Mayoral, council candidates share ideas on issues facing Liberty Hill

Voters residing within the City of Liberty Hill will decide May 10 who should represent the community on the City Council.

In addition to the position of Mayor, there are contested races in Place 2 and Place 4.

For Mayor, incumbent Jamie Williamson is being challenged by Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Connie Fuller.

In Place 4, incumbent Wendell McLeod is being challenged by Councilmember Vicki Brewer. Mrs. Brewer currently holds the Place 2 seat.

In Place 2, an open seat, Dr. Ron Rhea and David Wise are seeking election.

In an attempt to better inform voters of the candidates seeking public office, The Independent recently conducted a brief survey of the candidates and the responses in the race for Mayor and Place 4 appear below, unedited.

The survey in Place 2 received from Dr. Rhea will appear in next week’s edition of The Independent. Wise did not respond to the survey, nor did he submit a statement announcing his candidacy. Those statements were published in previous editions of the newspaper.

for Liberty Hill Mayor 

Q: Other than the statutory responsibilities assigned to the position, what role do you believe the mayor should play in representing our community?

CONNIE FULLER: The mayor is the representative that portrays the overall  image of the City.  This person should attend many functions representing the City and be positive and professional in all roles. The mayor should work closely with all contractors for the City as well as the City Manager, staff and other council  and committee members. The job is to gather the most up to date information possible on all subjects to present to the Council for their action.  It is the Council’s vote that determines the policies for the City.

JAMIE WILLIAMSON: The mayor’s role, other than statutory, is not much different than that of the other elected official’s. The role of the government is not to play favoritism or run the city’s business as a popularity contest or allow an employee to run it as if it were their personal business but to abide by the laws and to fairly and consciously create a safe environment and be fiscally responsible. I believe expending $150k to $200k a year for more employees when the population is 967 is NOT being responsible to the citizens. Hiring an employee that has NO city government experience at $80k a year (county commissioners make $89,508 a year) is not fiscally responsible. If the city has that kind of money it would be better spent bring the much-needed water to the city before burdening its citizens with excessive payroll issues.

 

Q: In the past two years, the Council has been divided on a number of important issues. As Mayor, how will you respond when your opinion is not the majority opinion?

FULLER: When a Council member is sworn into office they agree to uphold the Constitution and to represent the best interests of the citizens. That is why each person is elected to office – to represent the people. When the Council votes on an item, it is my responsibility to accept that action as the will of the duly elected officials for the citizens. When I am not in agreement I can state the fact, but it would not be my job to sway the vote of the Council members or bring it up again and again to have my way.

WILLIAMSON: The statement before the question requires a response. The council has been divided because some council members believe all elected officials should think like they do. All elected officials have the right to an opinion and in a council-mayor form of government, the mayor only votes in the case of a tie. I will continue to voice an opinion and recommendation based on my personal research.

 

Q: If you are not elected in May, what will you do as a private citizen to help the community?

FULLER: If I am not elected as Mayor, I still have the Place 1 seat for another year. I will continue to do the best I can for the community to accomplish mutual goals.

WILLIAMSON: I have not had any thoughts about not being re-elected.

 

Q: Although residential subdivisions are developing around Liberty Hill, business growth remains slow. What ideas do you have to encourage new businesses to locate here bringing sustainable jobs?

FULLER: Growth in businesses has been slow for several reasons: 1. A prohibited development code that causes business people to many times give up instead of dealing with all the requirements. 2. Lack of professional trained staff to expedite the development and permitting process. 3. Ineffective committees and support groups working together to encourage business.  With the hiring of City Manager Greg Boatright , City Secretary Barbara Zwernemann and Senior Planner Amber Lewis, along with our original staff, the City is finally attacking and working out all of the above issues and the City is open for business with a positive friendly attitude. .  Confidence by business people and developers is being steadily increased in the City’s ability to be able to get the job done in a timely manner.

The EDC under the direction of Mr. Boatright  has blossomed and is actively working with community leaders to improve our image and to attract more businesses. We currently have several new business in the process of development and building that will bring many new jobs right here at home.

WILLIAMSON: I will remain on the path that I began almost two years ago. I directed the city engineer to bring water options to the council, which they did and the council approved a contract for Leander to treat up to 600 acre ft, and without having our own sustainable water options the city will pay an outside source or not have the capability to provide an essential need. The city will only be able to increase in population and additional land when the council members are willing to make sound decisions about finances and services such as water.

 

Q: Building a positive image for the City of Liberty Hill is critical to its success. How do you contribute to that positive image?

FULLER: I contribute to the positive image of the City because I am a business person and maintain a friendly, positive attitude. It is my opinion that with everyone working together, we all win, because we should all be here for the same purpose. My purpose is to help my community as much as I am able, to be respectful of all people and their opinions and to accomplish the common goals set forth by the council, citizens and community leaders.

