City announces new planning director
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
At Monday’s Council meeting, City Administrator Lacie Hale announced the employment of John Byrum as the new Director of Planning.
Byrum steps into the void left when the City terminated David Stallworth early this year. Stallworth was hired in November 2019, assuming the director’s post from Sally McFeron, who was later terminated in July 2020.
He comes to Liberty Hill from the City of Killeen, but has worked for the planning departments in Hutto, Pflugerville in Killeen since May 2018. Byrum is a 2015 graduate of the University of Oklahoma.
Hale said she saw a number of things in Byrum during the interview process that impressed her.
“We conducted several interviews for this position,” she said. “John’s professionalism, knowledge, and experience stood out. He has worked for cities in the Central Texas area that share the type of growth that we are seeing in Liberty Hill. I consider him to be an asset to our City staff and look forward to working with him.”
With a number of City plans in flux – such as the Unified Development Code (UDC), transportation plan and comprehensive plan – Byrum will be asked to work toward addressing those issues.
“Long term is the UDC. This document is essential to managing development in our city,” Hale said. “Mr. Byrum will be tasked with updating it to reflect the Local Government Code then working with the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council for their input and direction. The first project will be the Comprehensive Plan and Future Land Use map. The last Comprehensive Plan that was done was in 2014. This city has grown rapidly, so it is important to have a Comprehensive Plan, Future Land Use Map, and UDC that represent the values of our elected officials and residents.”
Byrum’s salary is $89,000.
New sound equipment
The Council voted 3-0 – Steve McIntosh and Liz Rundzieher were not in attendance – to use a portion of the unspent Mayor’s salary on new sound equipment for the Council Chamber. The planned expenditure is $16,005.
But before the decision, the tension continued over the future of the $40,000 salary intended for Mayor Liz Branigan, which she has refused. Two items made the agenda this week, one from Branigan and a second from Council member Kathy Canady.
“I declined the salary because I didn’t want to run for office for my own personal gain, and I have added this agenda item to make sure the salary, which I have chosen to defer, is used in the best possible way,” Branigan said.
Branigan has wanted the funds used for charitable purposes, but Canady suggested in her agenda item that some be used for the sound equipment.
Branigan did not disagree that such equipment could be useful, but wanted the issue researched further.
“I have this item on the agenda, and I’m not asking for the full forty, I’m asking for $16,000,” Canady said.
Council member-elect Crystal Mancilla also spoke as a citizen on the issue, urging more research be done before spending the money.
“When I saw this on the agenda I was looking at the items to be purchased, and as we all know sound quality has been an issue for quite some time,” Mancilla said. “I know recently as a city we had purchased some equipment to be a temporary fix. I’ve had quite a bit of experience in audio and visual and I think before we spend $16,000 of taxpayers’ funds to purchase more equipment, I think it would be a good idea to bring in an audio-visual expert to take a look at what we have.”
City IT Director Randy Hodges put together the estimate, and was confident it would address the issues of concern.
The approved equipment is expected to improve the video and sound quality for broadcasting meetings, and also will integrate with the meeting minutes and agenda items, allowing viewers later to watch specific portions of the meeting through the online agenda.