Carrollton mayoral candidates (from left) Frank Olvera, Richard Denker and John Sweeney. (KMZU)

CARROLLTON — Next Tuesday, Carrollton city voters will have three choices for mayor. Current mayor Scott Bartlett did not seek re-election. That was a surprise to candidate Richard Denker.

“On December 15th I put my name in to give Scott Bartlett and run for his money. At the time, I did not know he wasn’t running,” Denker told the crowd at the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce candidates forum last week. “My running mates, they are as much or equal as I am.”

Denker introduced himself an 11-year Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, Iraq and South Korea. He’s a Carrollton VFW adjutant and District 1 quartermaster. Also, he’s an avid bowler serving on the U.S. Bowling Congress. He’s says it’s something he wanted to do after coming back from service.

But he isn’t the only veteran ready to serve his city. John Sweeney says he came back to his hometown in 2004 after an Air Force and commercial pilot career. He says he was “impressed with the town” when he returned home.

“When I came back here, the enthusiasm was almost palpable,” Sweeney said. “You could see it; you could feel it. I think right now it’s still very much on the rise. People who like this town want to be here; they are moving in or at least inquiring about business here.”

Lifelong Carrollton resident Frank Olvera says he got the pulse of the people by working at Carrollton grocery stores, primarily at Mulch’s Country Mart for 32 years. Most of that time serving as meat manager. The 64-year-old is former city councilman and current president of Carrollton Municipal Utilities. He says he’s running for mayor because people asked him to run for office.

“In part why I am running is to try to make people’s lives a little bit better,” Olvera said.

He also wants to help grow the medical marijuana enterprises in Carrollton to bring additional jobs.

“We have an opportunity right here, right now to take this industry and make it something,” he said emphatically. He said previous city administrations have tried and failed to get new industry into town, because of intense competition of a scarce resource.

Both Olvera and Sweeney talked about creating long-term city plans to address persistent unresolved issues, like street improvements and housing.

“A lot of people work on stuff, but I don’t think there’s community planning. Where are we now? Where do we want to be 5, 10 years? How do we get there?” he asked. “That’s not something I can do as mayor or the council can do (alone) without the people in town. If you don’t have a plan, how do you know you’re on the right road to get there?”

All three candidates agreed the strength of the city is its people — the weakness is limited job opportunities. Moderator and presiding commissioner Stan Falke asked the candidates what’s more important: revitalizing old homes or building new ones. All agreed Carrollton needs new home construction; however, long abandoned structures should also be addressed.

“Yes, there is a housing crisis here,” Olvera said. “The information I am getting is most of the housing we need here is middle- to higher-income housing.”

Sweeney said, “Yes, we need to be building homes, but we also have problems of where to do that. We have a few lots here and there, but there’s not a lot of empty space in the city limits.”

Denker said, “Where I bought my house I took time to tear down the house beside mine. But, hell, it’s been vacant for 20-something years. It only cost me $1,200 for the lot.”

Special hours for absentee voting is from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 3, at the Carroll County Courthouse. Polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, April 6.