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Salado Mayoral Candidates 2014 - Skip Blancett

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Skip Blancett

Born: Waco, Texas

Married: Gayle Blancett

Children: Tim Blancett, Brad Blancett, and Hollye Blancett Davis

Education: Bachelors:  Howard Payne University, Brownwood; Masters:  Southern Methodist University, Dallas; Masters:  St. Mary’s University, San Antonio; Doctorate:  Southern Methodist University, Dallas

Experience: Ordained United Methodist Minister:  38 Years (Retired); Officer, Chaplain, United States Navy:  22 Years (Retired, Rank: Navy Captain); Duty Stations:  Naval Station, Guam; Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes, Illinois; USS Duluth, LPD 6, San Diego, California; Post Graduate School, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas; Chaplain Resource Board, Norfolk, Virginia and Washington, DC; Instructor, Naval Chaplain School and  Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island (leadership, ethics, war and peace, and producer of Navy Television Spots); United States Marine Corps, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, Camp LeJeune,  North Carolina), Desert Shield, Desert Storm; United States European Command, Germany; Chaplain of the Coast Guard, Washington, DC (Navy Chaplains serve with Marines, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines)

Current employment:  Chief, Programs, Education Services Division, Fort Hood

Desire to be Mayor: Having lived/traveled around the world, Salado is our home of choice for 14 years because of the people, beauty, and academic, creative environment.  Few communities compare to Salado.

Salado is entering its next stage of community life that requires an understanding and acceptance of those who are long-time residents, new people arriving daily, and youth and children.  Additionally, supporting current businesses as well as those who will soon choose Salado; and improving the infrastructure of “neighborhood Salado” is essential.

Bringing Salado citizens together to embrace this next stage without compromising quality of life, pride, education, and tradition is a monumental task that requires open communication; civic and government cooperation; and balanced, creative planning and implementation.  To accomplish this, citizens must be well informed, acknowledged, and be in agreement to disagree without sacrificing friendship.

Being a part of the next stage is an honor.  I bring to the Mayor’s position:  a passion and love for Salado and its citizens; tried and proven leadership and experience on a global scale; the ability to listen and communicate on all levels; common sense and balance to make the best decision for the good of all; integrity and transparency; and the gift of thinking creatively and positively.

There is absolutely no doubt that I can lead Salado into the next stage of community life professionally, competently, and with a servant’s heart for the people.

Question 1: The village entered into a contract with Central Texas Council of Governments (CTCOG) to provide city management/administrative duties. In your opinion, is this arrangement working well? Should the village extend this contract beyond the current period ending in October? Why or why not? (200 word limit)

Skip Blancett Answer: The work done by the current city manager is significant and critical.  In order for citizens to make an informed decision in November on the Sewer System, it will take someone who not only knows the engineering, technical, and legal issues  but also knows the desires and needs of the community.  The current city manager lives in city, has the experience, and, as a citizen, has an invested interest in Salado. On 21 April, the city will have an opportunity to hear, learn, and ask questions as he makes the presentation.  His job will be  to present the “no-spin” facts clearly.  He will do that.  If not, you will have a choice through your elected officials to cancel or extend the contract. At this juncture in the Sewer project, experience has proven, “one does not change horses in mid-stream.”  It is essential that he continue at least through the November bond election.

Extending the contract is not only Salado’s decision, it is also  Central Texas Council on Governments (CTCOG) decision.  Either one can end the agreement.  In my opinion, Salado needs a full-time City Manager and that process should begin now in case the agreement ends. 

Question 2: Texas Department of Transportation estimates that the expansion of I-35 through Salado will be complete in late 2015. What, if anything, can or should the Village be doing to prepare for this? What, if anything, can or should the Village be doing now to bolster businesses that have been affected by the construction project? (150 words)

Skip Blancett Answer: The Chamber of Commerce (COC) has started by forming a citizen’s committee to propose a vision for 2015.  In addition, two Town Halls should be held followed by a larger committee representing all of Salado. This committee takes the COC vision, Town Hall views, and develops a 2, 5, and 10 year plan . The plan should be presented to a third town hall, and submitted to the city government for examination and implementation.  The results: a plan of the people, for the people and by the people.

To bolster businesses, the golf course continues to improve  as well as implement an advertising campaign to “play” Salado.   Tourism continues to bring in various groups, and we “Shop Salado” first. The businesses will do their part offering outstanding customer service, quality merchandise, and special events like “Teacher Appreciation Saturday.”  If affordable, give Salado residents a 10% discount on purchases.

