15 votes decide new Mayor for Liberty Hill
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Challenger Rick Hall won over incumbent Connie Fuller Saturday in the Liberty Hill race for mayor.
Hall used an Election Day advantage to pull out a 15-vote win, 72-57. Fuller held a 33-17 advantage when early voting results were reported.
The 15-vote margin in this election was the second narrowest in a mayoral race, next to Fuller’s one-vote win in 2008, and saw the third-lowest voter turnout for a mayoral election in Liberty Hill history.
Incumbent Wendell McLeod held his Place 4 council seat with a six-vote win over challenger Bill Brannan, 63-57.
Talking with as many voters as he could was what Hall said made the difference.
“I was very pleased with the outcome,” he said. “During my campaigning I got myself out and introduced myself to a lot of people. I listened to them and engaged with them and I think that made a big difference. I felt good about being able to do that.”
Hall campaigned on a message of “change”, something he said resonated with the voters he spoke to.
“A lot of the message I was getting was they were ready to have something different,” he said. “The majority said they were ready for some change.”
When it comes to identifying specific changes and goals going into his first term, Hall said he would need to get into the issues with the council and staff first.
“My first meeting is this week so I can really understand what is on the table in terms of all the projects,” he said. “It is hard for me to gauge what my thoughts are until I really understand why they’re doing it and what they’re doing now.”
Improving communication with the community is something he wants to begin working on immediately, mentioning that he’d like to host more town hall meetings and find other ways to engage citizens.
“One of my main focuses as mayor is I want to be transparent and get our citizens involved,” he said. “I want first to create a social media account for the City on Facebook and Twitter. A lot of my campaigning happened on social media and it helped me. I had four meet and greets and the average turnout was eight to 10 people, but the social media aspect had 200-plus followers on my account and I was constantly answering questions about my campaign. Through the newspaper and through social media we need to reach out more.”
Hall currently works for an outdoor power company in Leander, but said his employer is very supportive of his new responsibilities as Liberty Hill mayor and that the position in Leander would not take away from his ability to dedicate time to the city.
“I know there will be a lot of hard work and I am ready to do that for the city, its citizens and those who voted for me,” Hall said. “I am always going to be available.”
He has informed the Vice President of the Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce, Kim Sanders, that he is resigning his position as president of the organization. A letter will be sent to the board to make it official and he said the board will take up the issue at a special meeting following its monthly Lunch and Learn on May 24.
McLeod said while he remembers saying the last time he was elected that it would be his last term. In response to his win, he is saying it again and vows he means it this time.
He still wants to make a difference and believes that to make the most difference he needs to hear from residents.
“Sometimes you wonder if people just want a change. I’ve always asked people if they have some problem with what I’m doing, I want to know. Very seldom do I ever hear from anyone, though,” he said, adding that he plans to find out from the council what their priorities are as well. “I’m going to quiz everyone and ask them what we need to be working on. I think a lot of times we start something and get off on something else. Let’s get one done before we get on to the next.”
The city has a lot of irons in the fire, but McLeod hopes they can focus most on transportation issues now.
“If I have to pick a subject, the roads is the first thing,” he said. “I don’t have all the answers for it, but I know we’re moving toward that together. That’s what I’m going to work toward.”
Voters overwhelmingly passed an extension to the City’s road maintenance fund, which earmarks a quarter-cent of all sale tax specifically for roads. Ninety-eight voters supported the measure, while 29 opposed. City Administrator Greg Boatright said the tax generates about $160,000 annually for road maintenance and must be renewed by voters every four years. Not renewing the fund would have rolled that quarter cent of the sales tax back into the city’s general fund.