Voters stay home while candidates meet and greet
By KATE LUDLOW
The Liberty Hill Chamber of Commerce drew thoughtful positions from city council and school board candidates, but few listeners at their Candidate Meet & Greet Monday evening. Originally intended to be a chance for candidates to meet privately with voters to answer questions, low turnout caused Chamber Board Director David Pope to rearrange the structure of the event, taking the opportunity to ask candidates about how they would work with the organization to create new business opportunities and help strengthen existing businesses.
All city council candidates were present, with the exception of Mayor Michele “Mike” Murphy, a Place 2 candidate, and Carrie Van Meeteren, a Place 4 candidate. Only two Liberty Hill ISD school board candidates were present — Renee Morgan and Jim Dillon, both candidates in Place 5.
Mayoral candidate Jamie Williamson said that she felt the biggest problems with the current state of city affairs were the result of a “lack of leadership,” and a city manager position being given too much authority.
“He (former City Manager Manuel De La Rosa) could do evaluations, hire and fire, he was allowed to transfer funds. He had authority well above what was due,” she said. She noted that her problems weren’t specifically with De La Rosa, who resigned April 20 to take the position of City Administrator in Jonestown, but with the position itself. She also added that she felt the City’s permitting structure unfairly burdened local business owners.
Challenging mayoral candidate and current City Councilman Jack Harkrider pointed to growing divisiveness and lack of communication as the biggest issues facing the city.
“Nobody talks to each other. I hear a lot of things that are just made up. I want to get the city council to inform people of more,” he said, adding later that “a lot of people feel their vote won’t count.” Harkrider stated that the city needs to figure out “what it wants to be,” and work together to create that.
Place 2 candidates Vicki Brewer and Della Hodgson both spoke of their desire to retain Liberty Hill’s “small-town charm,” with Hodgson giving the audience her background and vision for the future. Brewer talked about her wish to see the downtown district revitalized and expressed a wish to “gather a group of like-minded individuals to work together, and also I’d like to bring back a pastoral influence.”
Place 4 candidate Wendell McLeod spoke of his long history living in Liberty Hill and said that if elected, he will work to reach an agreement with the LHISD regarding their sewer system.
Place 5 candidate Sammy Pruett reiterated that he was a pro-business candidate, and said that he’d like the city to manage its money differently.
“You’ve got a lot of money being spent, and I’d like it saved in individual accounts. Separate it out, see where it all goes,” he said.
Jim Wofford, also running in Place 5, said he’d like to see growth in the park offerings, more sidewalks, trails, and would like to strengthen the relationship with the LHISD.
Place 5 candidate Elizabeth Branigan expressed her desire to see more sidewalks, and hoped to be able to work with the City’s Economic Development Corp. to suggest financial incentives for business. Place 5 candidate Liz Rundzieher said that she was comfortable with the City acquiring the water treatment system, as it was best for the future.
LHISD School Board Place 5 Candidate Renee Morgan said she wants to use her culinary background to work with the schools to figure out ways to save money through nutritional programs, as well as improving the students’ diets.
“I’d like to feed the children better, see a community garden, involve the kid’s in their food,” she said.
LHISD Place 5 candidate Jim Dillion said he’d like to see changes in the school’s “open door policy to military recruiters,” as well as the sexual education curriculum offered by LHISD. He also said he’d like to make potential changes to the new high school currently being built.
“We’ve got an $86 million Taj Mahal of a high school…when every school district around us is in trouble. Maybe there are ways to salvage and remove some of the more unnecessary elements of that school,” he said.
Early voting in Liberty Hill started Wednesday and continues through Thursday at 7 p.m. Voters can cast their early ballots at the Municipal Court Building at 2801 RR 1869.
Regular voting will be Saturday, May 12th from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Liberty Hill ISD Administration Building, 14001 W. Hwy. 29.