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Winona residents stand up for new mayor after meeting

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(TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - A group of Winona residents used the public comments section of Tuesday’s city council meeting to stand up for their newly elected mayor.

DeDe Stroud, who was elected mayor with more than 60 percent of the vote in May’s mayoral race, left the executive session portion of the meeting in tears, and told a gathered crowd she was having issues gaining access to information. She did not return to the meeting, which was conducted by the mayor pro tem.

After an hour in executive session, the council meeting resumed, and the members voted to get a read-only version of QuickBooks for Mayor Stroud’s computer.

Following the vote, the floor was open to public comments and seven community members took their five minutes to address the council, many of them discussing the change in leadership.

The city has been plagued with a list of issues, including unpaid bills, possible missing funds, an out of compliance wastewater plant, leaks in its gas delivery system and public animosity toward its police department.

According to Texas Open Meeting Act laws, council members are not allowed to respond to anything not on the designated agenda, and cannot respond to public comments.

Resident Lisa LaFrance said the voters sent a message of change when none of the incumbents were re-elected.

“I think the voters thought they were very clear,” she said. “It wasn’t specifically individuals, we have problem with how the city government as a whole was functioning. “There was a lack of integrity in some areas, a lack of accountability in some areas and a lack of professionalism in some areas. … It doesn’t do any good if we have rotating chairs up there if a message is not put across.”

Ms. La France said she was troubled with a lack of cooperation between the newly-elected members and the existing members, adding the city has a long list of problems to solve and suggesting the council members could each pick one problem as a project and begin working with the new city administrator

“You don’t have to hold her hand,” she said. “You’re not here to be her teacher, but you are here to assist the mayor and council with information and whatever work that needs to be done in the operation of the city, and I don’t think that’s the way things are going.”

Rose Gordon, a friend and relative of Mayor Stroud, said the council’s tension is vibrating through the town.

“I have lived here 37 years, and it has never been like this,” she said. “Everyone in this town were friends, and now there’s tension from everyone. … Y’all need to be here for us as a city and as people in this is a community.”

Marilyn Gentry said when people ask where she lives, she says “Winona” under her breath.

“Everyone needs to pull together for the good of Winona,” she said. “This is the filthiest little town around we need some pride.”

Several members also spoke in favor of honoring a contract for a school resource officer at Winona ISD. The officer is provided through a partnership, where the district pays 75 percent of the salary and the city covers the other 25 percent and uses the officer in summertime.

The contract was approved with a unanimous vote.

The council also approved hosting a community workday to get its city park in operating shape. Residents were invited to bring their bodies and tools to the park on June 28 at 7 a.m. to help with the project.

The members also voted to begin working on getting its wastewater plant in compliance and approved up to $12,000 to fund the project through certificates of obligation.

 Written by Faith Harper, fharper@tylerpaper.com
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