With Tuesday’s swearing in of newly appointed Place 2 Councilman Richard “Dick” Young, the Killeen City Council is back at full strength for the first time in nearly three months.
The appointment of Young — a three-term Killeen councilman from 2000 to 2006 and mayoral candidate in 2014 — couldn’t come at a better time.
The city is facing several significant challenges in the months ahead — from crafting a municipal budget amid tight finances to hiring a new city manager.
In addition, the council must act on key infrastructure projects, address several staffing vacancies and work to improve transparency in city operations.
For his part, Young says he is ready to roll up his sleeves and get to work.
And Young is used to getting things done. During his previous tenure on the council, the city built the Killeen Civic and Conference Center, opened the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport and opened the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery — all integral to the city’s identity today.
Already, Young has made it known that he plans to be a hands-on councilman — asking the city for the past four years’ budgets and audits. He said he plans to look them over carefully, as he did when he was on the council previously, to see if anything stands out.
Earlier this week, Young talked with the Herald about his philosophy of government, and he was clear about his approach : “Anything less than 100 percent transparency is not acceptable.”
Young added, “What transparency means to me is communicating with the voters on how we plan to solve any and all issues, in terms they can understand.”
Regarding preparation of the budget for the coming fiscal year, Young said, “I have a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that taxpayer money is being spent properly and their needs are being met, so I will be very active and involved.”
Young said he has no preconceived agendas regarding the upcoming budget, but he said everything should be up for review.
Young’s commitment to transparency and accountability in budgeting is shared by newly elected Councilman Gregory Johnson, who has already gone on record as an advocate in these areas.
Along with Councilman Jonathan Okray — a longtime advocate of openness in Killeen’s municipal government — Young and Johnson have an opportunity to move the city toward more accountability and better responsiveness to residents’ concerns. Mayor Pro Tem Brockley Moore and Councilwoman Shirley Fleming have been advocates in these areas as well.
Though the vote to appoint Young wasn’t unanimous — Councilmen Juan Rivera and Jim Kilpatrick supported another candidate — now is the time for the council to work in concert to make government work better for the city’s taxpayers.
From managing and monitoring municipal finances to reducing crime, council members must adopt a hands-on, proactive strategy. It’s imperative that the council and city staff work together to address challenges head-on, rather than taking a reactive approach.
As Young told the Herald last week, “Now is our time to take the lead — to show leadership in our community and to solve the problems we face.”
In taking a stronger leadership role, not only will council members better represent their constituents, but they will also be setting the stage for a successful tenure of Killeen’s next city manager.
As Young properly noted, the council must first ensure that the city’s financial “house” is in order, and that the new top administrator has the council’s full support.
Strong, responsive leadership, a demand for financial accountability and an emphasis on transparency are all necessary in order to remove the cloud of secrecy and financial uncertainty that has hung over the city’s administration in recent months.
Killeen residents deserve a municipal government they can count on to address their concerns, give them honest answers and spend their tax money wisely.
It’s a tall order, but the new council just may be up to the task.