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Celeste will face changing mayors after ineligibility



DALLAS, TX – Despite receiving the most votes for the office of mayor of Celeste on May 1, candidate David Brannam was delivered the disappointing news before early voting started that he was ineligible to serve due to living in Celeste for less than a year.

Brannam moved from Mesquite to the Celeste area in 2018, and later moved inside the city’s limits this past August after his previous home in Hunt County was destroyed in a fire. Since moving to the community, Brannam has stayed busy with activities that include coaching youth sports and helping build a playground. Even though he had only lived in Celeste for a short time, Brannam became interested in running for local office.

Before filing in February, Brannam met with then-Mayor Larry Godwin (who did not seek re-election) and City Secretary Jenoa Lipsey to see if he met the requirements. At the time, Lipsey believed that the residency requirement for mayor of a Type A city (as outlined by the Texas Secretary of State) was the same as the residency requirement to run for city council – which is that a candidate has to have lived in Texas for at least a year and in the city for at least six months before the filing deadline – so he was told that he was eligible to run for mayor.

However, before early voting started, Lipsey received a call from an individual who brought her attention to the fact that mayoral candidates are actually required by the Texas election code to have been residents of the city for at least one year before election day.

“We were like, ‘Oh no,’ and we really thought that the requirements were the same, but we had never had a situation like this before, where somebody ran who hadn’t been here for years,” Lipsey told the Herald-Banner.

Brannam ended up winning with about 57% of the vote (37 votes out of a total of 65) against his two opponents, Randy D. Taylor and Billy Fronterhouse. Three days later, Brannam received another letter, signed by Godwin, stating that even though he received the most votes that he was still ineligible for the office of mayor due to the residency requirements listed under the state election code.

“Before all this started, I went to the city to find out the application requirements,” Brannam said. “They told me that the requirements were that I had to live in the state for at least a year and the city for six months, which I had been, and I was told that I had their support.

“If they would have told me that I didn’t meet the requirements yet, that would’ve been fine, but they didn’t verify what the rules were, which was their responsibility,” Brannam said.

After the mistake was discovered, an attorney with the Texas Municipal League advised that the City of Celeste stick with the eligibility rules as stated in the Texas Election Code, even though Brannam received by far the most votes in the election.

Because of the discrepancy, the office of mayor was left vacant when the votes were canvassed at Monday night’s special meeting of the Celeste City Council. At their next meeting, the council plans to select a mayor pro tem. The council will then have two choices in the interim.

At a future meeting, the council may choose to appoint a resident of Celeste (who meets the state’s requirements for eligibility) as mayor, or they may choose to leave the office vacant and simply have whichever member is selected as mayor pro tem lead the council.

If the council chooses to leave the mayor’s spot vacant, they will have to call a special election for the office in November. If they decide to appoint a qualifying resident to serve as mayor, they will need to hold an election in May 2022.

Regardless of which decision the city makes, Brannam will, by the time of the next election, meet the residency requirement.

“Yes, I want to run again, because I think there needs to be more accountability at city hall,” Brannam said. “My reason for running is very simple, I just think that there needs to be transparency and honest leadership in the community for there to be a solid foundation for positive growth.”