Three candidates are vying for Hutto City Council Place 1. Anne Cano did not file for re-election. Election day is May 6. The candidates, in alphabetical
order include Steven R. Harris, Scott Rose and Dana Wilcott. Community Impact Newspaper asked questions of each candidate. Their answers are printed with limited editing.
HARRIS: First, I have a business background. I have held straight commission jobs for most of my adult life. I taught fire safety classes and sold fire alarms. I performed legislative research and sold memberships to a non-partisan legislative research firm. I ran a food delivery route and became the general manager of that location. I started an independent insurance agency. And now I work at Dell EMC. During my time as general manager of the route sales depot and with my insurance business, I became very active in the Greater Waco and Greater Hewitt Chambers of Commerce. I also helped to grow and charter a new chapter of Business Networking International – a group of business leaders dedicated to helping each other grow their businesses through active referral gathering.
The second major area of experience that has prepared me is my political activism. Starting with my experience with the legislative research firm, I had to learn to listen intently to people as they shared their opinions about government and how they felt government regulations helped or hurt their businesses and families. I didn’t have to agree with what the members were saying, but I had to listen and try to understand.
Finally, I have experience right here in Hutto. Everyone will agree that the last two years of city politics have been interesting. I started going to city council meetings right after I moved here two years ago. No one other than the sitting council members or city staff has attended more meetings in person than I have. As the city has gone through the growing pains of the last two years, I have been right there in the audience watching, listening, and learning. I have also attended a number of workshops between the council and the EDC, the ESD board, and the various boards and commissions who hold their workshops during regular council meetings.
ROSE: With over 28 years of community service, to include experience within emergency management within both the municipal and federal government levels, I have led proactive agencies answering directly to city officials. Pertinent experience includes forming risk assessments, developing budgets, and providing critical services to citizens under multiple taxing authorities and developing relationships to ensure positive outcomes through standards of a unified vision. I have also worked within logistical avenues, developing and initiating federal contracts to ensure quality performance of products and services to obtain the proper vendors to fit the mission of the desired projects. As a senior leader within emergency management, I understand the culture of structure, need, and risk analysis which is required to operate a city to its full potential.
WILCOTT: I am a mom and an educator who loves her city and wants to see it prosper. I serve on the board of Hutto Has Heart and spend countless hours serving the community.
2. Hutto is going through many changes right now. Is it headed in the right direction and what would you like to see done?
ROSE: Any individual who becomes involved with local government will have their own opinions concerning direction of current leadership. Change is difficult, often creating malice towards one side or another. Both sides usually desire change, it’s the perception of determining the proper change that divides the two sides. My experience is that lack of communication is a contributing factor in feeding the division. As a citizen, I desire a more open form of communication with my city leaders. I desire to be listened to and not just heard. We must provide opportunities to educate our citizens to ensure that the lines of communication are formatted to the same levels to ensure the city leaders and the citizens are understanding one another. Once a unified vision is established, once partnerships are strengthened, then opportunities will present themselves, and the City of Hutto can become a “City of Opportunity”
WILCOTT: Hutto is experiencing rapid growth, and with this continued growth it’s imperative to invest in infrastructure, economic development, and supporting city services. With current projects such as the expansion of 685/ Chris Kelley Boulevard, the sidewalk project on 1660/Limmer Loop, and the revitalization of Downtown Hutto, we are headed in the right direction. We need to revisit and revamp city codes and ordinances to ease the stress of incoming businesses, and ensure City officials are service minded when helping local businesses navigate the system.
HARRIS: I’m very optimistic about the future of Hutto. I have observed what the city staff and council have done to prepare for growth. We need to update our future land use map and they’re doing that. We need to update our master plans for parks, water, wastewater, drainage, roads, etc. and all of these have been done or are scheduled. I want to continue these important planning measures because that provides a feeling of stability and forethought for developers who look at Hutto for business growth.
I would like to make Hutto stand apart from the crowd even more by transitioning to a pay-as-you-go, debt free, policy. We can take advantage of the rapid growth of our tax base to save cash at a much faster rate and avoid going into debt to pay for our future needs. Most cities are trapped in the continuous cycle of debt because they promise future revenues to pay for bonds. More debt leads to higher taxes to pay for more bonds. We can stop that cycle now. Staying out of debt, or keeping it as low as possible, will keep our future revenues free to pay cash for future needs. That will also help us keep our tax rate level for many years to come.
3. Hutto’s rapid growth is quickly becoming dependent on new business and industry coming to town. What kind of business should come to Hutto and what needs to get done to bring them here?
WILCOTT: A team of City officials and community members is in the process of amending the future land use map to increase commercial land and decrease residential development. The addition of commercial land will allow for more businesses to make their way into Hutto. I want to see businesses that bring jobs to Hutto and retail growth that will allow our residents to have their daily needs met in the city limits, not having to venture out to Round Rock or Pflugerville.
HARRIS: When Hutto makes it easier for businesses to open and stay profitable, but removing unnecessary regulations, businesses will come. Businesses have struggled in Hutto because our daytime population while most people leave town for work, is very low. Our overall population growth also means that our daytime population is growing and can better sustain our local businesses. The citizens have given their input on what kinds of businesses they want by participating in the FLUM planning meetings. Whether citizens pick an entertainment district, health district, technology district, or otherwise, we will have the plan in place to attract the right developers. I would personally love to see a business incubator opened in Hutto. Business incubators offer resources and support to small businesses wanting to grow. We have many home-based businesses in Hutto. If any of them wanted to eventually expand to a brick and mortar shop, an incubator could be what helps with that transition.
ROSE: The citizens of Hutto want and deserve business that offers competitive pricing on goods and services without having to leave the city limits to do so. Past and current builders have encountered a strenuous permitting process, one which is more difficult and time consuming than many major cities within Central Texas. City leadership must take accountability and assume responsibility to ensure that the process for receiving proper permits, site plans, and so on are streamlined to promote opportunities for future business. Furthermore, our Unified Development Code is in major need of restructuring to ensure easier comprehension to include more friendly guidelines easily found in surrounding cities.
4. What are your thoughts about a bond proposal and the needs of the community?
HARRIS: I do not want to see the city go into more debt. I will work to increase our savings to pay cash for our needs. I also understand I will be one of 7 votes on the council. I will be outspoken on my desire to avoid debt completely, but in the end, the whole council will decide. I will consider it a win if I’m able to keep the debt to a very minimal amount. We need a police department badly. Our police force is working in a tiny space that doesn’t come close to meeting their needs. That immediate need may not be able to wait for us to save up cash. At the moment, that’s the one project that I would agree to go into debt for.
ROSE: Prior to supporting any type of public debts, the city must ensure a proper comprehensive needs assessment is conducted with conclusions to support the possible bond proposal. At this time, needs must be addressed to ensure our cities infrastructure is capable of supporting future growth, ease of movement within the city limits, as well as current business support systems. Additionally, emergency services delivery must be addressed to ensure national standards are being adhered to and partnerships are strengthened with the ESD#3, and Williamson County EMS
WILCOTT: We are not ready for a bond proposal. We need time to reevaluate resources and look at alternative funding sources. Our organizational structure has changed over the past few months, and we have new key players at the helm of the city. We need to give them time to acclimate, to review our city finances, and to develop a solid plan for growth before any bonds are sent to the citizens of Hutto.