WILLIAMSON: As Mayor, your responsibilities include recommending to the governing body any measure that relates to improving the finances, police, health, security, cleanliness, comfort, ornament, or good government of the municipality. I believe in fulfilling those duties with integrity, honesty and knowledge. It is then the voting parties responsibility to approve or reject the agenda item request. It is truly not a government, but a dictatorship, when employees make policy decisions and spend money that is not approved by council.

 

Q: Why do you believe you are the better candidate for Mayor?

FULLER: I believe I am a better candidate for Mayor because I have a broad vision for our City.  My attitude and willingness to work with others is a must to be effective in a leadership role.  Our community is full of experts and intelligent people in many varied areas.  My goal is to tap into the ideas and expertise we have here, as well as drawing in from trained professionals to accomplish the task of setting our course for the future years.  We have such a unique opportunity to build our city and I want us to grasp hold of this time and opportunity to make our City the best it can be for all of us.

WILLIAMSON: I did not resign as my opponent did in 2009, but fulfilled both terms I was elected to. Nor would I have sat in silence when the city decreased the size of the city limits (and a decrease in money to the city) by de-annexing the majority of the very subdivision my opponent lived in as the mayor. I have spent countless hours as Mayor in city hall and with department heads as well as with attorneys and engineers on matters that improve the quality of life for the citizens. I chose to run because of a lack of leadership by elected officials two years ago and I believe the current elected officials have chosen to put their authority in the hands of certain employees. The citizens of Liberty Hill deserve to have knowledgeable elected officials and not be directed by employees.

 

Q: Because both of you have council and mayoral experience, what do you consider to be the most significant thing you have done for Liberty Hill during your service?

FULLER: There are three  significant accomplishments  which I have been extremely proud to work for:

A. The securing of funds and building of the City’s first and desperately needed sewer system.

B. Setting a huge footprint for the boundaries of our City in the future.  During my term as Mayor we brought in 26,000+ acres into the Liberty Hill ETJ.  All of the developments on Ronald Reagan north of 29 which are now being developed will eventually be in the City and the citizens will benefit from this broadened tax base.

C. During the past year, I have been extremely proud to be a part of bringing new professional staff to our City.

These additions have brought in additional revenues ($62,000+ per month) as well as having our records and policies brought up to date, a new website, and a person dedicated to work with developers and engineers to answer questions, map out possibilities for future growth, revise restrictive codes and much more. All of these accomplishments are the building blocks toward a professional, prosperous and positive City! I’m happy to be a part of it.

WILLIAMSON: The personal knowledge of actually working in city hall and seeing as well as guiding staff to be able to respond to citizens questions with factual, black and white documentation was pretty high on my list. The contract with Leander to treat water for Liberty Hill is only half of the battle I was instrumental in improving for Liberty Hill before being requested to vacate city hall to let an inexperienced employee make decision for the city. The engineers working, at my direction, to report to the council on the wastewater violation and the corrective measures was one of my priorities as well as the water violations and upgrading the poor condition of the water system. The monies from Williamson County Community Development Block Grants for streets and sidewalks will be a huge improvement for the city as well as significant repairs on several streets already done.

for City Council, Place 4

Q: In the past two years, the Council has been divided on a number of important issues. If elected, how will you respond when your opinion is not the majority opinion?

VICKI BREWER: I thank God that there is diversity on our City Council.  Diversity offers different points of view. Diversity presents opportunities for thorough evaluation of the issue at hand. There are some on the Council who feel that the entire Council should be in total agreement on every issue and not question the reasoning for the issues presented or the timing of said issues. That is a very myopic way to govern. I will not take someone’s watered down, regurgitated opinion at face value. I will not be another bobble-head  or puppet. I will do my own research, within the limited time given. If I come to the same conclusion…that the issue to be voted on is in the best interest of the City of Liberty Hill, for the citizens of Liberty Hill & it makes good financial sense, then I will vote with the majority. However, it the issue to be voted on does not pass the smell test, my vote will be “Nay”.

If I wanted to be popular, then I would not have run for City Council two years ago. I’ve heard it said that if you are doing your job right, there will be opposition. I’ve been doing the job I was elected to very well.  Therefore, when I am elected to place 4, I will continue to research, question and voice facts, not my opinion.  I will continue to press the fact that the City Council should not abdicate their authority to the employees, to business men or Political Action Committees. A Council member should do what is right because it is the right thing to do….not because it is the popular thing or because you are being pressured.

