Retired businessman Tom Scherlen is running for a second term on the Amarillo City Council in a bid to represent Council Seat 3. Sherlen, the current president of the Amarillo Senior Citizens Association and former CEO of Austin Hose, previously ran against Eddie Sauer in 2021, garnering 43 percent of the vote. Now he’s trying to unseat him since Sauer chose not to run for re-election. During his 38 years with the Austin Hose Company, Scherlen operated five locations in three states serving seven different states.
“I feel like I have something to offer with my business experience and I want to bring that experience to the city, being able to balance budgets and look at issues from a business perspective,” Sherlen said. “We really need to learn to listen to citizens as their representatives.”
Sherlen said one example of the city’s unwillingness to address a problem was the reactionary nature of the previous council’s failure to address solid waste staffing issues last year, which led to a temporary suspension of twice-weekly pickups. The pick-up schedule resumed in early January.
“We can’t continue to do things exactly the same way we’ve done things in the past,” Sherlen added. “We cannot ignore the will and vote of the people. Too many people on the council have never run a business in their lives.’
While acknowledging that the Amarillo Civic Center will need a workable solution in the future, Sherlen said the city clearly hasn’t worked with constituents to find a workable solution. He said the city should have tried to get a better idea of why people rejected funding for new renovations to the community center the last time they voted.
“I didn’t like the method they were suing me to pay for it myself,” Sherlen said. “I honestly think if the city gets more input from the voters, they can come up with a workable solution; we need to be better listeners.”
Regarding the recent school bond election, Sherlen said he is a staunch opponent of the costs proposed for the projects in the Amarillo Independent School District (AISD) bond measures. He said he was responsible for the billboards all over town saying no tax increase for this election. All four AISD bonds failed, with three of the bonds having more than 60 percent of those voting reject the proposals.
“The main thing I didn’t like about the bond election was that I felt there was too much waste in building a whole new middle school in Austin instead of fixing up the school for a lot less money,” Sherlen said. “If they had gone in and asked for less money, I’m sure they would have gotten what they asked for.
If elected to the city council, Sherlen promised to have regular meetings with constituents at least once a month. He said he would be willing to meet with neighborhood committees and have regular town halls so he can get a sense of the needs of people across the city. With these meetings, Sherlen said there will be a better understanding of the challenges across the city.
“Amarillo hasn’t done much in terms of infrastructure in the last 75 years,” Sherlen said. “We have big problems with infrastructure as we have no plan to be able to fix our streets as it is now. Infrastructure problems cannot continue to be ignored.
He said he’s seen great things with the way the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has brought new businesses to the area over the past two years of the current mayor’s administration. With these new businesses being brought into the area, Sherlen has concerns about whether the city has the infrastructure and housing to accommodate the businesses being brought in. He also expressed concern that new businesses bringing in better wages could hurt local businesses that are already struggling to find enough workers.
Asked why he decided to run, Sherlen said his goal is to bring sanity back to city government. His concern is that the city has taken on government functions in which it should not be involved.
“Years ago it looked like the city had enough money to take care of their basic needs, and now with more tax dollars it looks like they can take care of less,” he said. “We need to be more adaptive with how we serve the needs of the city and be willing to make changes if necessary.”
Asked what his top priority would be if elected to the council, Sherlen was very concerned about the rising crime rate in the city of Amarillo. He said the priority for any city should be the public safety of its residents.
“We didn’t need to hire an outside source to be able to figure out what the problem areas of the city were,” Sherlen said. “I have to talk to our law enforcement from top to bottom to find out what the problems are and what can be done to solve them.”
Another major issue for Sherlen is fiscal responsibility to taxpayers and being a good steward of their money. While he said he’s opposed to raising taxes in general, Sherlen said there are circumstances where he would be in favor of raising taxes, but it has to be something that doesn’t have another solution to a big need for the city.
On the issue of single-member voting districts for council members representing part of the city, Sherlen said she is in favor of expanding the council membership, with a majority of members representing a particular district and two other council members who would represent the city as a whole. He said there has to be a way to get more people in the city involved in the voting process, and maybe that’s a way to get people more invested in this typically low-turnout election.
“I agree that there needs to be some ownership and accountability to the areas of the city, but with some services as a whole, we can better represent the entire city without any area being left without a voice,” Sherlen said. “I feel like the Council, as it has been over the years, only speaks for a minority of people in Amarillo. The mayor should not have as much control as they do in voting. How many 4-1 votes have we had in the last few years?’
He said if council members had to answer to precincts, he doesn’t think the vote at the Amarillo Civic Center would have gone the way it did.
“I would ask any council member if you represented a district, would you vote the way you did?” Sherlen said, “Originally they wanted a public-private partnership and they couldn’t find takers. We had to cut our losses when the judge threw it out the first time, and we’re still fighting the decision in court.”