AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — With the current Mayor not running for reelection, six candidates have decided to run for the position, joining what would be an Amarillo City Council that would have no previous experience.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, current Amarillo Mayor Ginger Nelson previously announced that she would not run for reelection. Two of the candidates for Mayor, Freda Powell, and Cole Stanley, are current members of the Amarillo City Council, but none of the candidates have previously been elected as Mayor.
MyHighPlains.com spoke with each of the candidates who are actively running for the Mayor position for the city of Amarillo. Each of the candidates spoke about their priorities, why they decided to run for the position, and their aspirations for Amarillo if they are elected to the position.
The list of the candidates in this article is based on how the candidates will be listed on the May 2023 election ballot.
Tonya C. Winston
Tonya C. Winston, a candidate for Mayor on the May 2023 ballot, said this particular election was her opportunity to “step out on faith and make a difference.”
Winston said she has always been a concerned citizen in the city of Amarillo. Winston said she has noticed that Amarillo has been stagnant for a long time and wanted to see what she could do to make a difference in the city.
If she is elected, Winston said she wants to focus on the citizens’ needs and concerns. Winston said she would want to increase the amount of time they would be able to come to City Hall and voice their concerns, with the city’s budget reflecting those concerns and needs.
Winston’s priorities include safety and security, water infrastructure, education, and economic development. While she stressed she’s not a politician, Winston said she would do her very best if she’s elected and would lead by example.
Don Collins, a candidate for the Mayor of Amarillo for the May election, said that he wanted to run for the position because he wanted to give back, mainly to the city’s senior citizens population.
Collins, who has worked in the pharmaceutical industry, is mainly focusing on seniors in his platform, claiming that the city has forgotten seniors, even though they make up a significant portion of the city’s population, with it continuing to grow.
Collins said he wants senior citizens to be thought of in the city’s budgetary meetings and in the city’s future plans. Other priorities that Collins covered included Amarillo’s safety and his plans surrounding the Amarillo Police Department.
Ultimately, Collins wants to be the voice for senior citizens as Amairllo’s Mayor, stressing that he has no distractions, career demands or financial demands.
Sam Burnett, a candidate for Mayor for the city of Amarillo, said that he had never been into politics, but was inspired to run for office because he felt like the city was headed in the direction of being a “closed-minded city.”
Burnett stressed that Amarillo needs to be a city for all people, highlighting communities like Muslims, those of the Jewish faith and those in the LGBTQ+ community.
Burnett, who is the president of the Amarillo Area Transgender Advocacy Group, or AATAG, said he has learned through his position how to work with different people and bring those people together, despite their different opinions.
Through his campaign, Burnett wants to focus on community, not drawing lines in the sand based on where people live in the city. Fixes to needs have to be consistent throughout the city of Amarillo, Burnett said, including consistent trash service throughout the city and fixing aging infrastructure.
Jeffrey McGunegle, a candidate for Mayor for the city of Amarillo, said he has been in Amarillo for around three and a half years. While he is currently a person involved in politics, McGunegle said he sees himself as a non-politician.
As a self-proclaimed “Mayor of Destiny,” McGunegle said he feels he would bring a visionary approach to the position, bridging the gap between different groups throughout the city. As a teacher, he said he brings various skills to the table, including being able to interact with children and adults alike, as well as having the ability to handle money.
Ultimately, McGunegle said he sees himself taking a two-year approach to the position, taking a step back to identify the issues the city is facing and establish a plan to fix some of the issues in Amarillo.
At the end of the day, McGunegle expects the voting system to have no issues in this particular election. McGunegle stressed that while he is an outsider, he believes he can bring change to Amarillo and has a great vision for the city’s future.
As the current Place One Councilmember, Cole Stanley, a candidate for Mayor for the city of Amarillo, said being in this position would give him the opportunity to impact policy and impact the city as a whole in a unique way.
Stanley, a local builder, was elected to serve as Place One on the Amarillo City Council in 2021. In that timeframe, Stanley said that he has digested “an incredible amount” of data, learning how the city functions, from its accounting, its finance and its budget.
Through his time on the council, Stanley said that the city is doing a great job with its neighborhood associations and bringing communities together. He also praised both the fire academy and police academy, wanting to see both of those grow. As mayor, Stanley would want to see the ability to do business within the city easier, having both sides trust each other more.
While being Mayor would be different than serving on the City Council, Stanley said that he believes Amarillo is in a “really critical moment” in its growth. While he has been tested over the last two years, Stanley said he believes he has what it takes to get the job done if he is elected, wanting residents to put the best team together for its Amarillo City Council.
As the current Place Two Councilmember, Freda Powell, a Mayor candidate for the city of Amarillo, said she wants to continue her service and continue what she sees as the momentum of success Amarillo is seeing.
Powell, a general manager of a local mortuary, has served on the Amarillo City Council since 2017. In that time, Powell said she has seen growth in the city’s businesses and industries, focused on infrastructure, and public safety, where a fully funded crime center was established in Amarillo.
During her time on the Amarillo City Council, Powell said she has learned to listen to citizens and local businesses with issues and problems, taking what she has heard and applying it to her role on the Amarillo City Council.
The needs that Powell sees the next Mayor facing include the need for housing, as well as the need for everyone to have access to broadband internet.
Powell believes she brings value to the city as a whole, which would continue if she was elected as Mayor. Ultimately, she wants the council to work together, build relationships and be productive, not have a dysfunctional council.
For more information about what is on the ballot for the May 2023 election, check out the sample ballots for a number of counties right here. For a look at early voting locations in Potter and Randall counties, click here.
For more details and updates on the May 2023 election, check here:
- Sample ballots for Election Day on the HighPlains
- Potter, Randall counties report Early Voting numbers for May 2023 election
- MyHighPlains.com Voter Information Guide
- Meet the May 2023 candidates: Amarillo City Council Place One
- Meet the May 2023 candidates: Amarillo City Council Place Two
- Meet the May 2023 candidates: Amarillo City Council Place Three
- Meet the May 2023 candidates: Amarillo City Council Place Four
- Meet the May 2023 candidates: Amarillo Mayor
- Meet the May 2023 candidates: Amarillo College Board of Regents
- Meet the May 2023 candidates: Bushland ISD/Highland Park ISD School Boards
- Meet the May 2023 Candidates: Amarillo ISD School Board
- Meet the May 2023 Candidates: Canyon ISD School Board
- Election Day on the High Plains: Live Updates