District 4 Runoff

Joseph Thompson (left) lost on Saturday to incumbent District 4 Councilman Joe Baxter (right).

Incumbent City Councilman Joe Baxter, of District 4, facing a runoff election Saturday against former councilman Joseph Thompson, won a narrow victory over Thompson.

Baxter, a retired police officer, won his second term by a 58 to 54 vote, City Secretary and Elections Administrator Teresa Herrera reported at about 7:40 p.m. Saturday.

"I thought the runoff was a good, clean, honest run,'' Baxter told the Herald Press Saturday. "I want to congratulate my opponent for his part in that.

"I wish more people would have voted, though."

During his second term, Baxter said he will focus on roads and updating the water treatment plant. "I want to make sure this community is never without water again," he said.

Baxter said he planned to ask a lot of hard questions on the upcoming budget and would continue to push for transparency and community oversight of city spending.

"That so important," he said. "Every citizen of Palestine has the right to know where their money is going."

Thompson and Baxter finished in a dead-heat last month, with 112 votes each.  Grizelda Castillo, the third District 4 candidate, received 66 votes.

Baxter replaced Thompson for the District 4 seat in 2017, after Thompson decided not to seek re-election. 

Council members serve two-year terms and make about $800 a year.

Before the election, both candidates said improving roads and the 50-year-old water treatment plant were among their top priorities. 

In his two years on council, Baxter gained a reputation as a maverick and fiscal watchdog who often opposed Mayor Steve Presley.

He was the council's most vocal advocate of a citizens' financial oversight committee. Council approved one last year, 4-2, after seven months of heated discussions.

Committee members have authority to investigate, audit, and question all financial matters pertaining to the city. They have no power to make changes, however. They can only make recommendations.

During the campaign, Thompson, a realtor, touted his experience as a small business owner and manager. He said council has attacked problems reactively, instead of proactively.

He said repairs to city infrastructure don't have to mean higher taxes.

The tax rates have gotten too high, and must be brought under control,” he said. “There are lots of ways to manage money besides the tax rate.”