New member to join City Council after filing for uncontested seat

SUDDUTH

An insurance agent who is a member of several nonprofit boards will be the next member of the Tyler City Council.

Criss Sudduth, 59, was the only candidate to file paperwork to run for the District 6 seat on the Tyler City Council. John Nix vacated the seat this month to comply with the city's term limit law.

The City Council voted Friday to cancel the special election it called earlier this month for May 4 to fill the seat. Instead, the only race on the ballot will be for District 3, the seat that is being vacated by Ed Moore.

Sudduth said he decided to seek the position when he found out Nix would be resigning. He said he consulted with God, his wife, with Mayor Martin Heines and with former Mayor Kevin Eltife, and received support for the bid.

"I've been blessed in the community with a business that I've owned and that has thrived," Sudduth said. "I thought, 'Well I could return the favor by serving in other capacities.'"

He said he wants to keep the city on a pay-as-you-go plan implemented under Eltife in the 1990s. Under that plan, the city government pays for major infrastructure in cash and does not take out general obligation debt, a type of debt that is issued based on the general taxing ability of a city.

Since the plan was implemented, the city has funded major infrastructure projects through a half-percent sales tax, also known as the half-cent sales tax. The city does issue revenue bonds for utility projects, in which the revenue from new water services

is promised to pay back the debt.

"We don't need to be in debt," Sudduth said. "That's not wise in any scenario, business, personal life and everything else. Especially as a municipality, we have to make sure we have the money to do what we need to do."

He said the biggest challenges in the city are making sure the government doesn't issue general obligation debt, and addressing traffic. However, he said traffic is good for businesses and is a sign that the city is growing.

"It's a blessing and a curse," he said. "It's a blessing that we have this many people coming here and consuming. It's wonderful. We just have to figure out how to make that all flow better."

The City Council has voted to raise property taxes for the past three years in a row. Sudduth said he would vote to raise taxes if needed to fund city services, such as public safety and streets, and if the plan did not include going into debt.

"As (Tyler) grows, as it expands, then yeah, you have to get the revenue from somewhere," Sudduth said. "You have to explore that to see how much does it take to actually meet the needs of the population.

"If you have to raise taxes, do it in a way that it's not a burden on any particular segment of the population, that we all equally share in the tax, and if you do that then you find out that actually the tax doesn't burden any individual directly," he said.

Sudduth serves on boards and committees for the Tyler Area Builders Association, the Central East Texas Better Business Bureau, the County Rehabilitation Center and the insurance company SBMP Inc.

He previously has been involved in the North Tyler Developmental Academy, the Tyler Area Drug Abuse Program, the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce Contact Club and the Independent Insurance Agents of Tyler, according to a news release.

He owns Ark Assurance group, which sells products ranging from homeowners insurance to employee health insurance. The company has 24 employees, he said.

Sudduth will be sworn at the same time as the new District 3 member after the May 4 election.

TWITTER and INSTAGRAM: @_erinmansfield

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