HARKER HEIGHTS — When Harker Heights Mayor Rob Robinson takes his seat on the council, one of the first things he does is scan the sitting area for new faces.
More often than not, the seats are filled by city employees and department heads with no residents joining the sea of familiar faces.
“I wish there were more citizens at our meetings and workshops to see their city government function,” Robinson said about the council’s low turnout of residents.
Robinson said he thinks the residents of Harker Heights understand their officials’ roles.
“I believe our citizens have confidence in us, their government and their city administration to be good stewards of their money,” he said.
Cities like Killeen and Copperas Cove have a consistent turnout of residents who attend meetings when there are pressing issues that concern them.
“The turnout for our bimonthly city council meetings vary, largely depending on posted agenda items or recent community concerns,” said Kevin Keller, Copperas Cove spokesman. “I have personally seen as little as two or three citizens attend, or as many as 50 to 75 citizens attend with standing room only on a few occasions.
“We also have quite a few city employees who attend regularly. There are a few citizens who regularly attend to remain informed of city happenings.”
Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin said he sees about a half- dozen regulars who attend 80 percent of the city’s meetings and workshops.
“Since we started televising our meetings, many more people watch it at home, primarily our elderly community, instead of driving in because it’s more convenient,” Corbin said. “However, it’s kind of like going to a college football game versus watching it at home. You become a participant and you see things you don’t get to see on TV.”
From his experience as city manager in Hutto, Heights City Manager David Mitchell said attendance at meetings in Hutto parallel the attendance numbers seen in Harker Heights.
“Times of higher attendance center around proclamations or awards where family and friends would come out to congratulate a loved one,” he said. “This issue is not unique to Harker Heights. I think, between work and other commitments we live busy lives.
“I can only assume that adding an additional meeting to an already busy week is not something most can or are willing to do.”
Even as people’s lives get busier and more scheduled, Mitchell said local governments make decisions on the things residents encounter or use every day.
“Water, wastewater, storm drainage, local streets, parks, public safety and libraries — the things that impact our quality of life, most are provided by local governments,” Mitchell said. “It is important for citizens to be engaged in their city given the potential impacts that council decisions can have on things that affect our day-to-day lives.”
The Harker Heights City Council meets in workshop session at 3 p.m. the first and third Tuesday of the month and meets at 5 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of the month for regular meetings at Harker Heights City Hall, 300 Miller’s Crossing.