Harker Heights will have one contested race for a City Council seat on the May 4 ballot.
Jeffrey Keith Harris and Jennifer Michelle McCann are vying for the Place 1 seat currently held by Councilman Hal Schiffman. Schiffman is finishing his second consecutive three-year term in the seat and is barred by the city charter from serving another consecutive term.
Also appearing on the Harker Heights municipal ballot is Councilwoman Jackeline Soriano Fountain, who is unopposed for re-election to her Place 3 seat.
Harris, 61, has been a resident of Harker Heights for the past 26 years. He is retired from the military and retired from the civil service with the Department of Homeland Security (Task Force).
In a previous interview with the Herald, Harris said he made the decision to run for Place 1 to bring a fresh new voice to the council.
“My intentions in representing the citizens are to help our city evolve to a greater place to live by sustaining public safety, and ensuring that our first responders have state of the art equipment and the resources to remain effective,” Harris said.
Harris cited his 22-year military career, skill sets acquired while working on the Federal Terrorism Task Force for Domestic Emergency Response and academic achievements in noting his qualifications for the council post.
Harris said he would like to be a conduit for accurate and timely information.
“Transparency and fiscal responsibility are two lynch pins to success for any city,” Harris said. Citizens and leaders must continue to make good decisions and operate within budgetary limits.”
McCann, 37, has lived in Harker Heights for the past 28 years. She is self-employed and is co-owner of Eagle Express Mailing, Shipping and Printing.
She said her decision to run for Place 1 on the Harker Heights City Council was because she wanted to show her children what it takes to be a responsible and caring adult.
McCann said in a previous interview, “My father taught me that if I’m able to be involved in my community, then I owe it to my community to do so.”
McCann said she has been actively engaged for the past eight years in various committees and numerous city events, such as chairing the Food, Wine and Brew Festival.
She has also served on the Public Safety Commission and the Parks and Recreation Board, as well as the Criminal Justice Board at the Central Texas Council of City Governments.
“Given my collective experience, it is now my obligation to further contribute in a policy making capacity as a member of the council,” McCann said.
Jeffrey Harris and Jennifer McCann, Election Guide responses
1. What qualifications and experience would you bring to City Council?
HARRIS: There is no doubt I bring an additional level of experience to the council. A 22-year military career, skill sets acquired while working on the Federal Terrorism Task Force for Domestic Emergency Response, coming face to face with real world catastrophes, my academic achievements, prepared me to be an asset to any city large or small. As a critical thinker I have the ability to objectively view issues analyze and evaluate them developing absolute resolution. I am a strategic planner, great communicator, team player with abilities to successfully correspond interact and engage with individuals from all backgrounds and cultures.
McCANN: I am fortunate that I have both grown up in Harker Heights and am a longtime small business owner here. For well over 15 years I have actively engaged in various committees and numerous city events, such as chairing our hugely successful Food, Wine and Brew Festival. Almost 10 of those years I have served on the Public Safety Commission and the Parks and Recreation Board. I have also served on the Criminal Justice Board at the Central Texas Council of City Governments. Through this wide spectrum of public service and private sector business experience I have much to offer our City.
2. If elected, what will be your top priority as a council member?
HARRIS: Public safety, ensuring first responders have the equipment and training to remain effective. 911 changed the world forever. As one awakes in the morning drinking coffee, reading the paper, planning their day, so do the bad guys. First responders must be prepared for all risk, multi hazards and mutual aid. State of the art equipment is imperative such as protective vest, radios, (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). Technology evolves daily; our responders cannot afford to have outdated equipment putting them at risk. Training is paramount. Responders must have training that is current, relevant and trending in the first responder community.
McCANN: Our city is very well run. My priorities will be to maintain the professionalism of present and past councils in addressing the business of excellent public service to our community. Additionally, I will be thoroughly studied and knowledgeable for each council meeting utilizing the materials provided by staff and independent research as necessary. Our city staff and council are recognized for their professionalism and harmony in working together to benefit the citizens of Harker heights. My greatest priority is to nurture and and perpetuate that hard earned reputation moving forward.
3. What, in your view, is the single biggest issue facing the city, and how would you address it?
HARRIS: House Bill 634 relating to the applicability of law governing the provisions of aid to certain local governments, disproportionately affected by the granting of ad valorem tax relief to disabled veterans. Let’s break this down. For example, veterans that receive 100% disability are 100% exempted from property taxes; this reduces city revenue. There are provisions in place by the state to reimburse and compensate cities. Harker Heights was omitted from this funding. The city, council supported by state district representatives, has proposed legislative action, HB 634, to recoup this entitlement. I will continue to advocate for HB 634.
McCANN: They are tax credits and revenue caps. The Veterans Tax credit is a $1.7 million concern at this time. I totally support the tax credit. We wouldn’t have the quality of life we do without our heroes. We are supporting our state legislators who are working so diligently on our behalf. The current bill that is proposed will allow Harker Heights to recoup a portion of the tax credit revenue. With current revenue cap legislation pending we will be called upon to be even better stewards of city revenues.
4. How would you like to see the city grow and develop in the next five years?
HARRIS: As a strategic planner, I view Harker Heights as a small city with a big city attitude. I would like to see more technical jobs in the city, more local businesses prosper and the revitalization of the older parts of the city, such as Veterans Memorial Blvd. Viability is vital economic growth is necessary. The city may be able to support big businesses with a medium business plan that accommodates the city. However, revitalizing businesses in a small town is less about attracting from outside or bringing in big business and more about what you can grow out of your own town.
McCANN: When driving around Harker Heights today, you will see at least 7 large road projects, a new elementary school, dynamic residential development and new parks planed. We are growing and developing every day. What makes Harker Heights special is that it will not outgrow itself. We are landlocked, so we have to make sure the decisions that are made now are the right ones for our future.
5. What steps would you take to improve the city’s quality of life?
HARRIS: The population in the city is approximatately 26,700, a median age of 31.6 years. Our Parks and Recreation Department along with the chamber of commerce does an outstanding job of planning activities and events year round Each month there is some form of activity to accommodate all age groups, young and old alike. It’s all about what peaks one’s interest. I will have an attentive ear for the citizens’ interest and what activities they would like in our city. I will be open to new ideas and try to keep our city’s activities and events parallel to what other great cities are doing for their citizens.
McCANN: I have been involved with the discussion of Harker Heights obtaining Dana Peak Park many years and it is finally becoming a reality. This is game changer for expanding quality of life offerings in entertainment and recreation. We will be able to take full constructive advantage of our beautiful lake scenery and surroundings. Having been colsely involved in the concept stages I now want to be a part of that development and planning process to attract quality of life investors and new business partners to our community.