The Salado Board of Aldermen is looking to fill three seats in the upcoming municipal election, to take place May 4. Those seats currently belong to Aldermen Andy Jackson and Michael McDougal, who will not be seeking re-election, and the seat once filled by Fred Brown that was left vacant after his resignation.
Rodney Bell, John Cole, Amber L. Dankert, and Linda M. Reynolds will be the four names on the ballot looking to fill those spots.
Reynolds, also a 2018 Salado mayoral candidate, did not respond to attempts at contact by the Herald.
Early voting will be from April 22 to 30 and will take place at the Salado Civic Center, 601 N. Main St.
Question 1: Do you think the village needs to focus more on attracting new businesses, supporting those already established, or both? How can it do that?
Bell: First and foremost, the focus needs to be on businesses that are already established. They have made the commitment to Salado and that is very important. We support the businesses by continuing the focus on tourism and attracting visitors to our community. New businesses will emerge organically by recent infrastructure changes. Our commitment needs to be maintaining our standards by adhering to our comprehensive plan.
Cole: The city needs to support our existing businesses that have made the city what it is today, but also encourage new businesses that are willing to fall in line with the comprehensive plan. By doings so, our city with its rich heritage and charm, will continue to be a special place to shop, or just come and have a Salado Day.
Dankert: Both. The village must understand that supporting current businesses that are bringing in tourism and tax dollars is critical, and new businesses also have the opportunity to contribute greatly to the local economy. Current businesses need help with attracting clientele to the area, as well as support with funding their part of the sewer infrastructure. New businesses will need support in navigating the ordinances in order to develop into an asset for our community. We have to start seeking out businesses to mindfully develop the west side of I-35 to contribute to our tax base and draw in highway traffic.
Question 2: How would you address residents’ concerns of infrastructure-related construction, i.e. the wastewater service project, roads, etc.?
Bell: The concern now is the effect of the Main Street improvement project. This will once again impact the businesses on Main Street and needs to be implemented around all tourism and commercial events in the village. Communication by village staff will be the best first step and coordinating the efforts along with TxDOT. We need to hold TxDOT accountable for ensuring this project is completed timely and without impact on the businesses in our community.
Cole: For the record, the citizens of Salado voted in favor
Dankert: Residents must understand that they fund the infrastructure. Without tax increases (which I am not in support of at this time) the village may not be able to fix everything. But, residents must also elect leadership who give them a voice. The Aldermen should use every available resource to fix roads and infrastructure that are failing first, and then use the rest to maintain the infrastructure. The budget should reflect an increase in this area, as more infrastructure is added. Impact fees must be re-assessed now to ensure they are appropriate and fair.
Question 3: As more people continue to choose Salado as their home, do you think growth represents more problems? If so, how should they be addressed?
Bell: The proximity of our village to I-35 and north Austin is going to attract growth. We are at a crossroads in this growth pattern and how we address the growth is a major concern. We need to have a better working relationship between Planning and Zoning and the Board of Aldermen. In addition, the standards set in the past need to be a foundation for our growth in the future. We cannot and should not blindly change the standard just to attract new growth. If developers want to be in our community, they should not expect waivers from the village.
Cole: Growth is inevitable, and with the right people elected to serve on our city council, we can embrace growth and change while keeping Salado the beautiful and special place it is. I believe growth problems can be managed, if in-depth studies and all they encompass are performed and analyzed. The city must plan and forecast projected growth and plant shade trees today, for the Salado of tomorrow. That is what we are supposed to do.
Dankert: Growth always means more problems, but it is also an opportunity. People move to Salado for a reason – the same reason that the rest of us are already here – because it is a great place to live! Managed growth will mean more opportunity for businesses without minimizing quality of life of current residents. This may mean setting limits on minimum lot sizes, and requiring more green space in planned communities. It will also mean maintaining a good relationship with Salado ISD, the Salado Water Supply, and other organizations to ensure the growth is appropriate for maintaining future quality of life.
Question 4: If elected, what would you do to inform voters of important issues and encourage engagement?
Bell: Communication to voters needs to be consistent. My belief is that this communication should start with village staff and be published on at least a monthly basis. This would give our community an outline of events or projects that are planned or being considered. Salado is very fortunate to have citizens that are actively engaged in many different areas. The hope is that some that are not engaged would be informed and motivated to join.
Cole: Communication is the key to better local government. We have a good solid local newspaper and a great city web site, both venues display information that voters need to know. I fully encourage our citizens to take advantage of the information available and attend the bi-monthly city council meetings to take part in the discussions and the decision-making processes and gauge the performance of the individuals elected.
Dankert: The village simply has to become more digitally minded. During my last term on the board, I pushed hard for recording meetings and live-streaming, as well as social media updates. However, the board found this to be too much of an assumption of risk. I will try again under new leadership to make the meetings and information more accessible to the entire community. Also, simply being present around the community at events opens my ears to many important topics that may not otherwise be made known. Face-to-face, small-group meetings are always welcome and important!
Question 5: What local issue(s) do you think need more attention from the Board of Aldermen that you would be interested in pursuing, i.e. safety, growth, community engagement, etc.?
Bell: As mentioned earlier, the growth of our community is at a crossroads. It will be very important for our Aldermen to hold the line on growth and remain steadfast to the comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances. My main focus will be on restructuring the debt of the village and work to reduce or eliminate the tax rates implemented to build the wastewater treatment system. This will be done by meeting with the village financial advisor in implementing a two year plan for accomplishing this task.
Cole: City safety would be my number one concern. We need to find a way to stabilize our police force and make it a career location, not a stop over to get experience and then move on. Our police force needs to be fully engaged through experience and familiarity to provide the best possible service. Secondly, the BOA needs to further develop the working relationship between our “COP” Citizens on Patrol program and our police force.
Dankert: Each of these areas plays an important role — but resident priorities are what we should pursue! Appropriately managing growth is key as water resources and infrastructure struggle to keep up with our expanding village. Community engagement is also important, as the decisions we make will directly impact the residents. Committees are a great resource, but the board will have to trust their decisions. I am a big advocate in community engagement, but we have to get people to trust the village enough to communicate with us. Relationship building will be more important than ever in the upcoming year.