The names of two political newcomers will be on the May 5 ballot for Place 2 on the Harker Heights City Council.
Michael Blomquist and Jeff Orlando are running for the seat being vacated by City Councilman Steve Carpenter, who decided he would not seek re-election to the seat.
The Harker Heights Herald interviewed Blomquist, 50, and Orlando, 54, and asked them three questions that would give readers some insight into their thoughts about running for office and their potential role as a councilman.
Blomquist, a resident of Harker Heights for 18 years, is in training to be a graduate gemologist and is an apprentice with a jeweler in Killeen. He is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel with over 22 years of military service.
Orlando has lived in Harker Heights for 18 years as well. He is the owner of three restaurants in the area. He has been a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment, Planning and Zoning Commission, Chamber of Commerce Board and Communities in Schools.
What qualifications and experience would you bring to the Heights City Council?
Blomquist: “In addition to my education, I had various leadership, management and financial positions in the Army that put me in a position to oversee hundreds of millions of dollars. The military taught me how to be a team player. I see that being elected to the city council would be like joining a new team. I have no desire to reinvent the council but to offer my knowledge in helping make good decisions for the City.”
Orlando: “The experiences as a member of city commissions and boards have been invaluable to me. I’ve seen city operations from multiple views and have come to understand the vital function of these volunteer-led organizations. Serving as a board member with the Chamber of Commerce has been a real eye opener. The enthusiasm of these business leaders is contagious and has helped me to be a more effective leader in the workplace. Combining the chamber experience and being on the board of the Communities in Schools has prepared me for representing the residents of Harker Heights.”
“What are the three biggest issues facing Harker Heights and how would you address them?
Blomquist: “The first two issues are infrastructure for the current residents paralleled by forward thinking about infrastructure for future growth. I’m all for smart growth over the next several years as the city sets their sights on a cap of 50,000 residents. That means there’s room for citizens to build homes here and businesses to locate in our community but we want to be prepared to provide what is needed to attract new business. That goes back to roads and adequate water. The third issue is safety for all residents. As we grow in population, we must proportionately grow in the areas of police, fire, and emergency medical services. With emergency service headquarters located in the northern part of the city, we must begin thinking about response times to the southern part of the City.”
Orlando: “Continued growth in the residential and commercial sectors is first on my list. We had a huge growth spurt in 2008 with Market Heights. That brought a lot of attention to our community by big retailers and restaurants. With the new slowdown in retail nationwide, we need to focus on bringing more local and regional businesses to the City. We need more affordable or starter homes to keep the community growing. We must place more emphasis on infrastructure in our older, maturing areas of town. Streets, sewer and water issues are all a part of this planning. Number three is the revitalization of Veterans Memorial Boulevard and the area to the north of Interstate 14/Highway 190. These are long-term goals that have to be set in motion now so they’ll be completed in the next 5,10 or 20 years.”
How would you like to see Harker Heights grow and develop over the next decade?
Blomquist: “We want to make Harker Heights the place that people come back to stay after military service. This is an attractive community and a great place to raise families. We don’t have a lot of industry in Heights, but I would like to see us attract new businesses and major industries. The result would be more jobs and financial growth. The city needs to remain vibrant and adaptive as we grow. It’s also important to be open in partnering with neighboring cities, the state and national agencies to leverage more opportunities.”
Orlando: “I believe that Harker Heights will continue to grow at a great pace over the next 10 years and beyond. The transition from Highway 190 to Interstate 14 will only accelerate this. We have lots of home development and expansions underway that will take years to complete. We also have land east of FM 2410 that will become the area for homes, businesses and multi-family housing.”
Deadline to register to vote in the municipal election is April 5.
Early voting is April 23-May 1. Election Day is May 5 at Harker Heights City Hall.