Last week, the Brownwood Bulletin sat down with Bangs mayor pro tem Carrol Wells, who is running against incumbent mayor Eric Bishop in the May election. Wells, who served as mayor a decade ago, shared her vision for a financially secure and prosperous Bangs.
The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Q: Tell us a little about your background.
A: “So I was born in Brownwood, and I’ve lived in Bangs all my life. I married and had two children. Not married currently.
So my business — fast forward into adult life — is owner of Honey Bee Natural Foods here in Brownwood. Twenty-nine years now. So in being involved with Honey Bee, I believe whatever you do, you just have to get involved. You have to get deep involved in it. And so I became a member of the Natural Product Association of the Southwest region, and then after doing that I became president of that association. Then when you’re president of the region, that automatically puts you on the national board, so you go to D.C. and you lobby and you talk to all the senators and representatives, and all that kind of stuff.
So then I ran out my time there. Ten years is the maximum you can serve. Then I went back on board after being off a year. So I’m back in it again, currently, again, president of the Natural Products Association. And times are tough up there in Washington right now. But when you really care about something, you fight to the end, and that’s what I do.
Q: What is the Natural Products Association, and what issues are important to it?
A: So that would be — it’s a trade association, which is supplier and retailer. So there’s two sides of it. And the important thing there is the laws that the Food and Drug Administration tries to impose on things that aren’t necessarily bad. They’re actually good.
Q: Who’s the most famous politician you ever met up there?
A: I would say Orrin Hatch, from Utah. I went to a PAC [political action committee], where you raise funds for those, and had a good little visit with him. It was very, very enjoyable. And then we’ve done the same thing in Texas, being our region, so with Jim Keffer’s office.
And then locally, I’ve been president of the Brown County Republican Women. Past president of that. Of course, when my kids were in school, the PTA or PTC, back then.
Q: What are some of the most important issues affecting the city of Bangs right now?
A: The most important issue is financial, because we will get to a point very soon where the expenses are going to be more than the income. Because we need housing. We’ve got to have more housing. That is very, very critical.
You know, when everybody went to the — where we froze the tax base. Early, Brownwood, Bangs — we all did. So our little town is largely made up of older people. With the frozen base, that’s going to be one of the difficult things that we will face. So how do we do that? We’re going to have to watch our expenses and maybe not do as many things as we would like to do.
We’ve got a great town. We have a new ballfield out there that everybody’s proud of, but one thing that I think may not be known is, a lot of people think that it is a grant that that was built with. But it was not a grant. The city did it through certificates of obligation, and thus the taxpayers are the owners of it. [Wells later pointed out that the certificate of obligation was for $1.5 million.]
And it’s nice. It really is. But we have a lot of expenses every year. And we want something for the youth to do, but at the same time, the infrastructure of the streets [needs attention].
In Bangs, I’m on the EDC and the MDD, the Municipal Development District. I’ve been mayor prior. I used to be the mayor. I think it might have been in 2006, maybe 2007. I won by a landslide the first time.
I’ve been mayor pro tem all year. Our current mayor wasn’t able to be here a lot of the time this past year.
Q: When and why did you decide to run for another term as mayor?
A: Well, as you’ve seen in this interview, I’m going to do it as long as I can and then go back and do it again. So in this case, I really care about where I live and the way things are done, and that we are fair, that we’re very open. Like with the records. We need to not be hiding things — transparent.
It needs to be that way, and we’ve had some situations here in the last few years that were not so transparent.
I wanted to ask you about the business climate in Bangs. Do you see Bangs as a bedroom community, or can you attract more businesses to employ some people over there?
Bangs is a bedroom community. With the railroad splitting us from our town and the highway, versus the way you get when you get into Santa Anna — by the time you get into Santa Anna, the train track is on the south side of the town. So their businesses are on the main strip, if we’re going to compare the two towns.
Downtown [Bangs] just has kind of fallen by the wayside. It’s very sad. Somewhere along the way, the businesses kind of got torn down. We have cafes, we have a drugstore, we have a grocery store. We have the basics — a convenience store. Of course, the school is our big business over there, but that’s not a business for the city. We just had a lady open up a new business yesterday, and our EDC was able to help her with some things that she needed. Which, that makes really good return to the citizens, when we can do something to help a business which in turn helps the citizens, that in turn comes back and helps the city. The way the money flows is good.
Do I see a lot more? I would love to say that we can get some new business in, but it’s going to be very tough. We’d love to have hotels — a hotel, not necessarily hotels. At one time we were trying to get a dog food factory. We didn’t get it, it came to Brownwood. And we understand. We’re certainly not going to quit trying.
I think God puts us where we need to be at the right time. I’ve had that happen all my life, and when you care about something, you work hard for it. That’s where I come from. I have such a passion for making things better, and I think my track record with business and volunteerism — I sometimes call myself a volunteer addict.
For instance, this trade show where I just was this past weekend. I just came back from there because as president of the [Natural Products Association] southwest region, I’m also the executive director. We provide a trade show for six states, and we had 27 new vendors. Last year there were 84, and 27 new ones this year.
So I have good leadership skills. I am really good at that. It shows in personal business, it shows in volunteering.
Q: Is there anything you’d like to add?
A: Having lived [in Bangs] and moved away and come back, it certainly gave me a different perspective on things I need to do, that I felt needed to happen. We have a great public works director now, and I was able to be on the committee to help find him. We are going in the right direction. We were certainly falling apart there for awhile. And, again, it was through those times that it should have been getting better, speaking of how things were in the past.
I’d like to end this with, people know me from the community. If they don’t know me, they can call me. I think that this article speaks well of what I can do, and I would love to have everyone vote for me. Please get out and vote, and if you feel like I can help you, I’d like to be your mayor.”