April Sikes
Mayor, Corsicana, Navarro Co., TX


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8/10/2003 GOODBYE SIKES: A look at April's six-year local political career

By JOAN SHERROUSE/Daily Sun Staff

April Allison Sikes first set foot in the Corsicana political arena early in 1997.

Thursday, she put it all in her rear-view mirror.

One of her greatest claims to fame was a dazzling coup which convinced Texas Department of Transportation officials to approve a frontage road for access to the city's dreamscape at Interstate 45 and U.S. Highway 287.

The lowest point may have been her part in the firing of assistant city manager Thomas Moton, but between the peaks and valleys lay a sense of loyalty and love for her home-town community.

Her career as municipal judge, which began when she outpaced Judge Rob Jones in 1997, ended abruptly in January of 2001 when she resigned the post.

Four months later, she was elected mayor.

Campaign promises, including an open-door policy at city hall and accountability for taxpayer dollars, began coming true as Sikes took a hands-on approach to city government.

During her two years and three months as mayor, she called dozens of council work sessions, effectively putting the four precinct representatives on the same page and opening the book for the whole town to see.

She was quick to stand for what she thought was best for the taxpayers, often taking an unpopular position.

Police and firefighters demanded a 27-percent pay increase over three years in 2002, but negotiations collapsed when union officials turned down a 6-, 8- 10-percent compromise over 36 months which would temporarily sidestep a tax increase.

Her popularity slipped further in the eyes of civil servants when she led council in passing a resolution asking residents to vote against the raise.

Yet, she never swayed from her goal of protecting residents' money. In September 2001 she negotiated a compromise with TXU officials to establish lower rates for natural gas during the winter months.

At the same time, she supported an energy efficiency study by Johnson Controls, leading to millions of dollars worth of capital improvements with enough money in energy savings to pay for them. Guaranteed. The contract was signed in October 2002, and within weeks, workers started replacing the city's worn out water meters.

An experienced lawyer and former assistant district attorney, she worked to protect Corsicana's legal interests as well.

During the summer of 2001, she watched closely as Navarro Mills Water Supply customer/owners split over a proposal to turn control of the operation over to the city. After hearing both sides speak in a special council session, negotiations ended and the separate factions were left to settle their own differences.

Shortly thereafter, council passed the 2001-2002 budget, eliminating Moton's job.

Two weeks later, residents filled council chambers to overflowing, and minced no words in their criticism of the two council members and mayor who voted to oust their assistant city manager.

The incident paled quickly, however, when TxDOT threatened the city's economic development site with a ban on frontage road construction.

Sikes sprang into action, traveling to Austin in October with a who's who list of officials to present an impassioned plea for an exception to the new ruling.

Her three-minute appeal was powerful enough to catch the attention of Commissioner Robert L. Nichols, who came to town for a first-hand look.

The year ended with a favorable vote, and Corsicana became the first city in Texas to get such a project approved after the new regulation went into effect.

Three months later, East Texas Medical Center EMS threw the city a curve, demanding a $250,000 subsidy to continue providing ambulance service in the area.

Sikes dug in her heels, balked at the idea and ordered a feasibility study to find out if the fire department could take over emergency services.

They could, said Fire Chief Donald McMullan, and in June 2002, council made it official.

The program has earned praise from both hospitals and patients, and collections have been sufficient to leave an impressive balance in the bank.

Things changed when Sikes accepted a job in the Smith County District Attorney's office shortly after her re-election in May, however. She faced a 90-minute commute, and her job kept her away from noontime council work sessions.

Then, her job kept her from attending a pivotal meeting last week in which three council members voted to fire city manager Truitt Gilbreath, leaving Precinct 1 councilman J. Waterman to stand alone in his support.

Apparently stunned and outspokenly disappointed, she delivered her resignation letter Thursday, blasting council members in the process.

Yet, she did not forget the friends and neighbors she has cherished for a lifetime.

She closed each council meeting with, "May God continue to bless the City of Corsicana."

At the end of her resignation letter, she carried on the tradition and included her beloved residents.

"May God bless each one of you and the City of Corsicana," she wrote.

 


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