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Election Day Q&A

The Advocate asked all candidates the following questions to enable voters to review “apples-to-apples” responses regarding issues and platforms.  Answers appear in the order in which they were received. 

1. What motivated you to run for office?

2. Please describe any previous experience serving your community. 

3. What qualities do you bring to the table for the office you seek?

4.  If elected, what are your top priorities once in office? 

Steve Fought (I) • Council District 4

► 1. Georgetown is the best place Gina and I have ever lived, and we have lived in a lot of good places. It didn’t get this way by accident. It took a lot of work, by a lot of folks, over a long period of time, to make Georgetown what it is today. I am retired, I don’t have “an agenda”. I have time to contribute, a base of experience, an open mind, a willingness to learn, and a personal promise to do my part to keep Georgetown wonderful, and just maybe make it even better.  I enjoy public service. I enjoy working with people to resolve problems. Nothing gives me more thrill than jumping in the middle of a contentious issue, helping those involved figure out what is REALLY the problem, then crafting a solution that will last. That, to me, is what this is all about.

► 2.I bring a long record of public service, leadership, and problem solving skills to the table. I have represented my constituents in a wide range of forums including: Georgetown City Council (6yrs); Georgetown Economic Development Corp (5yrs, President in 2015); General Gov’t and Finance Advisory Board (5yrs, Chair in 2014); Georgetown Utility System Advisory Board (5yrs), Citizen Task Force, Public Safety Bond (2011); Georgetown Citizen Academy (2010). In Sun City, VP Board of Directors (3yrs), Vice Chair Nominating Committee (3yrs), NRO Sec’y (3yrs).

Professor Emeritus and Dean of Academics (Air War College); Professor, Director of Electives, Chair of Public Diplomacy (Naval War College); Retired USAF (B-52 Pilot, Lt Col); Better Business Bureau Arbitrator/Mediator (25-years); Numerous Non-Profit Boards. Professional Qualifications — Ph.D. (Brown University); Graduate, Harvard Program on Negotiations.

► 3.I communicate, I am accessible, and I respond. My campaign logo is “The Newsletter Guy”.  My newsletter reaches nearly 6,000 readers in Sun City and beyond.  I use it to explain my understanding of the major contending views on important issues, garner the views of others, and explain my vote.  The newsletter masthead expresses my personal commitment to communication: “Earnest, open, informed debate leads to good public policy”.

No Council Member can be an expert in all of the various topics we address. When I write on a contentious subject, I regularly find residents who have spent their career in the field we are discussing.  They call and offer their insights.  I listen, I learn, and I cast a more informed vote as a consequence. No other candidate can match that newsletter in its ability to communicate, for making City Government open and transparent, and for seeking public input.

► 4. I list 7 objectives on my web site (stevefought.com).  I’ll condense those into three priorities here. First, maintain Public Safety as the highest priority—because if you lose the bubble on public safety, you may never get it back.  I am a consistent advocate for and supporter of, our police, fire and EMS capabilities. Second, maintain the “small town” character of Georgetown.  I supported HARC retaining its authority.  I have consistently supported tailored downtown economic development. Finally, set aside monies in the “good times” to prepare for “difficult times” when they come.  I am a fiscal conservative.  I believe in building reserve funds, constraining debt, regulating development, and “making growth pay for growth” by passing the financial burden of expansion to developers through impact fees, development agreements and assessments. I also want an in-patient, residential setting, Hospice Facility in Georgetown. More on that later.

Joe Reedholm • Council District 4

► 1. The present Georgetown council’s lack of transparency, poor oversight, and unethical behavior were encapsulated by the Wilco Sun reports on the GUS energy plus the mayor’s threats.  However, this behavior was not new to us.  Our company was recruited to central Texas in 1994 by the LCRA, so we have seen lots of questionable dealings, though none as spectacular as the energy debacle. While the threats made to the Sun bothered me, I was still not tempted to run.  Instead, I was going to back someone with far more direct experience within the community.  However, some woman warned him against running for council, and that if he did, dirt on him would be made public.  With no one else in the wings, I decided to file on the last day.

► 2.When I worked for other companies, I found time to do things like run my sons’ Little League franchise, fund raise for United Way, etc.  As important as volunteer work is, there was no time for it once our company was started.  My focus was on customers, none of whom were in Georgetown.  Fortunately, my wife was able to take on the role of community ambassador.  She served in Rotary and was involved in the startup of The Georgetown Project, where she served on the first two boards of directors.  That was a great time, when “All Kids Are Our Kids” guided the city.   

► 3.My degree in electrical engineering led me to development engineering positions in the leading test and measurement instrumentation companies.  That let me put my education to full use, instead of having it lie fallow in academia.  It also taught me how to break down complex problems into comprehensible components.  Success as a design engineer led to management positions, with the last one being responsible for operations roughly the size of Georgetown.  In 1983, I started a company making electronic test systems for semiconductor processing, and ran it for 33 years.  So I have experience in all aspects of organization management in the private sphere, much of which applies in city governance.  City management should be able to help me learn what I don’t know.

