McKinney Pastor Chris Thornton’s first words as a city council representative for District 1 were positive: “I hope in the next five months or whatever I have, I can be in service to my community. I’m a product of McKinney, born and raised on the East side. I’m a Black man, and I’m a fair man.”
Thornton took the council seat on Dec. 1 after the city voted to recall former councilman La’Shadion Shemwell in November. Thornton was seen as a stabilizing force for the council, and was warmly welcomed by District 1 residents. He has a good reputation as the Associate Pastor at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church in McKinney, and has been a lifelong McKinney resident. He accepted the appointment and intended to serve until the next city council election in May, when he had the option of running himself.
But at the city council meeting Tuesday, Pastor Thornton announced that he could no longer represent District 1, not “by choice, but by rezoning.”
McKinney’s city charter requires council representatives to reside in their districts. Pastor Thornton has always considered himself a resident of District 1, and until very recently, he believed he was. However, City Secretary Empress Drane, who confirms residency of all council members, realized she had made a mistake.
“This was not a mistake or error with any harmful intent or any misleading intent,” she said. Pastor Thornton lives on Howell Street, which is on the line between District 1 and 3. One side of the street is in District 1. But his house is over the line in District 3.
“I am 10-feet-10-inches out of the district line. And so, because of that fact, I can’t represent District 1,” Pastor Thornton said. His house had once been in District 1; it all came down to redistricting.
However, now that he has stepped down, District 1 lacks representation in a crucial moment.
On the day of Pastor Thornton’s appointment, one District 1 resident spoke about their fears that District 1 would potentially have three representatives in a span of six months: Shemwell, Thornton, and whoever would run in May 2021. He stated that he was concerned that District 1’s voice would be overlooked while each new council member adjusted.
“I don’t know about any town halls,” another District 1 resident said. “I think it’s a little unfair for this stuff to be rushed through. Thornton doesn’t know what’s going on. Thank God he has the gumption to say, ‘I don’t know what this is.’”
District 1, on the East side of McKinney, is the subject of conversation and revitalization. Changes are coming from an airport in McKinney, to the renovations around downtown, to Highway Five. Some residents have expressed worry that these changes, while made with good intentions, will gentrify the area, pushing them out of their homes. District 1 residents have been clear: they want their voices heard. They want not just representation, but informed, engaged, and effective representation. Yet, just two weeks later, once again, District 1 is without a representative at city council.
There are still names on the table. Mayor George Fuller told Local Profile before Pastor Thornton’s appointment that they had three or four people to consider, and were consulting with District 1 community leaders. Pastor Thornton’s name rose to the surface fastest, but there are other worthy nominees in District 1.
Mayor Fuller says that Pastor Thornton’s replacement will likely be Angela Richardson-Woods, treasurer of the McKinney Community Development Corporation Board of Directors. She will likely receive her nomination in a special meeting on Monday, Dec. 21.
“I am going to always be a part of District 1,” Pastor Thorton said. “District 1 has been in my family, my family’s been there for over 120 plus years. I hate that I cannot represent District 1.”