Q&A: Incoming and outgoing Dripping Springs mayors discuss the past and future of the city

Dripping Springs Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds (left) is set to step in as mayor May 12, replacing retiring longtime Mayor Todd Purcell. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dripping Springs Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds (left) is set to step in as mayor May 12, replacing retiring longtime Mayor Todd Purcell. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

Dripping Springs Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds (left) is set to step in as mayor May 12, replacing retiring longtime Mayor Todd Purcell. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)

Todd Purcell, Dripping Springs’s longtime mayor who has served since 1999, is set to retire from office at the city’s next city council meeting May 12 after 21 years. Purcell will be replaced by Mayor Pro Tem Bill Foulds, who has been a city council member since 2000. Foulds will step in after running unopposed for the position this spring.

Over the past 20 years, the two elected officials have lead the city in efforts to bring in new business while managing population and development growth.

“I've really enjoyed seeing how the city' has grown and how we've done it with respect for people who have been here from the beginning,” Purcell told Community Impact Newspaper. “Bill has been our mayor pro tem, he's run many meetings and he's going to step in and do fine.”

Both Purcell and Foulds spoke to Community Impact Newspaper May 8 to discuss past efforts, the change in leadership in the city, and what the city can expect in the future.

When you both look back at the past 20 years serving the city, what stands out and what can people expect moving forward?

Purcell: "I've enjoyed every minute of it and I've enjoyed growing and learning this position. I came in with not much experience at all in politics or running a city and I've been very proud of what we've done to maintain the hometown feel and create things in our city. Before we all had to drive to Austin or Oak Hill to grocery shop or go to a restaurant, a lot of the things we can do right here in our town now.

That's not something you accomplish by yourself, and we’ve put together a great team at city hall. Bill has been a part of that team for many years. He's not new to what I'm doing so it's pretty much going to be a seamless transition. Me and Bill have communicated well throughout the years. We've not always been on the same end of an argument but we've understood that we can agree to disagree and move on and make things work, and I think Bill is going to do a great job.”

Foulds: “I've seen a very positive reactions everywhere [since making the decision to become the next mayor], and a lot of that is a testament to what Todd has done over the last 21 years. He had a vision to keep Dripping Springs with a heritage, and I have to admit, he had to sell me on it at first. But we build a phenomenal event center where we could still host rodeos, keep our heritage alive, and in the end, he was spot on about it, and his vision is what I hope to keep up.

The really good news about all this is Todd's not going anywhere. He still lives in Dripping Springs, he's got his mom and dad here and he's not leaving. He's already told me he's a phone call away if I even need anything, and we'll figure it out together. I never would have considered doing this job if I didn't have his full support. I hope I'll be able to carry on a lot of his vision. We both understood that this town was going to grow with or without us, and we want to do it in the best way we can and try to keep as much of our heritage alive and a small town Texas feel. That's the kind of community we've been working to build.

The ongoing tax increment reinvestment zone project between Dripping Springs, the school district and Hays County to redevelop parts of downtown is something that has been planned under Todd, and Bill will be seeing it take shape. What do you see as the ultimate goal for the project?

Purcell: When we started that project what we saw was another tool in the toolbox. We're a small city and we’re very limited. We don't have a bunch of tools like the city of Austin who can direct and steer growth in a positive way, so we've gotten very creative. I think this TIRZ is another creative ways for us to not only have growth governmentally driven, but to have a partnership with the private sector too to utilize some of the downtown area so that it's maximized by all of the community.

It’s not just for the school district and not just for the city and not just for the county, but all of us working together on a project. At the end of the day, it's all the same taxpayer and we have to be very wise about how we spend their money. I'm excited because Bill has the leadership to move this forward and see it through to the end.

Foulds: The TIRZ is now the biggest thing [the city is working on], but we took a lot of steps over 20 years. Before that Todd saw the need to get some businesses here, and we quickly discovered to do that we needed wastewater. That wastewater project became the biggest thing we had ever done and it came out very well because we got some retail and gave our citizens options so they didn't have to drive to Austin as much.

That was all about keeping the community together and the TIRZ is going to do the same thing. We're going to offer more things to our residents that will let them stay home and stay in Dripping. It's so much more than the town center, because the TIRZ is going to work to redevelop Old Fitzhugh Road, it's going to work on getting more parking downtown and make our downtown a better downtown for all of our residents.

As mayor, what is the biggest thing you hope to address in the future for Dripping Springs?

Foulds: Transportation. It's one word but it's bothered Todd and it's bothered me. I feel like we have such a strong council now that I want to focus some time during the next legislative session and see what we can do with the state to get us through our transportation issues. The Texas Department of Transportation has got to come through and help us. We're going to keep hammering to see what we can do to get TxDOT to help us.

What are your plans after retiring from office this month?

Purcell: I did have mayor retirement plans before COVID-19 showed up, but I have told Bill that I would like to hang around and help get us though this thing that hit during my administration. I've been the one who has been on the phone with the county judge and listening to the governor’s conferences and dealing with this. Bill has been helping me but I'd like to stay around and help us get through that. You never want to leave a city in a crisis. We all live here and I want to continue to help, and I told Bill I will help in any capacity he sees fit...but only until we get through the COVID-19 issue.

Once that's done and we can all sigh a big sigh or relief and start living our normal lives, I'm going to spend a lot of time with my wife, who has sacrificed many years and many days of me not being home. We're not going anywhere. My roots are here, I live here, I love this community, my family's been a part of it for over 130 years and we've got folks here that we enjoy being around. I may do a little traveling, a little fishing and maybe not have to be somewhere on Tuesday night every week, but I look forward to staying a part of this community.

But I will say this: I'm not going to be known as the old mayor because Bill is actually older than I am. He's going to be the old mayor and I'm going to be the past mayor. You can't call him the new mayor. Call him the old mayor.