DeYoung appointed to City Council

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

Despite the earlier intent to wait to fill the City Council seat left open with the passing in February of Wendell McLeod, the position was filled Monday with the appointment of Tony DeYoung.

DeYoung has lived in Liberty Hill five years and works as a Project Manager for Ferguson Enterprises in Austin. He is originally from California and came to Texas by way of Colorado where his wife is from.

The chance to serve on the Council was something he saw as a good opportunity to serve the community.

“I think God gives us all gifts and talents to use for the betterment of the people around us,” DeYoung said. “I submitted my service resume to the Council. The opportunity came up and I get to serve the community again.”

Emphasizing the importance of maintaining the sense of community in Liberty Hill, DeYoung said he looks forward to working together as a team with the Council.

“We moved here for the small-town feel and we like the direction the town is going and I want to be a part of that,” he said. “I am looking forward to working with the Council and the Mayor, seeing what their vision is for the town and helping it move forward, working together. We have to work together and share a vision for the betterment of the town.”

Council member Ron Rhea placed the item on the Monday agenda, but said after the meeting that the timing was about finding the right person to fill the seat rather than about the upcoming election.

“He seemed to be the right fit,” Rhea said. “Tony is a great guy, he’s got a great spirit and he will be a great asset to the City.”

When the item came up for discussion during the meeting, Mayor Rick Hall said he preferred to discuss it in closed session.

“In the past, I’ve noticed that this has been discussed in executive session so I would like to ask that Council take this to executive session to discuss it,” said Hall.

But three members of the Council – Rhea, Troy Whitehead and Elizabeth Branigan – declined, choosing instead to take up the issue in open session.

“As everybody knows, Wendell (McLeod) and I were very close,” Rhea said. “I believe Tony (DeYoung) will be an excellent choice to replace him.”

Rhea believes that DeYoung can bring the same spirit to the Council that McLeod did.

“Wendell and I, for five years, didn’t agree on everything,” Rhea said. “We a lot of times disagreed on a lot of things, but one thing that Wendell and I always knew was we’d go to Dahlia’s afterward and get biscuits and gravy and we would laugh and joke and make fun of each other.”

Branigan also supported the nomination of DeYoung.

“I’ve had a chance to meet and discuss things with Mr. DeYoung, and I find his ideas very much in line with the higher interests of the Council,” she said. “He is in favor of building the community to its highest possible level.”

Branigan addressed what she said were concerns in the community about having three potential Council members – Rhea, DeYoung, and Bill Brannan if elected May 4 – going to the same church, but said she learned DeYoung was part of a group starting a new church in the community.

A concern was raised by Hall, asking City Attorney Dottie Palumbo if the nomination and vote Monday would lock future Council members who may win election May 4 to supporting the decision.

“With the election coming up here in a week and a half or so, if for some reason the three positions would be changed, is this in any way binding for the Council?” Hall asked.

Palumbo clarified, saying that if DeYoung’s nomination were voted on affirmatively, that a change on the Council after that vote would not impact his appointment, even if he had not been sworn in yet.

EDC appointments
Rhea also moved to fill two open seats on the Liberty Hill Economic Development Corporation (EDC) during Monday’s meeting, nominating himself for one of the spots.

“I am recommending myself,” Rhea said. “I’m not going to be on the City Council forever. In fact, five years ago when I was asked to run, and I did, I made a commitment to myself and my family that I would only serve for six years. This is my last year, and I still want to serve my community.”

Clark, who served previously on the EDC was Rhea’s second nomination.

“I’ve gotten to know him really well and I think he’s great,” Rhea said of Clark.

Council member Troy Whitehead seconded the nominations, but Council member Liz Rundzieher pointed out prior to the vote that the EDC had discussed appointing LHISD Superintendent Steve Snell to one of the open seats and Clark to the other.

The EDC generally nominates board members, which are then approved by the Council, but when the nominations were discussed at the last EDC meeting a vote was not allowed due to the wording of the item on the meeting agenda.

There was discussion between Rundzieher and Branigan about the importance of having a representative from the school district on the EDC Board, but the nominations of Rhea and Clark were approved 3-1 with Rundzieher in opposition.

The vacancies being filled were left with the departure of Chad Pirtle and Michael Jackson.

Direct question
Council member Troy Whitehead, who is seeking reelection to Place 1, took an opportunity during the City Administrator’s Report to pose a question to Boatright that has continually cropped up on social media throughout the campaign season.

“Are you aware of any improper benefits of any government official that may be realized as part of the Stubblefield project?” asked Whitehead.

“No sir,” Boatright responded. “Stubblefield is a project that we as a staff and Council have undertaken to try and relieve some of the pressure at our four-way. There are people who will be affected along the route who are looking forward to and some who are not looking forward to being disturbed.”

Boatright continued, reminding the Council that anyone could research the ownership of all properties in question through the appraisal district.

“As far as staff or council, the public is welcome to go on and look at the Williamson County Appraisal District map and see who those property owners are,” Boatright said. “To the best of my knowledge, not a one of them is associated with the city as far as being on Council or being on staff. If that were the case, we would have discovered that already, and Dottie (Palumbo) and myself would have discovered that already and approached that individual to take care of that long ago. We’ve been working on this well over a year.”

If anyone on the Council or staff had any potential personal interest in the project, there is a legal obligation to disclose it and abstain from voting.

“If one of us did have any interest, there is an affidavit people can (fill out) so that we can recuse ourselves from voting and providing full disclosure,” Rhea said. “I just wanted to point that out in case there is somebody that has interest in any of that land.”

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