Q&A: Meet the candidates running for Southlake City Council Place 5

Meet the two candidates running for Southlake City Council Place 5 ahead of the May 1 election. (Community Impact staff)
Meet the two candidates running for Southlake City Council Place 5 ahead of the May 1 election. (Community Impact staff)

Meet the two candidates running for Southlake City Council Place 5 ahead of the May 1 election. (Community Impact staff)

Learn more about the candidates running for the Southlake City Council Place 5 seat ahead of the May 1 election. Early voting is from April 19-27.


DALLAS-FORT WORTH



Southlake City Council Place 5










Amy Torres-Lepp



Occupation: Founder and CEO of Texas Excel Title


Experience: Two years on the Southlake Planning & Zoning Commission, graduate of Leadership Southlake, the Southlake Citizens Academy and CISD’s CLASS program (Carroll Leadership Academy for Supporting Success). Actively involved in the Southlake Chamber of Commerce, the Southlake Executive Forum as well as a supporter of numerous local charities including GRACE, Kids Matter International, Young Life, Metroport Meals on Wheels, and the Joy Project.






Why are you running for office?



AT: For more than 16 years, I’ve been proud to call Southlake my home. I have raised five amazing Dragons, offered my service to our community, launched a successful business, and embraced the undeniable sense of community, involvement and belonging that’s unique to our city. I am running for City Council because I have the dedication, experience and integrity it takes to help lead our city. Serving on the Planning & Zoning Commission was instrumental to my understanding of the city’s development, decision making, and evaluation of zoning changes the Planning & Zoning Commission recommended to City Council. As a commissioner, I gained a better understanding that our community is not simply the result of economic growth and development. Rather, our beloved city is the outcome of the dedication, commitment and countless hours of planning by current and former community leaders. As your next City Councilwoman, I intend to continue the work of those leaders before me to keep Southlake what we know and love today while always fostering continuous improvement. I also know I can be an advocate for all residents and champion for our city, schools and community.



If elected, what will be your top three priorities?



AT: As your Councilwoman, I will work hard to maintain Southlake’s vibrant community, which includes continuing to attract, retain and support local businesses. I will also focus on economic recovery and reviving our community spirit while continuing to fight for lower property taxes and low-density housing.



What do you see as the city's role in addressing the coronavirus pandemic?



AT: I believe it is important that the city maintain an active role in assisting our businesses, in particular those that have been struggling throughout the pandemic. Programs such as Southlake Safe help businesses operate safely, and I want to continue to look for more ways that we can help. We also must make sure that our citizens feel safe and protected as they start getting back to life as they knew it prior to the pandemic.



What do you see as the city's role in the school district's controversy over its cultural competence plan?



AT: I believe the city should not take an active role in the school district’s controversies other than continuing to make sure that the lines of communication remain open between the school district and city leadership. I also believe that transparency in both city and school district matters is of utmost importance. The CISD school board is an elected body just like the Southlake City Council, and I know that our elected officials will work hard through these challenging times.









Elisha Rurka



Occupation: Mother of Dragons


Experience: Served on my HOA Board for eight years, an active member of White’s Chapel UMC and founded Southlake Cake Club. Serving on the Diversity Committee and helped establish two faith-based after-school programs at Rockenbaugh Elementary. Served as an adjunct professor in Mass Media and Public Speaking, earned a Master’s degree from the London School of Economics. Provided grant writing and educational program design for PRIDE Industries. Led training for a multilingual call center at California Healthy Families, helping improve access to healthcare for children and pregnant women.






Why are you running for office?



ER: I am running because we need someone to bring a fresh, independent perspective to City Council. If you take a look at all the candidates’ platforms for this upcoming election, you’re likely to find we agree on many things. Let me be clear: I think this is, for the most part, a wonderful thing. Most cities will work decades to achieve this kind of common foundation from which to build, and it’s one of the things that makes me proud to call Southlake home. We’re a real community. It is important, however, that we don’t allow our civic government to become a voice of mechanical unanimity. I believe it’s vital to bring in fresh perspectives—people who don’t come up through traditional ranks, but who are nevertheless intelligent, experienced, eager, and willing to serve the population. Diversity of thought is how we create meaningful dialogue and see new sides to ongoing discussions. This is how we build more creative solutions. This is how we make new relationships while strengthening current bonds. And this is how we effect real change on the issues that matter to us all.



If elected, what will be your top three priorities?



ER: Our local businesses are facing unprecedented challenges as a result of COVID-19. There is more work to be done to make sure our businesses survive and thrive. We must continue investigating best practices for welcoming and keeping companies that choose to put down roots here. I am committed to keeping property taxes low and ensuring Southlake remains an attractive business environment. We must be more thoughtful about future development in Southlake. Over the years, we have seen a lot of positive growth, but we have also seen development that should have been better. One such example is the broken concrete fountain and empty grocery unit at Park Village, with insufficient parking to support full occupancy. For every proposed development, I will ask, “Does this make Southlake better?” We should only move forward if we can confidently answer yes. Preserving and protecting green space is vitally important to maintaining Southlake’s beauty and character. I am committed to seeking new opportunities to make our city’s treasured green space, parks and Bob Jones Nature Preserve more accessible and enjoyable for Southlake residents. I will work to ensure these valuable areas are maintained and managed with an eye in the years ahead.



What do you see as the city's role in addressing the coronavirus pandemic?



ER: The city’s primary role in addressing the coronavirus pandemic must be to remain focused on the health and safety of all of our residents and those who work and own businesses in our city. Specifically, ensuring all city facilities, meetings and events are following safety protocols for preventing the spread of coronavirus. Keeping residents informed about pandemic guidelines and promoting vaccination efforts is also vital. I applaud the work of the current City Council in supporting local businesses through initiatives like Southlake Safe and the Southlake Business Relief Grant Program. The coming year will undoubtedly present more challenges to our residents and local business community as we continue to navigate the pandemic and its effects. The city must continue to look for innovative ways to support businesses while keeping residents safe.



What do you see as the city's role in the school district's controversy over its cultural competence plan?



ER: It has become clear over the last year that although we are united in our love for Southlake, there is disagreement on the fundamental question of whether racism and discrimination are taking place here. We should not try to gloss over the very real issues that exist in Southlake today. Acknowledgment is not for the purpose of blame, but for the purpose of improvement. We all agree that every student should feel safe and respected at school. We also have a consensus that for Southlake to attract and retain new residents and high-quality businesses, it must be a place where all can feel safe, valued and welcomed. This is the common ground from which discussion can flow. City Council’s role should be to help bring people together, listen openly to all residents and to acknowledge that the Southlake Experience for people of color has not always matched its promise. City Council can role model a desire to understand that we are not all uniform, that there is beauty in celebrating our differences, and that learning about those differences will help Southlake to live up to its promise for all residents.


By Sandra Sadek
Sandra Sadek covers the cities of Grapevine, Southlake and Roanoke as well as Carroll ISD for Community Impact. She graduated from Texas State University where she majored in journalism and international relations. She has experience working for several local papers including the University Star, the Katy Times, and the Fort Stockton Pioneer. When she's not on the ground reporting, she enjoys a good book and a hot drink. Follow her on social media @ssadek19.


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