Q&A: Candidates for mayor of Keller discuss relevant city issues

Learn more about Tag Green, Mark Mathews and Armin Mizani, the candidates for Keller mayor, ahead of the November general election. (Community Impact staff)
Learn more about Tag Green, Mark Mathews and Armin Mizani, the candidates for Keller mayor, ahead of the November general election. (Community Impact staff)

Learn more about Tag Green, Mark Mathews and Armin Mizani, the candidates for Keller mayor, ahead of the November general election. (Community Impact staff)



KELLER



Mayor










Tag Green




Occupation: finance and consulting






Why did you decide to run for office?



TG: Passion for people. Our family searched for two years to find our home in Keller. That was almost 15 years ago. Our two youngest children graduated from Keller schools, and we have two grandchildren in Keller schools now. We love our city, our schools and our neighbors—hose who live in our cul-de-sac and those across all of Keller. Five years ago, I felt led to step out to be an influence in our community for positive things. That culminated in being elected to Keller City Council, where I have served you the past three years. Keller is a great place to live and has so much to offer, so much to preserve and protect. We need leadership with vision that looks beyond this month, this year or even this decade to assure we steward our city’s resources with excellence and integrity.



What experience do you think prepares you to serve as mayor?



TG: Leadership. Discernment. Diligence. Character. My leadership experience spans over 41 years in finance, consulting and business management in multiple industries, including INC 500, Fortune 300, publicly held, private and nonprofit companies at executive and C-level positions. I founded or co-founded seven companies. I have served Keller City Council in Place 6 for the past three years as a member of the finance committee, chairman of the Future Land Use Plan update task force [and] board member of Keller Development Corp. and was instrumental in reducing significant costs of [the] new Senior Center and seeing it approved by one of the largest margins in Keller election history. I serve as a deacon at Gateway Church, providing support to thousands of volunteers. I am proud of the reputation I have earned as a councilman who does his homework, is dependable, responsible, responsive and arrives well-prepared to do the work you elected me to do.



What is the biggest issue facing Keller today?



TG: Reconciliation. Vision. Trust. Keller has grown to a city of almost 45,000 people, and depending on how you categorize parcels and population limits, [it is] 70%-90% built-out. At this level of maturity, all issues become more interconnected and complex. Every decision has an impact on multiple properties and many people. To successfully navigate the issues facing Keller, we need a mayor dedicated to reconciliation with a focus on what brings us together; who will work tirelessly to see divisions healed and will not yield to those who attempt to divide; who is undaunted by tough situations or conversations; and who has the strength of character to do right when right is not necessarily popular. We need a council of seven independently-thinking individuals committed to building trust with the community and with each other so our different perspectives, experience and knowledge cause us to work toward something better than the sum of our individual parts. This is “genius in the aggregate." We need a leader who inspires us to transcend a belief that any one group or interest in our community is less important or more important than another. As I have said many times, “If you and I agree on everything, one of us is unnecessary." I believe disagreement can elevate all of us to greater accomplishment if embraced within a group of thoughtful, committed people who purposely cultivate mutual respect. We need leaders who lead by example ... publicly and privately, forsake resentments of the past, seek and extend forgiveness. Leaders reflect the values of Keller’s people because people matter.



What are the city's top infrastructure and transportation-related concerns?



TG: Efficient mobility. Improved streets and drainage. Interconnectivity. This is a great example of the complexity and interdependence we face. Keller’s thoroughfares and streets are challenged with increasing traffic that will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. I have worked with our public works director and TxDOT on expediting the plan of implementation of smart-light technology and making sure we are ready to tie-in on our connector streets. We must make streets and sidewalks a priority with updates to council and our citizens each month. Drainage issues must be solved at many points in our community. Those plans are already underway. Our city needs and deserves visionary leadership that has the long view in mind. This is an important aspect of the excellence I have urged and fostered on every project that has come before us. As our two new hotels prepare to open, we will need to look towards a future that makes easy connections for residents and visitors to the commerce in Keller Town Center and Old Town and throughout our city.



What is the city's top issue related to housing and real estate?



TG: Listening to our citizens. Uncompromising diligence to assure quality. At this point in our development build-out, astute decisionmaking is crucial to long-term success in our community. The mayor and council are stewards of our city and her resources. Every decision we make should invoke trust from our community and foster transparency and accountability with them. I have kept my word with integrity. Our citizens expect and deserve balance in all areas of development. Our economy and society is changing rapidly and continuously. We must possess knowledge and wisdom. Our community is extremely attractive. Keller drew all of us to live here. We have tremendous input from our residents, and we have had laws changes at the state level. We need to incorporate that input with expertise and understanding into our unified development code and the rest of our master plan to assure the residential and commercial development is done with excellence and unparalleled quality.



