EDITOR’S NOTE: After a version of this story ran online Monday afternoon, Mayor Javier Joven called and requested an opportunity to clarify comments made in the story. The version below reflects those changes.
Odessa’s new Mayor Javier Joven said he is looking forward to the city council’s first work session on Jan. 5 because it will help new councilmembers better understand current issues facing the city and become more familiar with governing procedures.
Joven said that three of the four recently elected council members are new to council, but eager to get started. Joven, who previously served on council from 1996-99 before resigning in 2008, is making his return as mayor after emerging victorious from a Dec. 15 run-off against former District 2 Councilman Dewey Bryant.
“We need to get up to speed on the issues facing the city,” Joven said. “Three of the new councilmembers (Denise Swanner, Mark Matta and Steve Thompson) are new to council.
“There are several issues that the council needs to review, including water treatment, the mask mandate and current litigation. We need to discuss our priorities and if we’re spending taxpayer dollars wisely.”
Joven, who works during the day, requested that work session meeting times be changed from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. so that he can participate. Joven said he has spoken about the time change with other council members who did not object. Joven did not know if the council must officially vote to change the time. Joven said he plans to ask the council to eliminate work sessions because he believes they are “redundant.”
Joven said he is eager for the council to get to work. He already has several agenda items scheduled for the Jan. 12 council meeting.
Joven last week said he has spoken with West Texas Dr. Richard Bartlett about how Odessa can best deal with COVID-19. He also raised the possibility of Bartlett advising the city on COVID-related matters. Joven, who acknowledged his comments had drawn public criticism, on Monday said he had only spoken with Bartlett once to inquire about COVID treatment for himself. He said he did not ask Bartlett if he would be interested in advising the council and denied saying that he had during a previous interview.
“That conversation never took place,” Joven said on Monday. “That is a decision that the council would have to make. I can’t make that decision on my own.”
Bartlett’s use of an inhaled steroid to treat COVID-19 patients has drawn praise from some patients who claim the treatment “saved” their lives. Many local health officials have disputed those claims, arguing that the treatment has only helped patients with very minor symptoms; very little studies have been conducted to back up Bartlett’s claim that his treatment is a “silver bullet” against COVID. Numerous health organizations have repeatedly stated there is no silver bullet in fighting COVID.
Joven, Swanner and Matta – who were all elected after winning a Dec. 15 runoff – were initially scheduled to be sworn into office in January, but the three newcomers changed their minds and opted for a private ceremony on Dec. 22. Joven said one of the reasons the swearing-in date was moved up was to allow the new councilmembers a chance to participate in a workshop and become more familiar with their roles as council.
He also said the three were suspicious that they were not consulted on the date of the swearing in.
Thompson won his council seat during the November general election and opted to have his swearing-in ceremony conducted on video, which was broadcast live during a virtual city council meeting.