Question 3: What is -- or should be -- the role of the mayor in terms of setting goals and policies and enacting the  goals and policies of the Village? What is -- or should be -- the relationship between the Mayor and other aldermen and between the mayor and the city administrator and other staff? What will you do in terms of these relations? (200 words)

Skip Blancett Answer: The mayor occupies the highest elective office in the city government and is expected to provide leadership necessary to keep it moving in the proper direction.  The mayor presides over council meetings, signatory for the city, and recognized as the town’s ceremonial/governmental head. Their most important duty is to administer the legislative responsibilities: identifying the needs of the city, developing programs, and ensuring all services satisfactorily reflect the policy goals of the council.

Aldermen are the town’s legislators with policymaking duties: identifying the needs of local residents, for mulating programs, and measuring the effectiveness of services.  They regulate, employ, purchase, and finance.   The city manager is responsible for the daily administrative operations to include: supervision of operations, oversight of employees; preparing, monitoring/executing the city budget; technical advisor on governmental operations; public-relations; ensuring government functions operate together to their best effect; and attending all council meetings, with no voting right. A strong working relationship built upon trust and respect with all is a must.  Without it, local government is not effective.  Along with the workshops, I will ask the Alderman and City Manager to meet each quarter for an uninterrupted day of city planning.  Incorporate teamwork instead of micromanagement. 

Question 4. What are your thoughts on the Village Comprehensive Plan?  (200 words)

The Comprehensive Plan was approved and signed April 2004.  It is a planning resource that covers such information as: guiding principles, future land use, transportation, parks and recreation, public facilities, historic preservation, corridor design, community livability and economic development.  Well written, the statistics are fascinating and the city maps, relevant.  Unfortunately, to my knowledge, it has not been updated.  Copies are hard to find and most people, when asked, have never heard of it.  This “how-to and “reason why” plan presents a solid foundation on which to build.  The names on the “Acknowledgements” page” are well known community leaders who have a deep, abiding interest in Salado.  Hopefully, some will serve in updating it along with service organizations, and new citizens with creative ideas and “fresh eyes.”   The Chamber of Commerce and others have been working on a Vision Plan since 22 February.  Once completed, it should be a significant piece of the process.  There should be a 2-year, 5-year, and 10-year plan so that each stage can be measured and altered when necessary.    

Question 5. What are your top five goals for the Village that you would like to see accomplished in the next five years? How would you help to accomplish those goals? (200 words)

Skip Blancett Answer: Sewer, annexation, infrastructure including code enforcement, preserving/ enhancing historical Salado (Main Street), and west side development are givens.  These are massive issues.  The first two are time-sensitive.   Unless Salado takes action now, “bedroom community” will not be a threat but a reality along with tax increases and property devaluation.   This is not “doom and gloom” thinking; it is straight talk. This being said, I believe there are other issues competing for equal attention.  These are in no particular order:  (1) Communicating with Salado citizens through Town Hall meetings, newsletters, a weekly column in the Village Voice, and a webcast that takes city meetings into the home.  (2) Supporting the Golf Course and Stage Coach Inn which are both historical and, along with other businesses, economic engines that bring people to Salado. Local residents can help by participating often in downtown activities and talking about the good things Salado is doing (3) Welcoming and involving new residents and including them in activities.  (4) Establishing a grant writer’s guild to write and submit applications for cost-saving grants.   (5) Ensuring that our children and youth have the best education opportunities to grow  and safe places to go. 

Question 6: Why do you think development within the Village and its ETJ has been slow in recent years in terms of new housing starts, new businesses, etc.? Do you think the Village should be growing? If not, why not? If so, what, if anything, can the Board of Aldermen do to improve this (200 words)

Skip Blancett Answer Salado’s growth and development have not been slow considering the economy, construction, and no sewer system.  Salado is poised for growth when construction is completed and consensus is reached on the sewer system. Salado’s growth should be at a manageable, measured rate with standards that meets the town’s high standards and codes.  The Alderman, as the elected policy-makers, will certainly have a say in how Salado grows.  However, the people have a greater say.  For instance, if there is a November Bond election, their vote will determine Salado’s future growth.  Whether “for” or “against” Salado will not remain as it is.  They growth of Texas and the I-35 corridor have decided that.  If Salado is going to be the beautiful, quality town that meets the needs of future generations, it will require a reasonable growth that enhances the economy and the community.”  The Alderman are key to making that happen. 