What else do you want voters to know?



TG: Over the past two years, our residents identified Keller’s strongest assets: 1. Keller is family-centered. Our residents said we are already the absolute best community for families: ... “great schools," "community spirit," [and] “family-friendliness." Eighty-five percent of our households are two or more people. 2. Keller is homeownership-focused—83.34% owner-occupied. Our residents are invested in our city. 3. Keller’s parks and trails are unparalleled: beautiful, award-winning and continually improving. [We need to be] embracing our uniqueness and reveling in the fact that we are an amazing place to live and raise families. We don't need to bring developments like a Southlake, a Flower Mound, an Alliance or anywhere else to be the best place to live. Keller already is!









Mark Mathews




Occupation: business owner






Why did you decide to run for office?



MM: We all have a choice. We can complain or choose to help make our city better. I choose to be “for” something. I’d like to see Keller do better.



What experience do you think prepares you to serve as mayor?



MM: I served as Keller mayor from 2014-17. I was elected to Keller City Council in 1998 and served on the zoning board of adjustments prior to that. My business experience and leadership with many nonprofit boards has proven valuable in serving my community.



What is the biggest issue facing Keller today?



MM: Unity is my biggest concern. Keller is a great place to live, raise a family, work and play. We developed this slogan while I served as mayor. I believe and want to work to contribute to protecting how great Keller is.



What are the city's top infrastructure and transportation-related concerns?



MM: My perspective and experience on this issue goes back to 1988, when we began planning Keller’s road infrastructure. We’ve done a decent job with roads. In 2015, we identified four major choke-points in Keller and created solutions with funding. I don’t know why we haven’t moved quicker to resolve these problems.



What is the city's top issue related to housing and real estate?



MM: Keller’s top housing issue is planning for multigenerational families. I believe, more than most other cities, we have generations moving to Keller to be close to family—children, grandchildren and grandparents who want to live close to their family. We need to provide solutions for all these generational needs.



What else do you want voters to know?



MM: It’s not about what you say; it’s about what you do! My intentions are to be the best possible mayor for Keller, not for special interests and not a stepping-stone on my way to Austin or another political position.









Armin Mizani




Occupation: attorney and business owner






Why did you decide to run for office?



AM: Keller is and will always be my home. As a husband and [as a] father to two young kids, I could not be more committed to making sure that Keller is prepared for a prosperous future. The vision I share for Keller is an ambitious one: to be recognized as "Texas's Most Friendly City." To do this, we must appreciate the past all the while keeping our sights towards the future. We must bring real taxpayer relief, attract quality economic development that is both vibrant and experiential, prioritize our roads, sidewalks and infrastructure, ensure public safety and maintain Keller's unique character through our parks and trails. Above all else, we must put our residents first—all 45,000 residents, regardless of whether they voted for you or your opponent. Keller's future success is dependent on the collective effort between our residents, city leaders, Keller ISD and the business community. I could not be more excited about the opportunity to help lead that effort.



What experience do you think prepares you to serve as mayor?



AM: First elected to serve on Keller City Council in a special election in Dec. 2014, I was then re-elected to serve a full term in May 2015. As councilman, I heard from many taxpayers who felt that their property taxes were pricing them out of their own home. As a result, I introduced the first increase to the Keller homestead exemption in more than 30 years. Today, the exemption provides tax relief to homeowners by reducing the taxable valuation of their home by 12%. In addition, I championed and authored Keller's revision to its ethics policy. The revision requires council members, commissioners and city staff to disclose any conflicts of interest and recuse themselves from participating in any votes. The policy also encourages citizens to participate in the process by providing a mechanism in which they can hold their elected leaders accountable. During my time as councilman, I was recognized as "Best Local Government Official" by Keller voters and readers of the Star Telegram. In 2016, my work in the community led to an appointment by Gov. Greg Abbott to serve on the [Texas] Automobile Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority. In that capacity, I have worked in partnership with municipalities and law enforcement agencies throughout the state to combat auto theft and crime. I am an attorney and business owner whose law practice has been recognized by national and statewide organizations, In addition, my law practice instituted a "Teacher of the Month" program, in which one teacher is recognized each month for their positive impact on our kids and community. During my time as councilman, I focused on providing energetic, principled and idea-driven leadership to Keller. If I earn the trust of our residents, as mayor, I will continue to lead our city in that same manner.



