Asked to pick Kerrville’s top three achievements for 2017 and what they hope will be the ones for 2018, Mayor Bonnie White and City Manager Mark McDaniel had different picks for the past year but were fairly uniform looking forward.
Mayor White’s list for 2017 included cutting taxes, the agreement with Kerr County regarding library and animal control services, and hiring McDaniel as city manager.
McDaniel picked implementation of a new organizational structure and culture for city staff, completion of ongoing capital improvements, and enhancement of transparency and public engagement in city government as top successes for 2017.
White said that while the 1.9 percent cut in the property tax rate for fiscal 2018 “wasn’t a significant reduction, at least it was a move in the right direction.”
“My feeling is that, in a time when many of our citizens are having to carefully manage their finances, it is an indication that the city is willing to do the same.”
She applauded Kerr County Precinct 2 Commissioner Tom Moser, McDaniel and city and county staff for “excellent work” in preparing the agreement whereby — for the first time in five years — county residents will be able on Jan. 2 to checkout books for free at the Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library.
In return, Kerr County’s Environmental and Animal Control Department will provide around-the-clock animal control service inside the City of Kerrville, relieving the police department of answering those calls.
Regarding the hiring of McDaniel in April, White predicted that the city manager’s 30 years of experience and “excellent people skills” will “be a great benefit to the citizens of Kerrville and Kerr County.”
“His particular effort in moving us forward with the comprehensive plan will be a first for citizens’ involvement in terms of future county-wide development,” said the mayor.
White’s endorsement of McDaniel’s success was affirmed by the rest of the council earlier this month, when they gave him a unanimous “strong vote of confidence” after his first performance review.
As might be expected from his management position — versus policy for the mayor — McDaniel’s top success for 2017 focused on changes in staff leadership.
Some city departments have been reorganized, and new leadership added “to compliment strong leadership in place already,” said McDaniel. He also noted the implementation of business/strategic planning at the department level, the launch of private-sector, process-improvement tools and an internal training program known as City U.
“All of this may sound a bit like ‘inside-baseball,’ but the end result will be an even stronger and more engaged workforce, improved processes and customer service, greater productivity and both hard and soft cost savings,” he said.
Completion of major capital projects started before 2017 — including the Kerrville Sports Complex and the wastewater reuse project — were another of the city’s manager’s picks.
The sports complex will be “a local quality of life enhancement and a state/regional draw,” and the water reuse project “will ensure sufficient irrigation water during drought and help meet the growing need for water capacity,” he said.
Making it easier for citizens to keep up with city government and be more involved was also on McDaniel’s list. He cited the following as examples:
• Launched a new, interactive website with more information.
• Established a stronger presence in social media with a growing number of followers.
• Provided newspaper editorials about the community.
• Began videotaping more public meetings.
• Sent out thousands of hard copy newsletters.
• Added significant cable television programming about Kerrville.
“Kerrville has been known for a very engaged citizenry, and we will continue to build on efforts to share and push out as much information as possible to keep citizens informed,” said McDaniel.
Looking forward, White and McDaniel agreed that producing and adopting Kerrville 2050 — a comprehensive plan for the city’s next 30 years — is a top priority.
“I have great expectations concerning the outcome of the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee,” said White. “I am so pleased with the outstanding work of the committee members and the great level of enthusiasm among the diverse members of the committee and subcommittee representatives.”
“This will be the single most important project of not only 2018, but also this decade, serving as a watershed for many other initiatives to come,” said McDaniel.
He called the process “an enormous undertaking with unprecedented public engagement” and noted it will include “an extensive implementation plan” which “will drive specific projects and actions that are expressed priorities for the community.”
Both leaders also put infrastructure repairs on their list for 2018.
White said that ongoing “vital infrastructure repairs” to Kerrville’s streets and wastewater system “will enable new residential and commercial development, which will help greatly with our housing need, as well as increasing our commercial tax base.”
McDaniel said the infrastructure work will also include construction of an enlarged Legion lift station, beginning major improvements to address traces of harmful chemicals caused by chlorination in parts of the water system, development of a new long-term water master plan, completion of the River Trail extension to the Dietert Center, enhancement of the downtown parking garage, installation of Water Street streetscape enhancements, finalization of plans for the use and remodeling of the Shellhase House, renovation of the HEB Tennis Center, and completion of studies for a potential aquatics center and new public safety complex.
The mayor also listed solving the issues with the city’s water supply, calling it “one of my greatest concerns for the past several years.”
“I am encouraged that we have now approved a path forward to better drinking water, which will be an obvious benefit to all citizens,” she said.
New economic strategies
The city manager’s other priority for 2018 is implementing new strategies to promote economic growth in the city and county.
“The way economic development works around the state, country and world has changed dramatically over the last several years,” said McDaniel. “It is important that our strategies to grow our economy change, as well.”
He called for “a fresh approach with renewed vigor … a more holistic approach that takes into account all of our assets and challenges, as well as provides clarity in the interests of all of our stakeholders.”
While still creating and retaining primary jobs, the city should also examine ways to grow other segments of its economy, such as the medical industry, tourism and higher education, said McDaniel.
He noted that the Kerrville Economic Development Corporation (KEDC) board is examining its role and processes and working to develop new strategies for its next evolution — “what I would call KEDC 2.0.”
“Given the recent dialogue and planning efforts among KEDC board members, going forward I am encouraged and optimistic about our ability to collaborate among all stakeholders in developing a new strategy for economic development in Kerrville and Kerr County,” said McDaniel.