Question 7: What are your thoughts on the conditions of the village roads? (200 word limit)

Skip Blancett Answer: Infrastructure is a top issue.  Roads are part of infrastructure.  There are approximately 20 miles of roads in Salado that must be maintained, repaired, and, in some cases, replaced.  This is not cheap and requires budget planning.  In a recent discussion with an Austin road engineer that moved to Salado a year ago; I asked him about some towns budgeting for 2 miles of road repair each year.  He said, “Yes, that formula is used by other towns and it seems to work well.  In ten years the roads are repaired and the cycle starts, again.  It is a necessary expense for doing business.”  The conversation ended with, “If this works well for other towns, it is worth researching and considering.” Last week, I was told that several years ago, Gerry Reihsen, PE, and the late Bruce Butscher collaborated to develop a comprehensive road maintenance program that was submitted to the Village for implementation.  If that information is correct, their plan should be located, studied, and, if relevant, used to formulate a revised plan that keeps roads maintained every 5 to 10 years.  A concrete, workable plan should be devised, approved, budgeted, and implemented as soon as feasible.


Question 8: What are your thoughts on the maintenance and operations of the village park? (150 word limit)

Skip Blancett Answer: The village park is a quality of life asset as it allows adults to relax; teens to meet their friends in a safe environment, and children to play learning to socialize while they exercise.   They also offer a great setting for weddings, reunions, or a community function.     The village park defines who we are as a community and must be maintained, kept safe, and attractive.  Earth Day proved this as citizens learned about Salado’s environment and how to keep it healthy. To accomplish this, we should:(1) Organize a Village Park Committee to work with the Mayor and Aldermen in overseeing the maintenance, safety, and repairs.(2) Solicit Civic and church organizations to take scheduled turns working in the village park.(3) Involve students, Boy and Girl Scouts to do park Service Projects.      We have the talent and interest to make Salado parks an integral part of our quality of life goals.   

Question 9: Will you as Mayor work with the Aldermen to bring to the voters  a bond election for sewer? If called by the board, will you personally advocate for approval of a bond election for a sewer system? (300 words)

Skip Blancett Answer: The sewer system is important to the future of Salado.  But, does the average citizen, without engineering experience, know what is involved in building such a facility?   Where will it be located or what the realistic cost will be?  Is it to be built in phases (i.e. town first and then residences) and how long will it take to build the facility?  Will sewer lines go down Main Street, Church Street or some other road?  Where will the treated water go?  Should a sewer line for west Salado be completed before our section of I-35 is completed?  These questions must be addressed and answered before citizens are asked to vote and pay for it.     A considerable amount of money has been spent on various treatment options but has never moved forward.  This I know from owning Septic systems homes in two states:  septic systems are usually for rural settings and we are an incorporated town that will grow regardless of desires.  They are not only a financial issue; septic systems are a quality of life issue that has the potential of becoming an environmental health issue.  It is time to agree and approve a feasible plan, submit it to qualified engineers, and inform the citizens.       If elected Mayor, I will:     (1) stay abreast of plans developed by the city manager, approved by Aldermen, and submitted to the engineer.      (2) have another Town Hall to present information in time to make an informed decision.     (3) work with the Aldermen to bring to the voters a bond election for sewer.   The time is now to make a decision.  The future of Salado is calling.

 

Question 10: What do you consider to be the greatest weakness or flaw in the Village of Salado government and what can you do to change it? (200 words)

 

Skip Blancett Answer: When I decided to enter the campaign for Mayor, I made it very clear to the people that asked and supported me that ‘this campaign would not be one that made myself look good by making others look bad.  There would be no name-calling, plagiarism, finger pointing, accusations or answering accusations that were not true.  If we were really a quality community, a model for other communities to follow; there would be no place for such immature, irresponsible action.  We would campaign hard, be creative through multimedia, try to reach all ages, and be transparent.” 

 The number of candidates running for School Board, Alderman, and Mayor speaks volumes, and we have all expressed our views on the issues.    There is no need to re-live the past.  It is time to live in the present and plan for the future.  It is time to elect the best candidate that can walk the talk.

Question 11:  Why should anyone vote for you? (200 words)

Skip Blancett Answer: No one should vote for Skip Blancett just because you know him and might like him, or because you like Gayle.  They should vote for Salado and what is best for Salado. It is going to take all of us, and, I mean all of us, working together to meet the challenges of the next two years.  We are at the crossroads of our future as a community.  Put aside the negativism; labeling; agendas and interest groups -- none of this is as important as coming together as a community who is willing to see beyond self-interest; and ready to roll up their sleeves and work toward the common good of all.   The candidate that can come closest to achieving those goals is the one that deserves your vote.  If it is me, I will give you all I have; if it is someone else, if asked, I will give them all I have.  And, at the end of the day, I will still speak to you and be a friend.

    Now is the time to vote for Salado. Your vote will make a difference and carry weight toward our future.  One vote.  Choose wisely.