing to accommodate the businesses being brought in. He also expressed concerns that new businesses being brought in with better wages could hurt local businesses, which are already having trouble finding enough employees.
Asked why he decided to run for office, Scherlen said that his goal is to bring common sense back to the city government. His concern is that the city has taken over governmental functions it should not be involved in.
“Years ago, it seems the city had plenty of money to take care of its basic needs, and now with more tax dollars, it seems they are able to take care of less,” he said. “We need to be more adaptable with how we serve the needs of the city and be willing to make changes as necessary.”
Asked what his top priority would be if elected to the council, Scherlen was greatly concerned about the rising crime rate in the city of Amarillo. He said that the priority for any city should be the public safety of its residents.
“We did not need to hire an outside source to be able to figure out what the problem areas of the city are,” Scherlen said. “I need to talk with our law enforcement from the top to the bottom to find out what are the issues and what can be done to solve them.”
Another top issue for Scherlen is fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers and being good custodians of their money. While he said he is against raising taxes overall, Scherlen said that there are circumstances that he would be in favor of raising taxes, but it has to be something that there is no other solution to a great need for the city.
On the issue of single-member voting districts for councilmembers representing a section of the city, Scherlen said that he is in favor of expanding membership on the council, with most members representing a specific district and two other councilmembers that would represent the city at large. He said that there has to be a way to get more people in the city to participate in the voting process, and maybe this is a way to get people more invested in these normally low-turnout elections.
“I agree that there should be some ownership and accountability to areas of the city, but with some serving at large, we can better represent the whole city, with no areas being left without a voice,” Scherlen said. “I feel like the council as it has been over the years only speaks for a minority of the people in Amarillo. The mayor should not have as much control as they do in votes. How many 4-1 votes have we had over the last few years?”
He said that if councilmembers had to answer to districts, he does not think that the Amarillo Civic Center vote would have gone the way that it did.
“I would have asked each member of council if you represented a district, would you have voted the way that you did?” Scherlen said. “Originally they wanted a public-private partnership, and they were not able to come up with any takers. We should have cut our losses when the judge rejected it the first time, and we are still fighting the decision in court.”
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