Bastrop voters to select between Jackson, Nelson in mayoral runoff election

Bastrop voters will decide their next mayor in a runoff election on June 10.
Bastrop voters will decide their next mayor in a runoff election on June 10.

After finishing first and second in the May 6 election, Dock Jackson and Lyle Nelson are both vying to become the next mayor of Bastrop as voters head to the polls for a runoff election on June 10. Early voting is open until Tuesday.

The winner will replace outgoing Mayor Connie Schroeder, whose second term is about to expire after being elected in 2017.

Jackson, 70, was elected to the City Council in 1988 and served off and on in local government ever since, for a total of more than 29 years of experience with the city. He has attended Texas State University and the University of Texas, and works part-time at the Hampton Inn and Suites.

Dock Jackson
Dock Jackson

Jackson said he believes he has “always been a uniter” throughout his decades of experience with the city of Bastrop as someone who is “able to work across the neighborhoods, across race and creed to work with people.”

Nelson, 69, was elected to the Bastrop City Council in 2017 and served until 2022. He said that between his time in public service and military service, he has more than 40 years of managerial experience. Nelson is the chief of staff for the Capital Area Rural Transportation System.

Lyle Nelson
Lyle Nelson

Nelson said he is guided by a personal mantra of creating a more “citizen-oriented” government in Bastrop by asking two questions about any potential decision he will make: “Is it good for Bastrop? And does it harm any of our citizens?”

After the May election, neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote in a four-way race. Jackson received 429 votes, making up 32.5%, and Nelson had 412 votes for 31.2%.

The third-place finisher, Deborah Jones, received 377 votes for 28.6%, and she is putting her support behind Jackson.

“Dock is iconic in this community with a heart for the people and places that make Bastrop our home,” Jones said.

Elizabeth Northcutt, who finished fourth with 102 votes, or 7.7%, did not respond to a request for comment.

Although the mayor is a nonpartisan position, both candidates previously ran for Bastrop County judge in 2022 — Jackson as a Democrat and Nelson as a Republican — in which Nelson placed fourth in the GOP primary, and Jackson finished second in the general election.

In interviews with the Bastrop Advertiser, both candidates shared an appreciation for nonpartisan local elections and an intention to govern for everyone, regardless of political labels, but Jackson is more outspoken about his identification.

“I’m not ashamed to say I’m a Democrat,” Jackson said, but he added that most of the issues that divide parties are not relevant to city issues and that his party affiliation is “not going to affect my decision-making as mayor.” Jackson has the support of the Bastrop County Democratic Party and other local Democrat-aligned groups.

Nelson said he typically identifies as an independent and is “tired of the divisiveness that comes just from (party) identification.” Nelson has been endorsed by the Bastrop County Republican Party.

On the issues, managing growth and development in Bastrop is on the top of both candidates’ minds, but their attitudes differ significantly.

“Bastrop does not need to be Austin East, nor does it need to be a bedroom community of Austin,” Nelson said.

Although he believes development cannot be “slowed, stopped or stymied,” Nelson is cautious about building too much housing density that could change Bastrop or pursuing projects that cost the city too much money. His top priority is fixing public infrastructure, in particular, roads.

Jackson also wants to secure more funding to fix roads as well as water infrastructure, but first he emphasized the need to make Bastrop a “more walkable community” by building more sidewalks.

Jackson also wants to “figure out what’s the best plan without destroying the neighborhoods and without destroying the nature of our special, historic community,” but he said he is willing to “be a little more lenient with the code” to make sure projects come to Bastrop.

“We desperately need more housing,” Jackson said.

City codes have been an animating issue this election cycle.

Both Jackson and Nelson expressed support for Sylvia Carrillo, the new Bastrop city manager, and the changes she has made in the city's Planning Department to help speed up the permitting process.

Nelson wants it to be easy for the public to get more involved in the process.

“Anytime you have a bureaucracy in any way shape or form," he said, "you’re in danger of separating yourself from the people you’re serving.”

Jackson went a step further and said that if elected mayor, he would work with the Planning and Zoning Commission to overhaul the codes he believes were “cut and pasted” from other municipalities and are not “Bastrop friendly.”

In addition to the codes themselves, part of the problem, according to Jackson, is the online system the city was using to process building permits, which would often create unnecessary delays by assigning generic steps to every permit, even if the project did not require them.

Nelson was less specific in his plans for the city’s codes and permitting process, but he said that with “changing dynamics” in Bastrop, “there’s always room for improvement” in the dialogue between the public and city officials.

Beyond managing growth and improving city infrastructure, both candidates also want to create a new recreation center, expand workforce development programs and go after any state and federal grant funding they can secure for Bastrop.

If elected, Jackson, who grew up in Bastrop during segregation, would become the city’s first African-American mayor, but he is quick to emphasize that’s not why he’s running.

“I’m not trying to make history. I’m trying to help my community grow and develop, and I’m looking out for everyone,” Jackson said.

Nelson is hoping voters recognize his “result-oriented approach” to city government.

“It doesn’t matter who gets the blame or who gets the credit as long as you get the job done,” Nelson said.

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Bastrop voters to select between Jackson, Nelson in mayoral runoff