What is the biggest issue facing Keller today?



AM: Keller is special because of the families and residents who make up our unique City. With over 26 miles of trails and hiking, the amenities we provide and the top-notch education our children receive, Keller is a jewel of Tarrant County. One of the biggest challenges facing Keller today is assuring we have leaders who understand that good governance means leading with transparency, all the while having a long-term vision for who we are, where we are going, and what Keller will be in the next five, 10 and 15 years. The vision I share for Keller is an ambitious one – to take Keller to the “Next Level” and become “Texas’s Most Family Friendly City.” That means that at Keller Town Hall, we must reject the status quo and stop doing business as usual. It means having real collaborative discussions and efforts with key partners, such as the business community and Keller ISD. Above all else, it means doing all we can to include our residents as part of the decision-making process. As a councilman, I often led round table discussions with business leaders, held coffee meet-and-greets with PTA parents and hosted town halls, which I often referred to as “idea-raisers”—all in an effort to solicit citizen input and ideas. Becoming “Texas’s Most Family Friendly City” is not an easy task. Nevertheless, it is an ambitious goal and vision we must set and can accomplish if we work together. Ensuring we do so in a transparent manner, with the interest of all 45,000 residents at heart, is a responsibility I take highly.


What are the city's top infrastructure and transportation-related concerns?



AM: Making sure we have suitable roads and sidewalks is important for any city, but especially so for a city like Keller. While Keller is approaching its build-out, many of our surrounding cities, like North Fort Worth, Roanoke and Westlake, are continuing to grow and develop. With this growth surrounding Keller comes added infrastructure needs. I believe one of government’s core functions is to provide for sustainable infrastructure. In Keller, that means prioritizing our roads and sidewalks. It means reevaluating our five-year capital improvement plan to assure that the roads we have lined up for repair are properly in line with the growth and traffic impact analysis. In addition, it means leading and having real collaborative conversations with our surrounding cities and partners at Tarrant County for the purpose of ensuring we have a sustainable long-term plan and vision not just for Keller, but for the region.



What is the city's top issue related to housing and real estate?



AM: As a city, when it comes to taxes, we are overly dependent on homeowners. The vision I share for Keller includes making it a city where residents can live, work, and play in the same community. We must reduce the dependency on homeowners by increasing the homestead exemption to 20%, which is the maximum allowed by Texas law, and also by attracting quality economic development. We must shift some of the tax burden away from homeowners by generating revenue through our business’s sales tax dollars. Businesses like Amazon, Uber, and GrubHub have forever changed the way consumers shop, commute, and dine. Communities that don’t adapt to the change in consumer trends will fall backwards. We must ensure Keller does not fall backwards. To do this, we must recruit innovative companies in the retail, technology and dining sectors, [which] offer an experiential component for consumers both in and out of Keller. We must establish Keller as a regional hub where creative thinking and creative businesses are welcomed. Lastly, we must stop the practice of giving out economic incentives without assuring our taxpayers anything in return. Should an economic incentive be considered, it must be a sustainable economic incentive that is directly tied to new revenue and new jobs created.


What else do you want voters to know?



AM: In the last five years, the Keller Police Department has responded to approximately 200 attempted suicide calls, with more than two dozen confirmed suicides. One of my priorities will be to create a volunteer task force made up of citizens, public safety personnel and health care professionals. The task force will assist in developing a coordinated strategy to help remove the stigma around mental health, raise awareness and make sure that more Keller residents and students have access to the resources that may already be out there. My vision includes collaborating and strengthening existing efforts being made at the county level and assuring that our police, firefighters and paramedics have the resources necessary to address the distress calls they already receive on a regular basis. Keller will be an example for other cities to follow when it comes to ensuring the well-being and mental health of its residents. It would be a tremendous honor to help lead in all of these efforts and a privilege to serve you and your family as Keller’s next mayor.


By Ian Pribanic
Ian Pribanic covers city government, transportation, business and education news for Community Impact Newspaper in the Keller-Roanoke-Northeast Fort Worth areas. A Washington D.C. native and University of North Texas graduate, Ian was previously an editor for papers in Oklahoma, West Texas and for Community Impact in New Braunfels.


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