Voters call for change again on Council
By MIKE EDDLEMAN
Two years after Liberty Hill voters elected a trio of candidates campaigning together for change, they said no to the same and called for change once again.
This time, challenger Angela Jones (171 votes) won 70 percent of the vote against long-time Council member Liz Rundzieher (74) in Place 5, and Crystal Mancilla (139) won a 31-vote advantage over incumbent Gram Lankford (108) for Place 3.
Steven McIntosh, who ran alongside Rundzieher and Lankford in 2018 but abandoned his seat in March when he moved out of Liberty Hill, was replaced by Chris Pezold (143) who beat Kim Sanders (103) for Place 1.
Each of the winning candidates felt energized for their new role after campaigning.
“I’m very excited,” Pezold said. “Talking to so many people over the course of this election process really struck me with how many people are concerned and conservative thinking, wanting to get our town back on track. I really feel motivated to get in there and try to start buttressing this community for the growth that’s coming.”
Both Mancilla and Jones said they felt good about the increased voter participation in this election.
“I was really happy to see a bigger voter turnout in our city,” Jones said. “I was excited to meet lots of people during the campaign and I met a lot of amazing families.”
Mancilla, who thanked Lankford for his service on the Council and said she appreciated getting to know him more through the campaign, said helping to increase local participation in the City was her main goal in running.
“I’m thankful we had a lot of participation, and new people who haven’t voted before or might be new to our city,” she said. “The most important thing is that the numbers went up in participation for voting for city council. No matter which way it was going to go that was my goal.”
With 247 voters within the city limits casting a ballot in the election, the totals were down from November’s Mayoral race – which was held in conjunction with a presidential election – but up considerably from the 118 ballots cast in May 2019.
Mayor Liz Branigan, who began calling for new faces on the Council shortly after her election in November, was excited about the results.
“I’m really excited about our future,” Branigan said. “I am impressed with the quality of people who have decided to donate their time.”
As she met with voters, Mancilla said concerns over growth and city finances came to the forefront.
“A lot of conversations were over smart growth and forward thinking, knowing we are one of the fastest growing cities in Texas and how do we grow smart and sustain that?” she said. “The other issue was the use of taxpayer dollars and having faith in that, knowing the budget and maintaining the transparency.”
Infrastructure issues – specifically traffic safety – also seemed high on the list for voters.
“A common concern was some of our dangerous intersections and the speed limit on (SH) 29,” Jones said. “Generally speaking most people did not have a lot of concerns and weren’t really aware of some of the things that have been happening in our city that have been hard to keep up with.”
Pezold echoed the concern over area intersections.
“To me it is infrastructure and our dangerous intersections,” Pezold said. “We have a few intersections that have been identified that we need to take care of the safety first.”
The wastewater plant is another issue both Pezold and Jones want to address.
“As far as getting ready for the growth we have to get our water and wastewater we have to get back on the long-range planning and start moving forward,” Pezold said. “We’ve got to get that under control because we have to manage our utilities right so we can grow them. If we can’t manage this we’re going to have a tough time getting them to grow. There’s a lot of new technology we need to be looking at.”
After talking to residents living near the plant, Jones also wants to see what can be done about the smell from the plant.
“One of the first things I want to tackle is the smell in Grayson from the wastewater treatment plant,” Jones said. “It’s been a problem for most of the residents who have lived there for over two years and they don’t feel like they’re being heard. I’ve heard from several people there that they love their home and the community, but they want to sell their home and that breaks my heart for them. I know the only reason they feel that way is because of the smell that’s going on there.”
Mancilla sees the first few months as a good opportunity to take stock and evaluate what priorities need to be.
“There’s so much to learn, so right now I want to jump in the pool and see what’s happening,” she said. “Moving forward, the first few things I’d like to do is take a look at what we can accomplish and prioritize it.”
Branigan agreed on the issue of the area intersections, but emphasized again her plans for a renewed push on budget discussions and more financial transparency.
“We’re going to need to overhaul our finances and we will need more professional financial practices,” she said. “Money doesn’t just disappear like it has during the administration that has just ended. We will be keeping track of money so it won’t just disappear.
“We just need to be more fiscally responsible. For example, every employee doesn’t need a car I don’t think. We need to rein in those kinds of things. The last administration seemed to spend willy nilly,” she said.