Lankford seeks second Council term
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Seeking his second term on the Liberty Hill City Council, Gram Lankford defends the actions of the Council over the last two years behind a similar premise to what he campaigned on before taking office in 2019.
“Whenever I first decided that I was going to put myself on the ballot, one of the main reasons was the input I got that nothing had changed as far as the conversations people were having about some of the alleged unethical behavior that was coming from the previous administration or council members,” he said. “That was one of the initial reasons I decided to get on, and more or less this is a continuation of that. I made a pledge that I was going to bring citizens voices to the council so they would feel like they were being heard.”
Lankford, who is a lifelong Liberty Hill resident, ran on a similar message in 2019 as current members Steve McIntosh and Liz Rundzieher – all three of which were supported by then-Mayor Rick Hall.
Much of the campaign focus then was on rooting out unethical behavior and dealings alleged against unnamed individuals, but in the two years since, nothing has been presented publicly demonstrating that any unethical behavior was uncovered or proven.
While he said he can’t vouch for allegations that thee was unethical behavior among private citizens, what he saw once elected showed the situation with City staff was worse than he previously believed.
“I didn’t think things were as bad as they were,” Lankford said. “We found some pretty unethical things that were happening over the last couple of years and we’ve just kind of been making moves to eliminate that and try to bring people into the City to work for the City that are making ethical decisions and who want to be there and are proud to come to work every day.”
When asked for examples of specific issues addressed by the Council, Lankford was hesitant.
“I can’t get into too many specifics as some of the things are still in ongoing litigation,” he said. “I can’t necessarily give you names or anything like that. I don’t know what I can or can’t say. I don’t want to get in trouble. In a broader term, there were some unethical things being performed and we found out about what was happening and we addressed it over the course of a process.”
Lankford defended the actions of the Council over the past two years, but did say he wished there had been better communication.
“The fact that people feel the City was not being transparent during that period of time is a fault of the City,” Lankford said. “I absolutely agree with that and I would never deny that. The citizens deserve to know what the City is doing.”
He also said the information provided to Council members themselves could have been better.
“I wish there had been more information from a Council member standpoint,” he said. “We are elected to make an informed decision, but that decision is only as good as the information we receive. There needs to be a system where that information is first vetted by an individual or two and then from there it would come to Council. I wish that would have been happening in the past, it wasn’t, but it is something we’re looking to implement in the very near future.”
As far as the departure of former City Administrator Greg Boatright and the Council’s vote to hand administrative control to Mayor Rick Hall, Lankford again said more information would have made it more clear to the community why things were done as they were.
“I understand the frustration of us terminating the city administrator and everybody feeling like they’re being left sitting on their hands, not knowing what’s going on because the flow of information from the city was not in abundance,” he said. “I understand that frustration and I sympathize with it.”
Lankford voted alongside the rest of the Council in approving the budget over the last two years that expanded dramatically, and also voted in recent months to not hold public discussions during a meeting over the current budget. He said he supports the staff recommendations that have led to the current budget.
“Obviously the Council reviews the budget, but speaking for myself, we hire people in the positions for a reason and the expectation is that they are the subject-matter experts so if we have a finance director or a city administrator or attorney and we ask them questions about the budget the expectation is they will be able to give us the right answer,” he said. “Currently we have outstanding City staff.”
In terms of what he wants to focus on going forward if reelected. Lankford cites infrastructure and adding jobs.
“I’d like to see us bring more primary jobs into Liberty Hill,” he said. “I’m a big believer in our citizens being able to live here, work here and spend their money here. Primary jobs are something a lot of our citizens are looking for as a majority of them have to commute.”
He also said he wants to make sure projects get completed, citing the previous failure to complete the swim center project.
“We need to make sure the tasks we have set right now get followed through on and finished out,” he said. “I hear it all the time from city staff, that there was a project that was being talked about, they will start the process for it and there will be a change in Council and that project will be set aside and worried about later or discarded altogether. I’d like to ensure the projects we have set up currently will continue to be paid attention to.”
The current Council did not act on the swim center until late last summer after it had been approved and prepared to go for bid in June of 2019, and also scrapped the downtown roundabout project, choosing not to implement an alternate solution for the downtown intersection of CR279 and Loop 332 until last Fall.
He stands behind the action of the Council over the last two years, and said he will continue to dedicate himself to community service in his hometown.
“I’d tell people to look at the track record,” he said. “Look at the track record of the City over the last 20 years and then what’s happened in the last three. To me that will tell people everything they need to know. I grew up here, the Liberty Hill community is my family. We are engrained into this community and I love it more than anything in the world.”