Kelvin Cletus Green sat flanked by City Council members. He was 18 years old but looked much younger, and as Kim Whitsitt — the city secretary who is also Green’s godmother — whispered to him about the next agenda item, a stranger could be forgiven for assuming he was a student shadowing city officials for his civics class.
June 19 was a big day for Green, a recent graduate of Archer City High School, and this was no field trip. The council meeting was his first as mayor of Archer City, an oil and cattle hamlet in the mesquite-scrub country south of Wichita Falls, best known as the hometown of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry. Green is the town’s youngest mayor ever and must govern at a time when Archer City faces a water crisis because of the worst drought on record. He has prom-king good looks, expressive blue eyes and his short, sandy blond hair stood in sharp contrast with the gray locks of many of the other council members, who were old enough to have children — or grandchildren — his age.
Green is well known in this town of about 1,800 residents. As a boy, he could be spotted chasing city trucks on his bike. He spent hours with his grandfather at the Wildcat Cafe chatting with the ranchers and oil field hands. At 12, he was considered so reliable that when the water main broke in 2008, Whitsitt asked him to spread the word on the south side of town. “Next thing I know, he’s gone all up and down Ash and Oak and within 15 minutes he called me and all unnecessary watering had stopped,” she recalled.
In high school, Green played football, baseball and basketball. In fact, the day he was sworn in, May 16, Green, an accomplished shortstop,boarded a bus for a game in Mineral Wells. His peers named him “Mr. Archer City.”
When he graduated, he took a full-time job with Tubing Testers, a local oil field testing company, to do hydrostatic pressure tests on oil and gas wells. “The oil field’s in my blood,” he said. He has no immediate plans to go to college.
Name recognition was not a problem during his mayoral run. Green ordered 25 yard signs and staked them in front of the school and along State Highways 25 and 79, which run through town. He said that some residents even cold-called him, requesting signs. “Some were family friends. Others were just citizens that I talked to over the years growing up,” he said. “There’s not a lot of kids in the world today who’ll sit down and talk to a 75-year-old man for an hour. But I honestly would rather talk to a 75-year-old than an 18-year-old any day.”
He gave interviews to his school newspaper, The Cat’s Claw, and to the Archer County and Wichita Falls papers. While his victory could be seen as a testament to his commitment to his hometown, Green is not sure. He only knows that by Election Day, his candidacy was unopposed. No one was surprised to see him take up Archer City’s highest office. David Levy, a former lawyer with the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law and a mayoral predecessor, spoke to Green’s Boy Scout troop when he was a boy. “I remember telling Kelvin he’d make a great mayor someday.”
Cheryl Beesinger, the director of the county’s public library, says his age may be an asset. Perhaps, she said, Green is just what Archer City needs. “Sometimes you get your best ideas in youth,” she said.
There will be little time for on-the-job training, and Green may be tested soon. The lakes that Archer City depends on for its water have dwindled to 24 percent of capacity. The use of city water for pools and irrigation has been banned. At the meeting, he listened quietly as George Huffman, the city manager, laid out one possible solution: a water line to the Seymour Aquifer. But that would cost $2.8 million a year for 40 years. Archer City’s entire budget is $2.4 million a year. Since there’s little hope of federal or state assistance, this proposal will most likely dry up along with nearby Lake Kickapoo, which is one of the city’s water sources.
“Are we going to have enough water to keep everybody here?” Huffman said.
Green nodded solemnly. “Moving on to item D2. The city financial report, Kim Whitsitt,” he said. He kept the meeting rolling, asking for motions and holding votes for the appointment of a municipal court judge.
After 40 minutes, his first meeting was over and the City Council members were clapping him on the back, saying “Good job, Kelvin!” and “Keep up the good work!”
The only person in attendance who was not employed by the city was taking notes. Christopher Simmons, 16, was earning his communications merit badge — the last badge needed before he could become an Eagle Scout. Green was one of the first people Simmons met when he moved to town three years ago. Still, he registered his doubts about the new mayor. “I was happy he got the job,” he said. “But I do wish he had waited a little bit and got some experience.”