Brannan, McLeod seeking City Council Place 4 seat
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
In the Liberty Hill City Council Place 4 race, incumbent Wendell McLeod will face Bill Brannan.
Brannan, is a three-year resident of Liberty Hill and the Head of School for Fortis Academy. McLeod, who is retired from the Internal Revenue Service, has been elected to the council multiple times – the first being in 2003 – and has lived in the Liberty Hill area all his life.
The election is set for Saturday, May 5 and includes candidates for mayor, and Liberty Hill ISD Board of Trustees Places 4 and 5.
Though he is a newcomer to Liberty Hill, Brannan likes what he sees in the growing community and wants to contribute in service to his new home.
He has worked in corporate finance and education, two areas he said align well with serving in a growing area.
“Those are two primary areas where I, working in different contexts, have gotten a broad range of skills,” Brannan said. “This position at Fortis Academy and my work in the ministry have prepared me in many ways for what Liberty Hill is going through. I really understand how administration and boards work together. I also understand the challenges of a developing model or transition, because Liberty Hill is growing.”
Brannan knows some may not want the growth, but he says it is unavoidable, and welcomes it, but wants to make sure it is managed, looking out for the best interest of the residents first, and making sure everyone has all the information they need to understand what is happening and why.
“The role of the city council is to help manage that growth,” he said. “There needs to be communication and education. People will buy anything that they value. A lot of the concerns that people have are often because they are not getting enough information to understand how things work. We need to get people to understand how the city really is developing and see how it really is in their benefit.”
Managed economic development is critical to ensuring that the financial burdens of the city don’t fall so much on homeowners.
We don’t want to be a bedroom community,” Brannan said. “We really need a localized economic infrastructure to really help support the people of the city. The bottom line is if leadership isn’t growing the city responsibly, by default, it will start to move toward carrying greater and greater financial burdens without the resources to meet them.”
Money will be spent, and budgets will grow, but for Brannan, that does not mean those making the decisions are being irresponsible with public monies.
“It is a major aspect of the fiduciary responsibility of managing a city,” he said. “These funds are coming in to serve the people of Liberty Hill, and we need to make sure they go to the purpose they are intended for and that we prepare for the growth. I understand where a lot of people come from (in their spending concerns). We sometimes don’t realize that some of the things we enjoy the benefit of, they actually cost money.”
His campaign is simply a way to let the community know he is willing to serve, said Brannan, eager to be a part of what’s to come and helping to keep the city focused and pointed in the right direction.
“The positive part has been seeing the direction of our city and the way it is going, and being very excited about the positive momentum,” he said. “But the negative side, in the back of my mind was, what would happen if we get some people in leadership in the city who don’t continue to move in a positive direction?”
With so much happening, Brannan hopes to get the chance to dive into the issues and learn all he can. Until then, second guessing past decisions is not something he wants to do.
“Really, until you are in the inside of discussions, and have all the information before you, you just don’t know,” Brannan said. “All kinds of opinions are created when people don’t have the full story, and I want to be careful to never do that.”
In his tenure as a council member, McLeod has focused on accountability – financially and to the voters.
“I’m an advocate for the citizens of Liberty Hill,” he said. “I take the job really serious, and it is a responsibility I don’t take lightly.”
He is concerned with so many projects ongoing at once, that the city may stretch its finances too far.
“We’re spending too much money and I’m afraid it’s going to catch up with us,” he said.
First elected to the council in 2003, McLeod remembers when there was no money in the city’s budget, and he worries that could return.
“Those were lean years, we had no money,” he said. “It was rough. I just worry that this growth and these new subdivisions may dry up one of these days. I don’t want to be the guy who fusses about everything, but still there’s some things that worry me a little bit.”
McLeod would prefer the community remain as it was before, but he understands the growth is happening and wants to make sure it happens the right way.
“I didn’t like to see the growth, but I knew it was coming,” he said. “It is going to happen, and we need to plan for it.”
Changes such as making some downtown streets one way were not what McLeod wanted to see, but as with the growth in general, he said it probably needed to happen because of the size and condition of the streets. Repairing and maintaining roads is what he sees as the top priority for the city right now.
“Our roads are terrible in town here,” he said. “We’re working on it, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. That’s our number one priority if I have to name something.”
The lengthy number of projects on the city’s list of priorities should be taken on one at a time.
“We should pick a thing to do, do it, and get it done,” McLeod said. “Sometimes we start on that, then we move over to something else, but I think we need to get one thing finished before we start another. We need to just go right down the list.”
He advocates for gathering community input and feedback on everything, but finds it disappointing that often there is little feedback provided.
“If you’ve got a problem I can help you with, let me know,” he said. “I’m disappointed when people don’t. It always has bothered me that people don’t seem concerned, then something happens and they’re irate.”
Helping residents have their voices heard at the council and with the city is not limited to those who agree with him, either.
“Whether I agree with you or not, I’ll surely bring it up,” he said. “I’ve offered to put people on the agenda more than once.”
If reelected, he plans to continue on with the same focus.
“I’m an advocate for the citizens of Liberty Hill, and I want to represent all of them,” McLeod said. “Wendell wants to hear what you have to say, and I’ll talk to you.”