Editor's note: Nine of the ten Copperas Cove City Council candidates were kind enough to sit down with Cove Herald editor David Perdue for extended interviews to discuss the reasons they were running for council. For our online edition, each interview will be published separately.
Incumbent Place 4 Councilman Jay Manning will tell you that he never intended to run for Copperas Cove City Council...at least until he wound up doing so three years ago. He explains that decision by relating some advice he was given by his grandfather:: “Don’t volunteer for anything, but if you’re called upon, serve with distinction.”
A nearly lifelong resident of Copperas Cove, Manning is a professional engineer and developer who began the public service portion of his life working on the Planning and Zoning Commission in the early 80s. He also served on the board of the Economic Development Corporation in the 90s. But a city council seat was not on his radar.
“My dad had served on city council a long time ago,” Manning said during an interview in August at the Manning Homes building on U.S. 190 in Copperas Cove. “He told me it’s a good way to make people mad at you, make a lot of enemies...just don’t get involved.”
And yet Manning did stand for election to the Place 4 city council post in 2016, winning a runoff against Gary Kent.
“I had dodged doing it for a while,” Manning said when asked why he threw his hat in the ring. “But one Sunday morning (in church) I was doing a lesson on Moses...and it hit me really hard that I was dodging the trouble when I could do something. And so that’s why I ran.”
Manning’s expectations for his term on the council were fairly low.
“I thought I would have three years of misery, and I never intended to sign up again...but I’m excited about where I am.”
He said his first year on the council was the toughest for him, as he learned how to find the information he needed to make good decisions about the issues that were being discussed. But after those rough spots, he’s seen progress on areas of concern and he wants to continue pushing for needed changes.
“My personal vision for the city has been to work together,” Manning said. “We had a study done...that found that the (CCISD) and the city and the chamber, everybody was at odds with each other.” Manning said a consultant suggested that those groups get together to talk about successes and areas of concern, a suggestion that ultimately led to the currently quarterly summit meetings.
“Ryan and Dr. Burns (CCISD Superintendent Joe Burns) are instrumental in pulling things in (and saying) here are some things that we can do together that we need to talk about. And that’s what I want to see.
“The council works together better than we used to. We don’t agree with each other on a lot of things. But there’s a respect, developed over being cordial to each other.”
A believer in free markets and the benefits of capitalism, Manning says the private sector can fix a lot of problems if the government will just stay out of the way. Among his chief priorities are reducing some of the regulations he feels are keeping businesses from setting up shop in Copperas Cove, particularly the subdivision and sign ordinances he’s already worked to change.
“We need to write good rules,” Manning said. “The city needs to follow the same rules that they put out for everyone else. If they’re not good rules for you, then we don’t need to be dumping them on other people.”
He feels City Manager Ryan Haverlah is starting to get a handle on issues like street maintenance and upgrades to the city parks. But, as an engineer, he looks with concern at the areas like water infrastructure and plans for the downtown area. He wants more done to cut waste and ensure that planned improvements actually work in reality. He feels adding an engineer to the city staff will give Haverlah needed advice to balance fiscal prudence with sound engineering principles.
“The council needs to keep bringing things up, have citizens keep bringing things up,” Manning said. He knows that some people don’t think the council listens when they speak during the council’s biweekly citizens forum, but insists that’s not the case.
“We can’t say anything to you (so) it’s like talking to a rock wall...but we’re listening, we’re thinking about it. The council needs to keep (its) ear to the ground to find out what the dissatifactions are,” Manning said.
Manning looks back at his first three years on the council as a period of hard work and personal growth, and doesn’t regret any of the time or effort he’s put into the position.
“I can’t give you a ‘this many minutes went into this, this many minutes went into that’...but it hasn’t been a strain on me, I’ve grown from it and I think I’m a better person for having done this than I could have ever been if I’d have dodged it.”