With filing for the May 6 local elections in Texas beginning on Thursday, the Stafford mayoral race is beginning to take shape.

Incumbent Cecil Willis, who has served as mayor since the death of longtime mayor Leonard Scarcella in 2020, and Mayor Pro Tem Don Jones have both formally announced their intentions to run in statements released to the Fort Bend Star.

Willis took office after winning a special election to fill out the unexpired term of Scarcella, who died in 2020 after serving as Stafford mayor since 1969 (making him the longest-serving mayor in the country). Willis has served on the Stafford City Council for 36 years.

"The past 25 plus months have flown by and have been truly amazing," Willis said in his announcement statement.

After growing up in San Antonio, Willis attended Texas A&M University and received a degree in horticulture in 1966. He worked for the City of Houston as the city's arborist and later as an administrator in the parks department before moving to Missouri City and becoming the executive director of the Quail Valley Homeowners Association, from which he retired in 2013. He has lived in Stafford since 1975. He has been married for 59 years and has three children and eight grandchildren.

"The City of Stafford is blessed to have one of the most diverse communities in Fort Bend County. Our diversity is one of our biggest strengths," Willis said in his statement. "We must, however, continue to be ever vigilant of those that would try to divide us. As we look forward, let us stay focused on what has proven to be successful and continue to expand on it together."

"It is my continued pledge that the decisions I make will be rooted in facts of the law and in the best interest for all of Stafford," Willis wrote.

Jones has served on the council since 2018. A native of South Bend, Ind., he earned his undergraduate degree, majoring in elementary education with a sociology minor, from Indiana State University in 1979. He also holds a graduate degree in education mid-management from the University of Houston Clear Lake. He became a lifelong educator and public school administrator, serving as assistant principal and principal at many school districts, including Stafford Municipal School District. He now works as a Realtor.

Jones has lived in Stafford since 1988. A widower, Jones has a son who graduated from Stafford MSD in 2007.

In his statement, Jones also noted " a significant shift in our demographics and the overall population" and referred to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.

"Historically, Dr. King must be considered as one of the founding fathers to the sociological concept that we so readily and respectfully refer to now as Diversity," he said.

Willis, in both his released statement and a phone interview, stressed his desire to keep Stafford on the path that it's been on for years, particularly its lack of property taxes.

"As we look forward, let us stay focused on what has proven to be successful and continue to expand on it together. Stafford has proven successful with ZERO property tax, sound fiscal policies, SMSD, HCC, promoting diversity, planned quality development and re-development." he wrote.

In his statement, Jones said he decided to run for mayor because he sees a need for a change in direction for the city.

"We have a need today and into the foreseeable future, for a mayor that is willing to serve the best interest of all of the citizens and neighborhoods in Stafford. Someone who honestly wants to bring our richly diverse community together. This most critical attribute requires true leadership," he wrote.

In particular, Jones says he has significant qualms with the way the city adopts its budget, which he wrote led him to vote against the 2021-22 and 2022-23 budgets "in order to rebut the application of an economic theory that frankly in my opinion is struggling to fundamentally meet the financial demands of our city."

"If given the opportunity to become the New Mayor, I will abide by the oath and I promise that I will conduct myself with fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgement. I intend to follow all laws, policy and/or procedures thoroughly, without fear or favor, and I will honor the trust placed in me to continue to perform my noble role in public service," Jones said in his statement.

Filing for local political subdivisions begins on January 18 and ends on February 17.

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