The Buda Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum for the three at-large City Council candidates on Oct. 6. LaVonia Horne-Williams, Emily Jones and Virginia Jurika discussed their qualifications for the position and their hopes for the future of the city.
The fourth City Council candidate, Paul Daugereau, is running unopposed for District A and was not in attendance.
Horne-Williams said she wants to pass down the love and beautiful things Buda has to offer for generations to come. Horne-Williams has worked in finance, procurement and construction for the last 20 years. She previously worked for the Texas Department of Transportation and now works for Austin ISD on the construction procurement team.
“My contribution, in addition to working on the [economic development corporation] and historic preservation commission, is now to look to help out at the City Council level,” Horne-Williams said.
Jones, vice chair of the planning and zoning committee, has been in construction and development for over 20 years and has worked on budgeting, financing, and developments among other things over the years.
“As I’ve watched the city of Buda grow exponentially and I’ve heard a lot of the growing pains as well that people have mentioned and commented on, I started noticing that I can help our city get through those growing pains and hopefully prevent some down the road as best we can,” Jones said.
Jurika has worked around the world with different humanitarian organizations and as an operations human resources manager. She said she is familiar with working with tight budgets and tight deadlines in complex situations.
“My platform is very simple. I want to keep my community updated and connected. I believe in financial prudence and local businesses,” Jurika said.
Running as at-large candidates for the entirety of Buda and not any particular district, the candidates were asked how they would work to bring all parts of the city together.
“I’d be looking to represent Buda as a whole. My goal is to work towards finding an opportunity for the city to collaboratively work together, regardless of what side of town you live on, and bring the same quality of life throughout the entire city,” Horne-Williams said.
Jones expressed appreciation for the current set-up of set seats that focus on specific sections of the city and seats for the entire city. She added that, especially through the planning and zoning commission, working on spreading the amenities and spaces throughout for all the residents to enjoy and benefit from is an important issue.
Jurika said, regardless of seat, she feels it is an honor to serve at the highest level and it is done for the love of Buda and represent the interests of the community.
“Service over self. I leave my personal agendas and my beliefs by the door. I’m here, if I’m elected, to work for the citizens. ... What will I do to bring people together? Collaboration. Listen to the citizens,” Jurika said.
One of the biggest issues discussed at the forum was Buda’s constant growth, the challenges that brings and how that could affect the city’s residents, mainly through property taxes.
Horne-Williams said staying informed regarding the council’s passing of budgets and tax rates is important, as well as monitoring and bringing in businesses that will help offset and balance the taxes.
Jones said as Austin outgrows its borders, Buda is feeling the overflow. She noted that Buda has one of the lowest tax rates in the state and applauded the work the city has done with the rate and the budget. She said she would focus on continued monitoring of keeping the rate low to offset rising property values.
Jurika also mentioned the low tax rate in place and, if elected, she would work to keep the tax rates as low as possible.
The candidates were also asked how they would invest the EDC’s healthy balance of funds toward the city.
Jones said continued collaboration between the council and the planning and zoning commission is key. In order to best use the remaining pieces of land left, figuring out what the citizens want and what makes sense for the city through analysis and studies could be beneficial uses.
Jurika said that it would not be up to her but to the citizens. She admires whatever the EDC has done to grow a healthy balance and encourages them to discuss with the community and leaders to determine the best use of the funds.
Horne-Williams also mentioned that Buda has limited land left and suggested the EDC purchase the land to determine what businesses are in the city.
“We’ve got a lot of opportunities for the EDC to utilize those funds very smartly so that we don’t have someone come in and put something here that we really don’t want here in Buda,” Horne-Williams said.
After many questions, candidates had the opportunity to give their closing remarks.
“I can help here [with] my experience, what I’ve been doing all my life instead of just punching a clock. I can give back now the experience that I’ve learned to the city where we need it, which is in our growth and development and really keeping an eye out for us,” Jones said.
Horne-Williams said her goal is to make sure the town is preserved as best as possible. She thanked the chamber and expressed gratitude for all the residents who came out to support and educate themselves before hitting the polls.
“The issues are making sure that we keep Buda, Buda,” Horne-Williams said. “We want to make sure we keep our taxes low, we have a great place to go hangout on weekends at the city park and we’re able to go and eat local.”
Jurika, too, expressed the importance of being educated and informed.
“Never underestimate the power of your vote. Go out and vote on Nov. 2. Let us know what you want to see in our city. Tell us, come participate in the city council meetings. We are here to serve you, not the other way around,” Jurika said.
The forum can be viewed on the Buda Area Chamber of Commerce’s YouTube channel.
Early voting begins Oct. 18 and election day is Nov. 2.