Movement designed to bring pressure on Liberty Hill City government
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
The Better Together Project is a new movement in Liberty Hill that its founder – Sally McFeron – hopes will live up to its name on the community’s political stage.
The Political Action Committee (PAC), created and registered with the Texas Ethic Commission on July 10, is intended to bring accountability and transparency to City Hall, but also to make sure everyone is a participant in the community.
“This is going to be a way for the entire community to pull together to do good things and do them in the right way,” she said. “Right now, this community needs to hear from the folks who are not politicians or employees being paid by City Hall. We need to listen to our community and pull back the veil. Let’s have some participation and have some transparency in our local government. Let’s have some accountability for the decisions being made and demand that.”
McFeron, the former Director of Planning for the City, who was terminated in early July, is the PAC treasurer and the first two committee members are former City Administrator Greg Boartight and Christopher Spaeth.
“Those are the first two committee members to get this moving and we will go through an opportunity for people to join the committee and have a voice in it,” she said. “This is just to get things set up and get it moving forward.”
Whether it is what McFeron identifies as the changing culture at City Hall, a lack of transparency, the treatment of employees, or the way in which projects are managed, she said someone had to speak up.
“Watching all of it happen was painful,” she said. “I love the city of Liberty Hill. I’ve been in involved in one way shape or form with the city since 2006.”
While the PAC is a broad-based approach to generating community involvement, McFeron doesn’t hesitate to point to Mayor Rick Hall as a prime catalyst.
“To see the City go backwards under the leadership of a bully, basically, and a one-man team, I felt I had to do something about this,” she said. “There’s no transparency at City Hall. This community needs sunlight to shine in the windows to expose and to look at the Mayor and how he’s created an environment of back room deals and public safety questions.”
Even with that admission, she said the focus will be on issues, not personalities.
“The PAC is going to focus on issues,” McFeron said. “What are the issues in our community and looking at the overall aspect of things. It has been established to talk about the issues and provide a voice. I want to look for ways to improve the city. That’s really why I decided to move forward.”
Hall has referred to McFeron, and other former City employees who have spoken out in recent months, as “disgruntled former employees”, attributing all of their allegations and concerns to what he ultimately claims is their anger over being terminated. McFeron doesn’t hesitate to share her opinion on the terminations, but says this decision is not about her termination.
“I can’t cry over spilled milk. I was fired,” she said. “As an individual you move on from being fired and you go on and get a job,” she said. “Right now, though, I don’t want that spilled milk to hit the carpet. I don’t want the City to continue to go in a downward spiral.”
McFeron believes she was terminated, though, over her opinions and stance on a number of problems she has seen at City Hall.
“I was terminated. I’m not a disgruntled employee, I’m extremely marketable. I’m just concerned about the community and the direction the City is going in,” she said. “I was fired for basically being a whistle blower to (Mayor) Rick Hall. As I have been employed in that position over about the last year since Greg (Boatright) left I’ve witnessed a series of unfortunate events that have hurt a tremendous amount of people. Not only staff, but our community as a whole and I just want to turn all of that into something good and positive in the community.”
In her view, it has been a systematic effort on Hall’s part to gain more control.
“Since August with the first termination – or dismissal – of Greg Boatright, then we went through Maverick (Campbell), then we went through Lance (Dean), then Barbara (Zwernemann), then it’s me and Jonny (Ubelhor) a building inspector, all dismissed within 10 months, there’s a pattern. That in combination with the decisions the Mayor has also made along the way, and the move forward in assuming power and total control is creating his power base. He’s done a good job of getting rid of people who are in his way.”
Grass roots efforts
One of the first steps McFeron plans for The Better Together Project is a virtual listening tour, designed to get input and hear the concerns of people from every part of the community.
“We want to do that so that real people in Liberty Hill, not just the residents, but also the stakeholders of our community like business owners, residents in the ETJ or municipal utility districts, and give them an opportunity to have a voice,” she said. “What happens at City Hall impact all of us. Everyone needs a voice.”
Bringing them together, even virtually, is something she believes will show how the community truly feels about local politics and decisions right now.
“I think people right now are angry,” she said. “I think what they’re seeing happening at City Hall is not transparent and they are not being held accountable. They are seeing a one-man show with the City Council rubber-stamping things and turning their head on certain issues.”
Fundraising is not a focus for the new PAC, but it is something McFeron knows will have a place in the future.
“This is a grass roots movement,” she said. “There will be an opportunity for fundraising from individual citizens out there who are interested in helping spread the word and helping create a voice for our community. It will be lower key.”
Anyone interested in learning more about The Better Together Project can e-mail McFeron at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I just really want to turn this series of unfortunate events that have happened over the last two years into something good and positive for the community,” she said. “It is to bring awareness and understanding and let people have a voice.”