WENDELL McLEOD: Serving on the city council should not be about what a single city council member wants, or what is best for me (or any council member) personally – but what is best for the community.  If my viewpoints or ideas are not the majority, it is my responsibility to come along beside other members of the council and work together, keeping an open mind (unbiased), being willing to compromise when necessary, being willing to take all viewpoints and/or opinions as being important and worth researching to do what is best for the community. If the council makes a decision and it is not the decision that I feel should have been made, it is still my responsibility to work with fellow members for the good of the community, while keeping my own morals and values in tact.

 

Q: If you are not elected in May, what will you do as a private citizen to help the community? 

BREWER: As a current Council Member, there are still issues to be dealt with. I cannot answer what I would do as a private citizen as I expect to be elected to Place 4.

McLEOD: I will serve when asked to serve or when there is an opportunity to serve; provide counsel and assistance if requested; and do my part to continue to make Liberty Hill a great place to live.

 

Q: Although residential subdivisions are developing around Liberty Hill, business growth remains slow. What ideas do you have to encourage new businesses to locate here bringing sustainable jobs?

BREWER: Business growth will happen when the infrastructure is in place and the Economic Development Corp steps up to assist the City instead of pulling against the City. The EDC receives a portion of the sales tax collected within the City of Liberty Hill. Type A  EDCs are typically created to fund industrial development projects, such as business infrastructure, manufacturing and research and development. Among these are certain infrastructure improvements that promote or develop new or expanded business enterprises. That being said, I will continue to advocate a sustainable water source, such as the Leander Water Line project. The additional homes and subdivisions will further tax an already stressed water system. We will not be able to entice new business with sustainable jobs until the infrastructure, mainly the water issues, are dealt with.  An early estimate to build the Leander Water Line was approximately $2 million dollars. A year ago, the city had $500K in reserves. Combine that with the $500k of unencumbered funds from the EDC and 2 years of debt payment from EDC. The City would only need bonds for $1 million. Repayment could be made using the revenue from the water service, as we could potentially eliminate Chisolm Trail/Georgetown water and potentially add 1,000 new customers. As it stand now, the City Council will need to raise property taxes, once again, to fund the needs of the City of Liberty Hill.

McLEOD: Liberty Hill needs to be a place where businesses want to be’ however is start-up costs are higher in Liberty Hill than other towns, they will go there. It is imperative to bring businesses, jobs, and increase our tax base.  We must adjust our development codes to fit our city and adjust permit fees to attract new businesses to the Liberty Hill area. This will soften the tax burden on the residential tax papers (especially the more than 70% on fixed incomes) and bring more jobs to Liberty Hill.

 

Q: Why do you believe you are the better candidate for city council?

BREWER: I am knowledgeable, have done my research on the subject matter at hand and am well-spoken. I have not lived in Liberty Hill but 4 years. This is beneficial as I can see the way Round Rock, Georgetown, Leander and Cedar Park have handled the abundant growth that has inundated them in the past several years. I am able to look at issues from the prospective of a relative newcomer and not hold on to “the way its always been” or “how we’ve always done it.” Additionally, I am intimately aware of the inner workings of City Hall. I spent a year working side-by-side with the city staff. Therefore, I am more qualified than my opponent to hire competent staff than my opponent.

McLEOD: Mary Ann and I have lived most of our lives in Liberty Hill. We know the community. I have worked closely with business, schools, and the people who have lived here for years as well as many newcomers. This town is a part of me and I want nothing more than to see it grow and prosper in a way that people can be proud of it, feel safe, and want to have their businesses and families here.

 

Q: Describe your vision for Liberty Hill. If elected, how will you use your position to move the community in that direction?

BREWER: The webpage for the City of Liberty Hill states Liberty Hill is a good place to Live, Learn, Work and Play.  That is what we all strive for.  I love living in Liberty Hill.  I love the way my grandchildren were able to learn with LHISD.  My vision is to build the infrastructure that will support and maintain more variety in eating establishments or a couple of big box stores or manufacturing facility or high tech facility.  My vision is not just local, but international.  Many international industries are looking at Central Texas to locate their industries.  Northwest Williamson County has the majority of the available land.  That is the Liberty Hill area.  Families considering relocation see a great school district, a nice selection of available real estate, but not much to keep the kids busy.  I envision a water feature and skate park within the cit limits.

McLEOD: I see Hwy 29 developing quickly to fill the needs of our citizens and to provide jobs for our citizens. I want to see the downtown area revitalized to be a tourist attraction as well as an area for our citizens. All of this will generate tax revenues and ease the tax burden on the homeowners. I want to see our city cleaned up and roads repaired. I would like to form a group of citizens who can plan and initiate activities for the community that will bring in tourists and visitors, bringing in revenue, as well as unite the community members giving them an opportunity to get to know one another.  I will take steps to allow for necessary growth while maintaining the safety and comfort of a “small town”.