Citizens in the City of Deport will have to vote this November as incumbent Mayor John Mark Francis will go head-to-head with candidate Catana Yarnell.
Francis was elected to the Deport City Council in 2015 before taking office as mayor in 2016. He has since stayed in the position, but not without controversy.
Yarnell, who is the founder of the Deport Listening and Learning Children’s Library, has decided to step up to the challenge by running against Francis in this year’s election.
“I am honored to be placed in a position to help bring a positive direction of connection to Deport. In visiting with so many in the Deport community over the last few weeks, I have learned much about the hearts and concerns,” Yarnell stated on Facebook. “I heard your voice to want someone who is truthful and transparent, who can be reached at a time of concern and listened too.”
Yarnell comes into the race having not held an elected position before, but she said she has the drive and know-how to be productive for the community.
“Along the way, we can work to bring in stores and restaurants, and maybe even truck stops. But, what good is all of that if you have no connected, vesting community to keep the businesses here and the community remains divided? The future of Deport lies in the hands of our voters and I hope I have your vote in the November election,” she said.
On the other hand, incumbent Francis has had his share of controversy, which may outweigh his role in the city’s improvements he jumpstarted and oversaw.
In June 2017, Francis, then 26 years old, was arrested and charged with theft of property between $2,500 to $30,000. Though the charge was a state jail felony, reports at the time say Francis surrendered himself once notified of the warrant for arrest against him before being released on a $7,500 bond.
In January of this year, Francis was accused at the time of using city funds to pay for personal items, which he claimed was false due to furniture being delivered to his private residence.
After a few years of his delayed court appearance, Lamar County District Attorney Gary Young said in a statement on Jan. 22, “Mr. Francis’ case was resolved this morning. He pled to a lesser included offense of Abuse of Official Capacity and received a sentence of one-year deferred adjudication and will pay back the City of Deport for any restitution that may be owed.”
But the question remains until the polls close will his discretion in office give advantage to rival Yarnell, or will his experience and projects completed and those laid out in future plans keep him in office?
During his administration, Francis has been credited with building over two miles of “new road” in Deport, a four-lane highway expansion with a new truck stop in development that includes a restaurant, a $30,000 “Milton-Minter Road” contribution, $350,000 federally funded projects on Bevil and Church St., a $500,000 TxDOT-funded project on Monroe, Main, and Clarksdale St., and other projects including water tower repairs along with repainting and bringing 10 new homes to Deport through the HOME grant program.