Personal attacks and arguments hit the dais Jan. 16 as Kyle city leaders sparred on who was fit to serve as the city’s representative on a local area water board.
But the display, which encompassed roughly a half-hour, may have showcased a deepening, and vitriolic, divide between Mayor Travis Mitchell and Council member Daphne Tenorio.
In-fighting between council members began when Mitchell opted to reconsider appointing Tenorio to serve on the Alliance Regional Water Authority (ARWA) Board of Directors. Ultimately, the city council voted 6-1 to appoint Mitchell to the ARWA board. Tenorio voted against the measure.
ARWA’s 13-person board consists of elected officials from cities that make up the agency, which aims to solve long-term water needs in Hays County.
On Jan. 2, the Kyle City Council voted 4-1 to appoint Tenorio to fill a vacancy left by outgoing city council member David Wilson. Council member Shane Arabie and Assistant City Manager James Earp both represent Kyle on the board.
But Mitchell, who voted in support of Tenorio’s appointment on Jan. 2, reconsidered based on his concerns she wasn’t the right person for the job.
Mitchell said in a later interview that the position required a “great deal of commitment” and he felt city council needed to appoint someone who is “going to reflect the commitments” of the partnership between ARWA entities.
Mitchell said he was on the fence regarding Tenorio’s appointment on Jan. 2, but voted in favor to show there weren’t any personal issues between them. While he had “extreme reservations,” Mitchell said he approved the move originally to provide an olive branch.
“I wanted to demonstrate that it wasn’t about me,” Mitchell said. “The last thing I wanted to do was cause controversy and drama.”
But Mitchell’s move to reconsider Jan. 16 touched off tense debate among him, Tenorio and Arabie.
Several times during the discussion, Tenorio and Mitchell talked over each other, with both raising their voices in argument.
Tenorio, who opted to resign her appointment during the debate, said she wanted to be a part of the board as she claimed there was a “lack of diversity” that she felt was representative of the community.
Tenorio said she was not informed of Mitchell’s intentions to reconsider the vote, and that she became aware of it when the agenda was released four days prior to the Jan. 16 meeting.
She also added Mitchell’s reconsideration resurfaced trust issues that extend to him making “knee-jerk reactions” to items.
Mitchell said he has “stood firmly on many positions.” However, he said he wasn’t going to “stick to my guns if I feel I made a mistake.”
“The best politician isn’t one that makes a decision and sticks with it beyond all evidence,” Mitchell said. “The best politician makes a decision with the information that’s in front of them. If more information comes and they made a mistake, they owe it to citizens to swallow pride and fix it.”
But can the divide be bridged?
Mitchell said he’s tried to extend “the olive branch” to Tenorio, where he has asked for a one-on-one meeting with her to “work through issues.”
“If he needs something to get to me, he needs something to go to all of us,” Tenorio said. She added that she doesn’t like to meet with people individually.
“I’m a professional. I vote for what I think is important,” Tenorio said. “Personal issues should stay off the dais.”