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Field of candidates set for Nederland City Council special election

NEDERLAND — The election field is set in the race to fill the open Nederland City Council Ward 3 representative seat.

The opening follows the decision of current seat holder Emmett Hollier to vacate the spot as he pursues a run for Jefferson County Commissioner Precinct 2.

The filing period ended at 5 p.m. Monday, with Kevin Smith and Randy Sonnier qualifying for a special election scheduled July 24.

Early voting begins July 7 and runs through July 20, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, with the exception July 13 and 20, which are open for early voting from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Sonnier, 60, has lived in ward 3 for more than 31 years and is employed with the Total Port Arthur refinery as the industrial purchasing manager.

Sonnier previously ran unsuccessfully for city council in an election won by Don Albanese, but was appointed to the Nederland Economic Development Corporation.

“It’s one of those things where I see we can do some things in Nederland a little bit better,” Sonnier said. “If you want to try and make changes, you have to get involved. Don’t just sit back and complain about it.”

According to Sonnier, Nederland streets are in good shape but there is work needed with drainage.

“I’m for quality of life,” he said. “What’s attracting people to Nederland? We’ve had a ton of new duplexes and homes go in. We have to clean things up and enhance our parks. I want people to bring their families. When people say they are looking at Port Neches and Groves, what would make them come to Nederland?”

Smith, 56, has lived in ward 3 for more than 23 years and is a refinery superintendent at ExxonMobil.

He said his motivation to run for city council stems from his love of Nederland and a desire to have some say in helping guide things in the right direction.

“One of the number one things for me is we have had a lot of issues with streets and drainage,” Smith said. “My real number one would be the technology piece for our police officers and firemen. There is so much advanced technology out there to help protect those guys. That would be something I think I would move up on the list and see if we can do some good things for those folks.”

Smith said he began working professionally as a plant operator, working his way into management, which gives him insight into the working professional’s and management employee’s daily challenges.

“It takes the workers to run the place,” Smith said. “It is easy for the management folks to say how things are going to go, but our workers and people doing the things they do in a refinery or city make all of that happen. I would represent the people, and that’s what I want to do.”

Sonnier said Nederland is doing well generating tax revenue through retail growth — a trend that is necessary since the city lacks some of the industrial tax base that exists in neighboring cities.

“We’ve done good with the food and restaurants,” he said. “I was on the EDC board, so I need to continue making sure we are spending wisely and bringing the right businesses and developers to Nederland.”

Sonnier touts his almost 40 years of experience in local industry and heavily involved work in crisis management as benefits for the community.

“You have to look at the people you are representing,” Sonnier said. “You may not be able to always do something about it. I am only one vote, but you need to at least be able to visit with them. I think that is important.”

According to City Manager Chris Duque, per state law, Hollier automatically resigned from the council following his announcement of plans to run for county commissioners; however, Hollier would continue to serve as a member of the Nederland City Council until the vacant office is filled.