Mancilla challenges Lankford in Place 3
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
When Crystal Mancilla decided to run for Liberty Hill City Council, she had a clear focus to bring back something she believes has been lost in recent years – community representation.
She has lived six years in Liberty Hill and is the daughter of former Council member Ron Rhea, and she said she wants to support new Mayor Liz Branigan and be a voice for the people.
“I’ve always been involved in community,” Mancilla said.
“Seeing things my dad and the council were able to do in helping our community grow led me to things I started seeing that I felt I could do in service in creating Liberty Hill as a place people want to come to to raise their families.”
With a background in marketing and serving with nonprofits, Mancilla said her experience lends itself to listening to and representing all points of view.
“I think you have to have an unbiased opinion because you’re there to serve the people, and it’s not my agenda – I’m not going in with my own agenda – I’m going there to serve the people as a whole in this community,” she said. “I’m really good at working with people, hearing different opinions and having a conversation about things and deciding what’s best for the whole.”
She cites her work with nonprofits in the County as well as with programs instituted for teens by Pct. 2 Justice of the Peace Edna Staudt as beneficial experience in preparing her for a role on the Council.
The changes Mancilla saw on the Council that raised concerns for her began when former Mayor Rick Hall was elected in 2018, and those changes she said reflected what she’d seen from him in other roles prior to that.
“I served with Rick Hall on the chamber of commerce for Liberty Hill before he became Mayor,” she said. “I could see the control, or just how things were hush hush, with things very closed door instead of open door.”
A number of concerns top her list of questions for the Council to dig deeper into, including the city’s staffing.
“I would love to see what other communities our size, what their staff is like and where their salaries are,” she said. “How do we compare to them? We’ve doubled in city employees in two years under Rick Hall as Mayor. It raises questions about whether we are using funds best for the whole and are all these positions really needed. I’d just love a comparison to cities our size.”
The lck of willingness among current Council members to discuss the City budget is something she doesn’t understand and would work hard to change.
“We just don’t know where the money is at, so when it comes time to carry out plans we can’t do it, they say there’s no funds and we should ask ‘why not?’” she said. “Where are our funds going and no one wants to look at that. That raises the question, ‘Why would you not want to?’”
With the departure – mostly through terminations – of eight city employees over the past two years, Mancilla worries that Liberty Hill might have trouble drawing quality staff.
“There’s been a lot of turnover in the last two years, so finding quality employees for us is another big issue,” she said. “We want people that are experienced who in my opinion have had success in bigger cities and can come to Liberty Hill because of the opportunity they see and because of the community.”
The answer to many concerns can be found, in Mancilla’s opinion, in creating more community involvement, and one simple improvement could make a huge difference she believes.
“The recordings for our City Council meetings are horrendous,” she said. “I do marketing and my recordings don’t need anything fancy and I do it myself. Sound quality is huge and we need more community involvement and to have that people need to know what is going on. People are not going to waste there time getting on a link if they can’t hear anything.”
She also opposes any steps to limit or complicate the public’s ability to address the Council during meetings.
“Why would we limit or takeaway anything when it comes to the public’s comments?” she asked. “To me transparency should be one of our biggest things. We need to let the community have a voice, that’s why we’re there.”
Personality conflicts and personal agendas among the Council have made it difficult to keep focused on what should be the priority.
“We should always ask ‘How is this going to effect our community in two years?’” she said. “If we can’t answer that we need to table the issue and go look for the answer. If we can’t agree then get expert opinions, see what other cities are doing and educate ourselves, then come back to that conversation.”
Ultimately, Mancilla believes that the proper focus and motivation among Council members is what will make a difference today.
“I’m coming into this to serve the community and that’s my heart,” she said. “I want to do what’s best for the whole, I want to hear everyone and I will do my best to educate myself as I serve Liberty Hill so I can vote the best way possible.”