Is the city of Hitchcock headed in the right direction? It depends on who you ask.
Mayor Anthony Matranga, 71, is running for re-election on the platform that things are headed in the right direction.
“There’s been quite a bit of activity — people coming in and wanting to come in,” Matranga said. “It’s going to be a big boom to the city of Hitchcock and I want to see it and stay mayor and do what I can do.”
Mayor for the last eight years, Matranga was a city commissioner before that. Hitchcock-born and bred, he touts his credentials along with the direction the city is taking.
“We do have a lot of activities coming in off (FM) 2004 and guys planning to put in retail there,” Matranga said. “There are some other new businesses along Highway 6 that are coming in, too.”
For all of Matranga’s optimism, his opponent, Lee Sander, 80, has concerns about the ways things are going.
“I don’t think we are headed in a good direction with all the wetlands and the fact that we are below sea level,” Sander said. “I really think things are probably going to stay the status quo. I know people say I’m negative that way, but I’ve been here since 1955. We used to have three grocery stores, three florists and a lumber company where you could get all of your supplies. That’s all gone.”
Sander was the mayor of Hitchcock before Matranga was elected back in 2009.
When he left the mayoral seat, Sander was praised by city officials for his openness and transparency, having not conducted a meeting in executive session during his time as mayor.
Since choosing not to run for re-election that term, Sander took a term off before running for the City Commissioner District 2 spot, which he has held since.
While he’s happy to step down from the District 2 position to run for mayor again, he’s not necessarily excited at the prospect of being the top man at the city of Hitchcock again.
“A group of people asked me to run,” he said. “It’s not that I really wanted to be mayor. I’m 80 years old and my health is not that good. I just didn’t want to let people down that wanted me to run.”
One of the candidates who filed to replace Sander in District 2 agrees with his opinion the city isn’t living up to its potential.
“We need to be going in a different direction,” Monica Cantrell, 57, said. “Supporting small businesses is my main thing. If you support the residents, they’ll support you. I want that hometown feel to this community.”
Cantrell is the executive director of the Hitchcock Chamber of Commerce and has been on the Board of Trustees for Hitchcock Independent School District for 12 years, she said.
She argues the current city government is characterized by a lack of transparency and a fractured community.
“I want the voters in town, the citizens and even those who don’t have a voice — the students — to have a voice in this community,” Cantrell said. “It’s a very diverse community. I want us to come together. I feel like we are very disconnected at this time.”
Cantrell pointed to a canceled public hearing about a proposed zoning change involving a large swath of land extending almost 6 miles along FM 2004. The hearing was canceled after residents complained.
Cantrell’s opponent, David Sendejas, 57, said the city needed new ideas.
“There are good people in there, but they are all up there in age,” Sendejas said. “It’s time to get some new blood and new ideas in there. I have nothing against anyone I’m running against.”
Cantrell, likewise, had nothing but positive things to say about Sendejas.
“The man I’m running against is very nice and I have nothing negative to say,” she said. “I just have a lot of experience.”
Sendejas is a retired U.S. Postal Service worker who now works part-time at Hitchcock High School’s warehouse, he said.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” Sendejas said. “I think there were more businesses back in the 70s than now. I’d like to see some of them come back.”
Each of the two candidates for mayor and those for the District 2 spot believe that the city needs to keep growing.
All four candidates highlighted a grocery store as critical to the community.
It’s the specifics of how to get there where they differ.
Matranga wants to continue enticing corporations to come to town, utilizing the city’s resources to draw them in.
He hopes that in luring out-of-town corporations, he can eventually try to lower taxes for the citizens of Hitchcock.
Sander believes that hiring a city manager is the first step.
“I’m very pro Santa Fe because of the way it’s building and everything,” Sander said. “They have a good city administrator running things up there. That’s what the city of Hitchcock needs — a city administrator who also promotes the city.”
Cantrell, meanwhile, said that local businesses need to be emphasized as a means of making Hitchcock a destination spot.
Sendejas wants to use the open land in Hitchcock to lure business back.
In the final Hitchcock opening in this election cycle, Fard Karriem Abdullah is also running unopposed for re-election to the City Commissioners District 1 spot.
He could not be reached for comment as of late Wednesday.
Early voting begins Monday. Election Day is May 6.