► 4. Energy Debacle:  In hindsight, trying to outsmart energy suppliers like the LCRA doesn’t look so smart.  Unless the present city council sweeps their mistakes under the rug before the election, figuring out what to do about the energy situation will occupy everyone on council. Growth That Puts Infrastructure First, Not Last: Georgetown is a bedroom community that is going to grow as long as Austin does.  We need to make sure that new, large developments do not impact quality of life for businesses and people already here, plus make sure that absolute taxes do not rise to pay for growth–that is, rapid appreciation of property values should be balanced by lower tax rates.

Enforcement of HARC and UDC: Georgetown’s small town charm will be lost if the council continues to override decisions and recommendations in favor of development.  Hopefully, the council will not resurrect the drive to “de-fang” HARC once the election is over.  Those who want to reap the benefits of developing in Georgetown, and its ETJ, need to play by the rules.

Tommy Gonzalez (I) • Council District 7

► 1. My desire to try to see to conclusion several city projects that I have been working on. Also the knowledge I have acquired over the last nine years will be very valuable going forward.

► 2. I have been on the Georgetown City Council just shy of nine years, I have served on HARC, served and chaired the Georgetown Economic Development Corp., served on the Georgetown Transportation Enhancement Corp., Current Chair of the Georgetown General Government and Finance Board, Served on board of the YMCA of WPB., Treasurer for the Summercrest Home Owners Association, and Ambassador for the Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

► 3.25 Years of financial services industry. Working with Business’ of all sizes to help them achieve their growth goals. Managed people at many different levels and learn to work with individuals to achieve a goal or result. Able to work with others to achieve consensus.

► 4. Continue to maintain top quality public safety departments in the City. Manage all city resources to achieve the highest level of efficiency while providing the best quality to our Citizens. Focus on quality growth of commercial and retail amenities throughout the city with a focus on Dist 7.

Jaquita Wilson • Council District 7

► 1. I believe I bring a unique experience and perspective to the city council. My years of teaching, educational administration, and local involvement in Georgetown, have demonstrated the need for effective change in our community that creates tangible solutions for people in the realms of accessibility to grocery stores, expansion of public transportation, and improvement of our infrastructure.

► 2.I received my Bachelor’s degree in English from Montclair State University, I passed my Secondary Education Praxis test from the State of New York. I have lived in Georgetown, TX for seven years as a military wife, mother of five, and active member of the community. Prior to my family moving to Georgetown, I was a middle-school teacher and Education Coordinator for Casa Guadalupe in Pennsylvania for four years where I developed student curriculum, managed the budget, wrote and received 6 figure grants and organized personnel training. Locally, I taught with Head Start of Georgetown for several years before becoming Director of Liberty Hill Head Start. 

► 3. I bring an educator’s perspective to the board, I will ask questions and get answers! My campaign is centered on transparency and accessibility thus, I plan to increase the amount of social media content and contact between the city of Georgetown and its citizens. I will do quarterly town halls based on the priorities of my district and will keep an active website and dedicated Facebook page for ease of communication for my constituents.

► 4. We need to prioritize transparency and communication to our constituents. The people of Georgetown TX, and District 7 in particular, have voices that our local government needs to hear and assist. One area our city council needs to focus on is sustainable water and greenspace planning and flood prevention as we update and expand out city infrastructure. Securing fresh fruits and vegetables for District 7 over gas stations is a huge priority for me, as well. 

Mike Triggs • Council District 3

► 1. The issues with Gus first brought my attention to the City Counsel. Long term fixed price contracts are not a free market approach and have now created a problem that is very difficult to correct. While other communities will benefit from improved technology, and better delivery systems that will predominantly lower prices, we will live with contracts that keep prices above market for many years. I also feel development should be more smartly planned. Infrastructure should be considered prior to development not after. It shouldn’t be “build it and they will come” and then worry about traffic etc. The community should have some say in the type of development that is needed in the community. I’ve heard numerous comments like “We need …instead of what is being proposed.”

► 2.I have served on the Minnesota Economic Development Association (MEDA) Twin Cities Neighborhood Economic Advisors (NEA). The volunteer work I am most proud of is 16 years of tutoring inner city students to pass their state High School math equivalency tests.

► 3.I am a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, and have had a successful 38 year career in the financial industry. The last 30 years with two large Midwestern banks: TCFBank fsb, and The Bank of Montreal, DBA BMO-Harris Bank in the United States. The last 27 of those years working in the Troubled Assets Departments. 17 years as the leader of the regional Departments. Gus is obviously a troubled assets, and I have years of experience of dealing with troubled developers and builders. I think this brings a different perspective to that the council currently has and a perspective that is needed at this time.

► 4. Priorities are: Bringing back fiscal responsibility to Gus and preventing spill over to other fiscal issues in the City. Helping create better street and pedestrian safety in my district. Letting “Georgetown be Georgetown” through well planed development and preservation of HARC.    

