By SHELLY WILKISON
Watching his hometown grow and develop is exciting for Troy Whitehead. He grew up in Liberty Hill and chose to build a life here for his two daughters because the small-town atmosphere was such a positive experience in his own childhood.
Today, as a newly-appointed member of the Liberty Hill City Council, Whitehead has more than a front row seat to watch his hometown grow. He will play an active role in managing the growth for the future.
“This is still a learning experience for me, but it is about what I expected,” said Whitehead, who has attended two council meetings since his appointment last month. “I have been pleasantly surprised by how well (City Manager) Greg Boatright and the City Council get along. It is efficient, and I like to see Liberty Hill preparing for the growth that is fixing to hit.”
Whitehead, 44, is the Construction Service Manager for the Liberty Hill district of Pedernales Electric Cooperative. He has been in the job two years, but has been with PEC for 18 years starting in 1992 as a lineman assistant.
At PEC, Whitehead prepares and manages budgets for his department and supervises employees. The department installs electric lines and services new construction, and also provides reparative service after power outages.
“My experience with PEC planning for growth is the biggest advantage I have (as a council member),” said Whitehead. “I think I will be able to help most with that.”
Whitehead said that while his job and young family have been the priorities, he has tried to keep up with news of city government through the years. He said he never attended a council meeting before his appointment, but voted in city elections and knew many of the officials who have served.
He said Councilmember Wendell McLeod approached him a few months ago and asked him to consider serving on the Planning & Zoning Commission when there was a vacancy. Whitehead said he agreed to that, but McLeod called on him again when Connie Fuller was elected Mayor and created a vacancy in Place 1 on the council.
The Place 1 unexpired term is open for election in May 2015, but Whitehead said he is not ready to commit to running a campaign.
“It depends on the type of job I feel like I am doing and the impact I will have,” he said. “I’m not in it just so I can be on the city council. I want to be there if I can help, and was flattered when I was asked to help.”
Whitehead said he is not coming into public service with any kind of agenda except he would like to see the community grow in a positive way. He said he would like residents to be able to stay here and support local businesses. While he admits he is no expert on economic development and business growth, he said his experience at PEC has shown him that new businesses follow residential growth.
“What I’ve seen in other areas with PEC is that businesses follow the people. (Business owners) want a resident base to support their businesses,” he said.
A 1988 graduate of Liberty Hill High School, Whitehead said the school district continues to be the draw for new residents. If the school district continues to be successful, then the community will be successful, he said.
The challenge for city government, however, will be to provide the infrastructure necessary to support the growth.
“If we’re able to get a handle on water and wastewater issues, we will see the growth,” he said.
Boatright and others have been communicating with Whitehead on the history of some issues and future challenges.
“We need to make sure the infrastructure is here. A lot (of businesses) are waiting for that,” he said.
Whitehead said he would like to see Liberty Hill become a destination for entertainment and shopping and believes the downtown area could become an attraction.
As the father of two, he said he would like to see more family-friendly community events and festivals.
Whitehead describes himself as a quiet person who tries to lead by example. Already, he has spent a great deal of time trying to educate himself on current city issues, reviewing minutes of past meetings and learning what needs attention.
“Like most people, I was frustrated with all the infighting on the council,” he said. “It always seemed to be an issue and was counter-productive.”
He added that it is okay to disagree on issues, and those discussions can have positive outcomes.
“I think I bring some different ideas and experiences and a little different way of going about getting things done,” he said. “A lot of people my age and younger are moving into Liberty Hill, and I think we will see more of them share an interest in city government.”