Joven first Hispanic mayor of Odessa

Odessa’s newly-elected Mayor Javier Joven on Tuesday vowed that once he takes office he will immediately call for an investigation of the city’s finances for the past eight years.
Joven, who for years has accused the city of misspending taxpayer dollars and lacking transparency, defeated former Councilman Dewey Bryant in Tuesday’s runoff by a vote of 3,662 to 2,277.
“… the voters saw through the lies and supported me because they want someone to hold the city accountable; and that’s what we’re going to do,” Joven said. “The first thing we need to do is form a committee to investigate the city’s spending. We need to know where we are financially and where our commitments are.
“I know I’m going to have a battle with that. I can tell you now; I’m not going to be a popular person at city hall.”
Councilwoman Mari Willis said Wednesday an independent audit is done every year on city finances and that any new committee or investigation would require a vote of city council, which has seven members. Willis also said she hopes the council will eventually come together.
Councilman Steve Thompson said he is baffled by Joven’s claims that the city has misspent tax dollars.
“I have no idea what he’s talking about,” Thompson said. “I’ve been on council for a month and I’ve seen no evidence of impropriety. But I’ll keep an open mind.”
Thompson said he checked with City Attorney Natasha Brooks who confirmed that any kind of investigation would need the approval of a majority of council.
“But I’m not looking for a fight with anyone,” Thompson said. “I’d like to congratulate the new mayor and council members on their wins, and I’m looking forward to working together with them for the betterment of the city – that’s my only agenda.”
Bryant, who decided to run for mayor after terming out as the District 2 city council representative, did not return phone calls seeking comment.
City Manager Michael Marrero on Wednesday did not directly address Joven’s allegations that the city has been misspending taxpayer dollars. Marrero did say city administrators and staff will make whatever information Joven requests available.
“We look forward to working with Mayor Joven, and all the new council members, and will provide whatever resources and assistance needed,” Marrero said.
Bryant and Joven were forced into a runoff after neither candidate during the Nov. 3 general election garnered 50 percent of the vote plus one – which is required to be declared the winner. Bryant received 43 percent of the vote during the general election, while Joven snared 40 percent.
The results were vastly different during the runoff election.
Joven built what turned out to be an insurmountable lead in early voting, capturing 2,519 votes compared to 1,568 for Bryant.
The contest between both men was sometimes bitter and often heated – with supporters from both sides accusing each other of running negative campaigns that distorted their candidate’s records. Joven focused on money spent on downtown Odessa, specifically the Marriott Hotel and Convention Center.
Joven said he doesn’t believe that bad blood will spill over into the new city council. One of his top priorities will be to try being a “consensus builder” with council and earn their confidence.
“I know we’re not always going to agree,” Joven said. “But if someone on council presents an idea and can explain how and why it will best serve the community, I will be the first to support it. I want everyone’s voice to be heard.”
Current councilmembers Detra White and Tom Sprawls on Wednesday did not respond to phone calls or emails seeking comment.
Joven served as District 5 councilman from 1996 to 1999 before abruptly resigning prior to the end of his second term. He later ran in 2010, but lost to Dean Combs.
“Everyone has always speculated why I resigned in 1999,” Joven said. “At the time there was a voting block among district’s 1, 2 and 3, and they controlled council, they controlled who on council received information.
“I was just there twiddling my thumbs and I was ineffective. I didn’t believe that I was able to serve my district. I stepped down with the hope that my replacement could be more effective.
In 1998, Joven told the Odessa American he was resigning to spend more with family. In 2010, he told the OA he had to help his family through a private matter.
At his first council meeting, Joven, who said he is opposed to abortion, said he will ask council to support a resolution declaring Odessa as a “sanctuary for the unborn.” He has scheduled a community prayer rally from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., Dec. 19 on the West lawn of the Ector County Courthouse.
Joven campaigned as a team along with Denise Swanner, who defeated Turner in their runoff race for the at-large council seat, and Mark Matta, who defeated District 1 incumbent Michael Shelton.
Joven, Swanner and Matta will be sworn into office and officially take their council seats during the next regularly scheduled council meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 12, city officials announced on Wednesday.
Joven said he already has several items on his agenda.
“The purpose of the event is to pray, fast and repent to our Lord and Savior,” Joven said.