Two longtime Lumberton city council members are facing challenges in the upcoming May city elections. Last week, the Ledger introduced you to those incumbents, Lynette Barks and Kenneth Wahl.
This week, we want to let you know about the challengers. Jason A. LeBlanc is seeking to unseat Barks from the Position 1 seat, and Marla McKinstry is going against Wahl, the Position 3 councilman.
We were unable to interview LeBlanc for this article, because he had to undergo emergency surgery, but we hope to catch him for a future article, and wish him a speedy recovery.
We did get to visit with McKinstry, and she like the other candidates we’ve interviewed sees the city’s explosive growth as both and asset, and as Lumberton’s greatest problem.
McKinstry is a Lamar University graduate. She has a degree in social work. She and her husband own Texas Bed Company, with stores in Beaumont and Mid-County.
McKinstry says Texas Bed Company is the largest locally owned mattress retailer in Southeast Texas.
The McKinstrys have two children, and the family moved to Lumberton from Beaumont in 2010.
McKinstry says she decided to run for council at the request of friends and neighbors. They asked her to consider seeking public office, after some council members tried to change zoning near Boykin Estates to allow a 24-hour convenience store. Opponents feared the Stripes Convenience Store would drive down property values, and increase crime and traffic.
The proposal failed, but those pushing for McKinstry to run still felt some on council were not looking out for the city and the citizens’ best interests.
McKinstry says that in the coming years, Lumberton will continue to have growing pains. She said, “I want to see the city grow in the best way possible and learn from the failures and successes of other cities that have grown quickly like Lumberton has.”
McKinstry said there are a lot of resources and conferences that can educate the city on staying ahead of the growth curve. McKinstry said, “Once we have educated ourselves, a comprehensive plan should be considered and implemented to help guide us as we grow.”
McKinstry believes the city’s greatest challenge is paying for the infrastructure needed to sustain the growth. She said that includes drainage and roads, and other city services like police and fire protection.
But McKinstry acknowledges it will take more than a city council to help Lumberton as it goes through growing pains. She believes the city has a wonderful sense of community, and McKinstry said there are many lifelong residents and newcomers who are willing to volunteer their time and services in helping Lumberton progress the right way.