By Mason W. Canales

Killeen Daily Herald

HARKER HEIGHTS – More than a week has passed since the city's new Planning and Development director climbed behind his once clean desk, but like a giddy child with Christmas presents – projects have already accumulated.

Unwrapped on top of everything else is the subdivision ordinance.

"Now that is priority one to push that through," Planning and Development Director Tommy Garcia said Thursday.

Garcia started with the city Dec. 2, and he is already working on reviewing the subdivision ordinance, City Manager Steve Carpenter said Wednesday.

The subdivision ordinance will update the process of how Harker Heights handles dividing property for development.

The project has been left behind by Garcia's predecessors, Ray Shanaa and David Mitchell. Shanaa became Killeen's Planning and Development executive director in September 2008, and Mitchell became Hutto's assistant city manager in September. The moves were expected by Harker Heights officials.

"(The ordinance) is just something that we need to complete," Carpenter said. "We have a pretty good subdivision ordinance right now, and that is just something we need to do," he added.

The subdivision ordinance is not the only thing that Garcia can expect under the tree as he continues his new job.

Carpenter mentioned reviewing city policies for a commercial architectural manual and reviewing policies of code enforcement as some of Garcia's first projects, which will probably be ongoing.

Before coming to Harker Heights, Garcia spent the last three years working for Georgetown as city planner and obtaining his master's degree in public administration from Texas State University.

In Georgetown, Garcia helped solve disputes between residents and code enforcement officials, addressed residents concerns about widening streets, reviewing codes and ordinances and more, he said.

"I haven't been around the block for too long," Garcia said Thursday. "(But Georgetown) gave me a lot of different experience."

Working for Georgetown taught Garcia that Planning and Development is about expressing the city's views for an overall picture of the future, he said.

"A planner's job is a job of communicating," Garcia said.

Despite only being in the field for three years, Garcia will prove to be a valuable asset to Harker Heights as it continues to review ordinances and attempts to accomplish its goals, Carpenter said.

"I think Tommy is a perfect fit for our organization," Carpenter said. "I think Tommy is coming from a different organization, and he is young and full of energy, so I think he will bring some new ideas to the table."

Garcia echoed Carpenter's words about joining the Harker Heights team.

"I think one thing that I am excited about is that this is a good organization," Garcia said. There is a lot of experience here, and together "we can do something cool," he added.

For the past week, Garcia has not only been familiarizing himself with the subdivision ordinance but with the city itself. He has already purchased a home in the city and has been driving around town whenever he can, he said.

He has seen the quality of developments built in the area, and is ready to work with all of the "city's stakeholders" to continue to accomplish the city's goals, Garcia said.

"I think Harker Heights has positioned itself well," Garcia said. "Developers want to sell a product and Harker Heights has always positioned itself for a higher end product. I just want to keep up that quality."

Contact Mason W. Canales at or (254) 501-7554.

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