On Thursday evening, McKinney Mayor George Fuller, a strong advocate for masks, took the brightly lit stage at his guitar sanctuary and event center and looked out into a crowd of about 170 mostly mask-less individuals, gathered to hear about Fuller’s accomplishments, campaign promises and candidate recommendations. Some, though, may have been vaccinated since it’s now available to all adults.

Fuller called the event “Get to Know the Candidates” town hall. It’s the second in a series of town halls that the mayor has been hosting during his 2021 re-election campaign. McKinney City Council District 3 candidate Dr. Gere Feltus and At-Large 1 incumbent Charlie Philips also joined him, and former McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller served as the moderator. 

And while the night remained mostly mundane, full of lots of laughter and a Q&A with each candidate, Fuller ended the night with a direct stab at McKinney City Council District 1 candidate, Stan Penn, owner of The Celt Irish Pub in McKinney. The other candidates for District 1 are Cris Treviño, Johnny Moore and Justin Beller.

“But what I will tell you is the worst possible thing that could happen for District 1 is Stan Penn,” Fuller said at the town hall.

Fuller’s Mayoral History

Since he took office in May 2017, Fuller has not had an uneventful first term as mayor. Between COVID-19, social unrest after George Floyd’s murder and the recall of a councilmember, Fuller said he’s been “through hell and back.”

It’s a claim he could make about his current campaign. Fuller recently attended a party hosted by the Dallas Jewish Conservatives in Parker. There he faced hostility from Zach Barrett, the leader of the Collin County Conservative Republicans, and the reality that not everyone believes in mask safety. The party celebrated the reopening of Texas and included burning masks in a bonfire. However, Fuller, one of the first Texas public officials to embrace masks, was unaware that mask burning would be part of it.

At the party, Barrett confronted Fuller. They engaged in a loud argument, captured on cell phone video. Barrett told NewsRadio that he was addressing a past issue between the two. Fuller said in a Facebook video that he was set up since he’s seeking re-election.

“So has it been tough? It’s been tough,” Fuller told the crowd Thursday evening. “And I’ve learned some things, and there are some things that I would have done different.”

The Town Hall

At the town hall Thursday evening, Philips spoke first about his legal experience. As he and Loughmiller used to cross-examine each other’s defendants, plaintiffs and witnesses in the courts as attorneys, the two laughed at how Loughmiller now had a chance to cross-examine Philips directly. But the crowd joined in the laughter when Loughmiller asked Philips about some of the things he’s most proud of during his past four years as the At-large councilmember. 

“I got the potholes fixed in my current street,” Philips said.

Jokes aside, Philips said, as a whole, the council increased commercial growth in McKinney by 70%, had many corporate move-ins that helped create jobs and continued to reduce the tax rate every year, which Fuller echoed later on that night. And speaking of taxes, when Philips was asked if he thinks there will need to be a tax increase over the next four years, he gave the most honest answer he could: “I hope not.”

Next up was Dr. Feltus, whom Fuller asked five times to run before she finally agreed to do it. But her decision to run for office was also influenced by the fact that she “saw no women stepping up to run.” She recalled the story of a man who asked her why her being a woman made a difference. In response, she asked him about the last time he and his family took a road trip. He tried to claim that he did most of the preparation, but Feltus challenged that, saying she knew he was married and his wife prepared for things he would’ve never thought about. 

“And this is the benefit of having a woman by your side, right?” Feltus said. “Because we’re going to think about the things you’re not going to think about. We’re going to plan ahead in a way that you normally would not. And McKinney is going on a trip. And in four years, I want to see the city vibrant and thriving and doing well and citizens happy.”

And when Fuller took center stage, a question came that (probably) all residents were insanely curious about — is he a Democrat or a Republican? And while he said he doesn’t tell people his partisanship while campaigning and knocking on doors when asked, he couldn’t deny the power of public records. 

“I’ll tell you something because you can go look it up yourself,” Fuller said. “I have a 20-year voting record for Republican.”

But Fuller made it clear to everyone that he didn’t run for mayor to get into partisan politics — regardless of what everyone believes. 

“I had a meeting with someone the other day that said, ‘You can say that, but it’s partisan,’” Fuller said. “Well, it’s partisan because a lot of people are trying their damnedest to make it partisan.”

Fuller’s Jab at Penn

The night was almost over when Fuller looked directly into the camera and said, “The worst possible thing that could happen for District 1 is Stan Penn.” Fuller claimed that Penn is “running for the wrong reasons.” He said residents of the district he would represent if elected never even see him around. 

In response to Fuller’s comments, Penn told Local Profile that he was disappointed but “not terribly surprised” to hear what Fuller said about him. He claims Fuller hasn’t forgiven him for supporting his opponent when Fuller ran for mayor in 2017. He said the two have tried to put their differences aside before, but they just have “political differences and a different way of looking at the world and doing things.”

“I hate that it’s getting into name calling and kind of gutter-style politics,” Penn said. “All we’re doing is asking questions, and we’re talking about fixing the streets and slowing down the apartment growth and open, transparent government. And, I think obviously we’re hitting a nerve somewhere to get this type of response. But, you know, I’m Irish. I can handle it.”

Fuller also said that Penn has been claiming lies about the city running on cronyism and “backward deals.”

“That’s called lack of integrity,” Fuller said. “It’s called lying. It’s called dishonesty. And it’s called desperate. If you can’t campaign on your ideas and on a plan, then you better pack your bags and move cause we don’t need you here.”

The audience burst into applause. 

Bailey Lewis

Bailey Lewis is a content journalist at Local Profile. She recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma and served as The OU Daily's news editor and enterprise editor. Previously, she was a summer...