Woodward citizens will have a chance to exercise their voting rights next Tuesday, Dec. 11, when a special election will be held for the offices of mayor and city council member.
Standing for the office of Woodward mayor is the current mayor, Todd Folkerts, who was appointed to the position Oct. 8 by a unanimous vote of the city council. Folkerts is running unopposed, so the election will probably simply confirm the council’s action in appointing him.
The cost to the city of holding the special election is between $3,000 and $3,500, according to Lance Kramer, senior election clerk in the Dallas County Auditor’s office.
“This was never about ‘who,'” said Steve Godwin of Woodward, who with his wife spearheaded the petition effort to call the special election. “It was about our belief that no one should be appointed to an elected position, and those who signed the petition agreed.”
Folkerts said he is taking the election in stride and does not see it as a challenge to his appointment.
“There was a part of the community that just wanted an election,” he said. “They didn’t want to see the council do this by apointment.”
Folkerts said he hopes the new leadership team brings unity to the community.
“It appears our community has been somewhat divided,” he said. “The city of Woodward has to work to come together, the citizens and the council, and have some trust in each other and some openness that hasn’t been there. Those are the goals that I have. Dec. 12 will be an interesting morning to see what the community wants and what direction they’re heading.”
Three Woodwardians are competing for the single vacant seat on the city council. The contenders are Kelly Kirts, Franklin T. Weatherbee and David Whitney, who each filed nomination papers prior to the Nov. 16 deadline.
Whitney has since withdrawn from the race and endorsed Weatherbee.
“I did not know Frank has also put in for this,” Whitney said last week on Facebook. “I am going to back out and push Frank. We have very similar views for the council. Go, Frank!”
Whitney’s name will still appear on the ballot.
Kirts, a native Iowan, is a retired career U.S. Air Force officer who moved to Woodward with his wife in 2016.
“What do I have to offer?” Kirts said in a Facebook statement. “New perspectives and ideas, diverse experience in problem solving, the ability to work with people to achieve goals along with an in-depth understanding of civil infrastructure. I bring energy and a passion to serve our citizens and support the efforts of the council. I believe in fair and transparent processes. I support civil and open discourse, which I feel supports and enables efficient and effective governance. If you welcome the opportunity of a new perspective, I would be honored with your vote to serve.”
Weatherbee has lived in Woodward since 1966 and is a 1981 graduate of Woodward-Granger High School. He served for many years on the Woodward Volunteer Fire Department.
“I want to get more notoriety to the town as far as our bike trail and some of our businesses,” Weatherbee said in a statement released to ThePerryNews.com. “I would like to bring our community back together and work on web streaming our meetings. I also believe we need to work on finding ways to become more fiscally responsible with money. I am sure there are things out there to look at to save money and bring business into our town.”
The winner of the council race will join fellow Woodward City Council members Mary Bustad, James A. Gough, Dave Luke and Ashvin J. Patel.
Former council member Craig DeHoet indicated at the Oct. 8 council meeting that he would seek the appointment to the council, but he did not file nomination papers for the special election. DeHoet engaged in a lively exchange in October with Godwin, who accused DeHoet of “blatant lies” and “reckless spending” as a council member in a lengthy Oct. 25 letter to the editor of ThePerryNews.com.
In an Oct. 19 letter to the editor of ThePerryNews.com, DeHoet said “the unending litany of negativity and criticism from a vocal few” in Woodward was discouraging volunteers for the city’s boards and commissions. The response to his letter might have soured the two-term council member on the propsect of seeking a return to the council in the special election.
DeHoet was turned out of office in November 2017 in the election that brought three new members to the Woodward City Council: Bustad, Gough and Patel. DeHoet placed fourth with 12 percent of the votes. Three other candidates, Weatherbee, Andrew Wernli and Dolores Crane, won a combined 20 percent of the vote.