Councilman Thomas Kinlaw talks future plans; veteran representative Cal Jones shares departing message

Published 12:28 am Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Only one of two councilmen who sought a third term will return to council chambers after the two opted to run for an at large position instead of remaining in their districts.

District 2 Councilman Cal Jones and District 3 Councilman Thomas Kinlaw filed along with Allen Jacobs Jr. and Matthews Christian Jr. for At Large District 5, with Kinlaw gaining 55.41 percent of the vote in Saturday’s Joint General Election.

“It is what it is,” Jones said. “That’s life. People spoke their mind — the ones that voted. I respect the people’s wish. I’m kind of disappointed in the turnout.”

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According to information from the office of the city secretary, only 2,497 or 9.13 percent of the 27,346 registered voters cast ballots in the City Council, Port Arthur Independent School District Board of Trustees and Sabine Pass Authority Port Commissioners elections.

In the case of Position 5, a majority of the 2,386 votes were cast in early voting — 1,672 versus 24 absentee ballots and 690 on Election Day.

“I’m just so happy the citizens of Port Arthur gave me this opportunity again,” Kinlaw said. “Being a four-man race, the numbers show confidence in the person that’s running in that position.”

Now serving all districts as opposed to one, Kinlaw looks forward to continuing projects that were promised to the residents.

“I feel like we had a lot of things that were unfinished,” he said, citing the street program, working with the Port of Port Arthur and continuing to improve drainage as some examples. “Some of those things I thought a new council wouldn’t understand, and Port Arthur as an entirety could benefit from them. I read and make sure I am prepared for council meetings. I figured it would be in the city’s best interest if I could serve in an at-large position.”

Because all six councilmembers came up for election at one time, the two at large positions will now be four-year terms to stagger races.

During the next four years, Kinlaw plans to focus on the Stonegate Drainage Mitigation Project, for which he recently helped secure $16.9 million in federal funding. The project focuses on improving drainage and retention capacity in and around the areas of Jimmy Johnson Boulevard and 9th Avenue.

In addition, he plans to continue pushing the six-year capital improvement plan implemented in 2019 that allocated $62,624,295 to street repair.

“I want to make sure that we commit because we promised the citizens we would do that,” he said.

Other areas of importance for the councilman are ensuring there is no lapse in the timeline of the $60 million renovation to the city’s main wastewater treatment plant, beautifying the city and its parks and building relationships with different entities.

And he intends to stay on top of the city’s current plans to create a new animal shelter, municipal building and health department.

“That’s very much in the forefront of my mind,” he said. “We need that facility to enlarge the animal shelter. I also feel being a no-kill zone will benefit Port Arthur greatly. We just need to do due diligence.”

Kinlaw thanked his family, friends, competitors and Jones for his service to the city.

“This city has made a choice on the forefront and I’m so happy they chose me to be at large.”

Jones intends to stay involved in the city and spend time with his children and grandchildren.

And he says residents can still find him frequently visiting Pleasure Island.

“My political days are over with,” he said. “I left a good reputation and I don’t want to tarnish that. I love my city. I love the people. Right now I’m just not too optimistic about what’s going to happen in the future. I might be surprised. I hope I will be.”