Elena Claros has filed to run for Lewisville City Council place 3 against Mayor Pro Tem TJ Gilmore and Penny Mallet. Claros and Mallet filed Feb. 6 and 7 respectively, making the run go from unopposed to a three-way race for the seat. If none of the three candidates are able to reach 50 percent of the vote during the May 6 election, then a runoff election between the top two candidates will be held to determine who gets the seat.
Claros, 42, is a lawyer with Settlement Capital Corporation and a inactive reserve member of the Judges Advocate General’s Corps for the Air Force, of which she was active duty from 2006 to 2007. Claros has never run for a political office before or served in any capacity for a local government, but believes that her legal background will serve her well.
“I think having a legal background gives me an advantage; I’ve already reviewed and done those things,” Claros said. “I’ve drafted laws, I’ve reviewed memos. I’ve been on that side of it.”
Claros said there isn’t enough involvement in local government and cities, a driving factor for her running.
“I really want city government to have more people be active and have a voice. I think people shy away from that and they just assume, ‘Well, someone will take care of it, someone else will do it and they’re not going to listen to me,’ so I would really like to see city council become more out there in the community and be more approachable.”
Claros became a self-described military brat at 8 when her mother married her step-father, a member of the Air Force. Due to her father’s career, she traveled all over the world as a child. She said this helped her understand that people of different races, backgrounds and life experience are basically the same.
“I was raised with an idea that everybody shares commonalities no matter where you go. Whether I was in Germany or we were in Montana or France or Spain,” Claros said. “Wherever I was, I just learned early on that we all do the same things. We all work, we all try and take care of our families. “
Despite this being her first time in politics, Claros’ former coworker with the U.S. Small Business Administration Ellen Williamson said Claros has the traits needed to lead a city and serve on a council with other more experienced members.
“She’s not intimidated in a new situation. She’s a quick learner, she’s a hard worker, and I think she’s got a real compassion,” Williamson said.
After her work with the SBA ended in 2013, Claros was out of work, and she decided to wait tables while searching for another job. Williamson recounted how even though she was going through a hard time herself, Claros still tried to help others. After hearing about a coworker with young children who was struggling, Claros reached out to a group of friends to find used baby clothes for the woman.
“I don’t know that everybody going through a hard time themselves would have the compassion to look around for someone else,” Williamson said. “The fact that she does— I think we can really benefit from public servants like that.”
Though she has been a Lewisville resident for 10 months, according to her application, Claros said she doesn’t see that as a negative to being a member of city council.
“At some point people are new residents,” Claros said. “They can bring in new and fresh perspectives.”
In a community comprised of primarily renters, Claros said it is important to show that somebody can make a difference even if they haven’t been in Lewisville long.
The other four candidates running for the two available city council spots have lived in Lewisville between 11 and 22 years. Claros believes that an outsider’s perspective would help Lewisville avoid getting tunnel vision.
“I think I offer a fresh perspective and I have skills and abilities than can be used for the benefit of the city,” Claros said.
Gilmore said that Claros’ short time of living in Lewisville shouldn’t stop her from wanting to get involved in the city of Lewisville.
“If somebody wants to come in here and they want to put down roots and the hard work it takes to build a community, then I’m all for it,” Gilmore said. “And I hope regardless of the outcome that they would continue to want to make Lewisville as great as it can be.”
Claros said she hopes her running will inspire others who are new to Lewisville to get involved in local politics.
The official filing period to apply for city council continues until Feb. 17. The 2017 election will take place Saturday, May 6. Visit cityoflewisville.com for more council election information.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to note that Claros is still on inactive reserve status with the Air Force, and to more accurately explain how she became a “military brat.”