The Nov. 3 municipal election is approaching, with three candidates running for the Place 4 seat on the Harker Heights City Council and two candidates seeking the mayor’s post.
This week, the Herald asks the three council candidates to share their views on their leadership qualities, how they view the city’s challenges and offer insight into their vision for the city’s growth.
Here are their responses, by alphabetical order of the candidates’ names.
If elected, what skills, talent and experience would you bring to the job?
If elected, my experience and knowledge in building and development would be an asset to the council as it relates to land use, building ordinances and property development. I have worked with structural and civil engineers on a private business level as well as public level. I have a good understanding of electrical distribution, water and sewer utilities, easements, and ROW’s. In addition, my ten years of experience as a school board member has given me experience in large budgets, oversight of taxpayer funds, personnel matters, and making critical decisions.
I’ll bring a new voice from the citizens of Harker Heights including a different level of experience. My successful 22 year military career proven leadership and my tenure with the Department of Homeland Security Terrorism Task Force (Domestic Emergency Response)have honed my skill sets. I specialize in strategic planning and organizational management. I have worked incidents such as post 911 hurricanes Ivan Gustav and Katrina as well as the Ebola and Anthrax crisis. I am a critical analytical thinker with the ability to solve complex issues. As a 28 year resident I understand the citizen’sissues and concerns.
When elected, I will bring 30 years of military and government experience to the Council. As a Non-Commissioned Officer in the logistics field, I have been responsible for budgets and property in excess of $25 million. As a mother of two adult children, a teenager and caregiver for my elderly father, I am a great listener. I am a leader but I can also follow. I have volunteered countless hours as Director of Outreach for the Harker Heights Food Pantry, VSO for VFW Post 3892, the Bell County COVID-19 Task Force, a voter deputy registrar, parent booster lead for the Harker Heights High School Basketball Team and neighborhood organizer. I have developed relationships with our city’s department directors, so I am ready for the job on Day 1.
What are the three biggest challenges facing the city and How would you address them?
The biggest challenge facing the city is the loss of property tax revenue from the disabled veteran’s exemption which now amounts to about $2.5 million per year. This figure is up $.5 million from the previous year. To address this shortfall, I would collaborate with the city staff and council to work with our State Representative and State Senator to fund the mandate created by the State Legislature.
Perhaps the second biggest challenge facing the city is the need to maintain needed services such as roads, infrastructure, police, and fire protection, as well as parks and recreation. With the rise in property appraisals, citizens are paying more in taxes but much of the increase is being offset by the rise in exemptions. Delivering services expected by our citizens will be a challenge. I would work with the city management to prioritize the above needs with methodical planning.Of course, the safety of our citizens should always be a top priority.
The third challenge for the city is the possibility of the loss of sales tax revenue. With the rise in online shopping, retail sales may be threatened. In addition, the interest in brick and mortar retail spaces has cooled significantly since the COVID 19 pandemic. To offset this gap, I would hope to ensure a business-friendlyenvironment where city staff is encouraged to work with businesses to find solutions to any overbearing obstacles such as ordinances that have unintended consequences.
a. Disabled veterans’ exemptions: I’ll work with the city council / local representatives advocating the state to compensate the city for lost revenue of disabled veteran’s exempted property taxes The city is losing $2.55 million in revenue reduction the equivalent of 13 cents on our tax rate for 20/21.
b. Fire station #3 Comanche Gap Park, and upgrades to other parks and city facilities has been put on hold.
c. The city has imitiated annual road resurfacing to include rotating fleet vehicles at a rate minimizing maintenance down time if we can get this compensation passed in the next legislative session it would relieve a burden upon the city.
Our city is unique because it is land locked. Therefore, planned land development is paramount for economic growth. The current and previous council members have done an outstanding job in securing state of the art equipment for our first responders, financial transparency, economic development as well as budgeting, however, the time has arrived where we need to focus on the growth of the north side of the city which includes food insecurities, an antiquated public transportation system, lack of medical facilities and pharmacies. In addition, I will be organizing a community garden on the north side of town to encourage community involvement which is the cornerstone of low crime, pride and healthy living for residents. In addition, property taxes. Our city doesn’t receive approximately $2 million in tax reimbursements from the 100 percent disabled veteran benefit. It will be one of my top priorities to fix this legislative problem.
What is your approach to city growth and development over the next five years?
My approach to city growth and development is to continue careful planning. Our potential for growth is limited primarily to the FM 2410 corridor and Stillhouse Lake Road area. Meticulous planning is needed for both residential and commercial use. Making sure we have ordinances in place that are not too cumbersome yet produce an attractive and safe city will be necessary.
Small business is the economic base/ viability of Harker Heights. COVID-19 has brought uncertainty to the country and community alike. Geographically Harker Heights is 15.66 miles circumferencewe are land locked. There is no room for big business however the city can accommodate big business with a medium or small business plan. The northern part of the city is the only part of the city zoned R-1 R-2 and commercial. This area has welcomed some growth in new affordable housing and small businesses. Harker Heights is comprised of 51% retirees. Fort Hood is an industrial powerhouse with innovational and entrepreneurship capabilities. I forseeand promote opportunity.
The growth of Harker Heights over the past 17 years has grown tremendously. Our population, retail sales and retail growth has been above the state’s average. We connect Nolanville and Killeen and with a traffic count over 100,000, our city has the potential for steady commercial growth, especially on the North side as well as along East US 190. My approach will be to incorporate into the city’s comprehensive plan the development of the north side of the city along East US 190.
Furthermore, enhancing our parks and providing more funding to our chamber of commerce to negotiate with large corporations to operate out of our city as well as developing the areas that are zoned mixed-use will be my top priority. Supporting our chamber, the inclusion of all residents and our dynamic first responders, we will become not just the “Bright Star of Central Texas” but the “Bright Star of Texas.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Harker Heights Herald will publish the two mayoral candidates’ responses to these questions in next week’s edition.