John Hesser (I) • Council District 3

► 1. I have served as the District 3 Councilman for the past 6 years and this will be my last term. Simply, my reason for running is unfinished business. The current situation with GUS is unfinished and staff is working though the problems and I believe there will be a satisfactory solution. However, the circumstances which contributed to the failure still need to be addressed and it will be up to Council to write new policy to prevent a repeat. The city is currently installing financial software which when completed will need new policy to improve transparency and accountability. Both issues will require historic information and council experience.

► 2.  Charter member of Sun City Gardens. I worked with the other members to raise financing and assisted in the garden’s construction. I served two terms as Vice President and President. Served 2 and a half years on the Georgetown Parks and Recreation Board and chaired the board my last year. Served in my church as a small group leader and financial counselor for families with a negative cash flow. As a council member, I have served on the following boards or commissions: Georgetown Transportation Advisory Board, Georgetown Transportation Enhancement Corporation, Georgetown Economic Development, Georgetown Utilities System, General Government & Finance Advisory Board.

► 3. During my business career I worked in auto finance and banking the industry and was exposed to various training programs in finance, problem solving and leadership. I launched 4 companies and turned around 6 failing organizations. This pathway tested my training and as councilman has shown me that the same skills apply to government which is needed. The fundamentals are the same; good people, good policy and good procedure produce good results.

► 4. 1. GUS Solution 2. Public safety. 3. Maintain the tax rate: Manage growth so costs do not burden homeowners and balance commercial/residential tax burden through economic development. 4. Maintain the city’s infrastructure to include roadways, sidewalks, parks, buildings, sewers, power and water lines.

Brian Ortego • GISD Trustee Place 2

► 1. I’m motivated to become a candidate for GISD Board of Trustees, Place 2 because after 15 years of building new schools and achieving some goals, we still have unmet academic needs and financial challenges ahead. I believe my knowledge and experience is needed now to add a perspective on the board that isn’t being represented now. We need to move forward on achieving academic success for all students and the strategic goals that the community agreed upon five years ago. Progress has been slow and many aspects of the Learner Profile have not yet been implemented into instruction and accomplished yet.  If elected, I will work with the other Trustees and Dr. Brent to implement changes that are necessary to provide the customized and personal learning educational experience that each student needs, in order to achieve the knowledge and skills required to be life ready for college, a career, or the military. 

► 2.I have been honored to serve on the GISD District Performance Council, the 2005 Citizens Bond Advisory Committee, Band Boosters, Math Pentathlon, Capitol Best Robotics, and in the creation of the Learner Profile. I’ve enjoyed volunteering and participating in our schools and helping out principals and where needed at PTA events, in order to provide kids with the opportunity to be successful academically and through participation in extracurricular and fundraising activities.  If elected, I look forward to using these experiences in my service on the Board or Trustees to aid me in engaging and making meaningful contributions that will be needed to advantage opportunities and find solutions for the challenges we face today.  I’ve also served the City of Georgetown on the Planning & Zoning Commission, Housing Advisory Board, and on the Georgetown Village Public Improvement District Advisory Board.

► 3.I have gained great experience and knowledge by attending school board and city council meetings and engaging with Trustees, City Council, and staff members over the past 17 years on academic goals, board policy, facility needs, bond debt, elections, tax rates, and budgets that has prepared me to be effective on day one as a Trustee. I now have the knowledge and information required to be an effective School Board Trustee in Georgetown ISD. If elected, I am interested in the continued learning and training that is needed and required to be on the GISD Board along with promoting our mission statement, strategic goals, academic performance, financial transparency, as we are accountable to the students, parents and community members in Georgetown ISD for achieving excellence. I have 30 years of relevant management experience that will enable me and analyze data and issues before the school board, in order to make the decisions that are necessary, benefit students and the community now and in the future.

► 4. My top priorities will be to work with the community and all members of the Board or Trustees and the Superintendent to ensure that every student, parent, and community member has the information, opportunity, and a voice to weigh in on the future growth of Georgetown ISD and how exactly we design, build, and modernize our school facilities along with how we design teaching and learning for the benefit of all students and at all levels. Public transparency is essential and all decisions at all levels must be student-centered and driven, in order to provide the academic and financial accountability to students, parents, community members, and certainly taxpayers. 

Elizabeth McFarland • GISD Trustee Place 2

► 1. I have been active in the Georgetown school community for years, participating in GISD Citizens Advisory Committees, GISD District of Innovation Committee, GISD Strategic Plan Review Committee, and as a Board member of the GISD Education Foundation.  I also have four children of my own in GISD, spread across three campuses.  I have learned much about the great work our district is already doing, and I’d like to serve in a greater capacity in the hopes that I can effectuate meaningful progress.

► 2.  In the Georgetown community, in addition to several GISD-specific committees, I am on the Boards of the Rotary Club of Georgetown, Chase the Chief, and the Samaritan Center.  I am the legal advisor for A Gift of Time.  I serve on the Compliance and Grants Committee for Seeds of Strength.  I actively participate in events with Team Red, White, and Blue.  And finally, I serve our broader nationwide community as an officer in the Army Reserves.

► 3.The top qualities I will bring to the School Board are my collaborative teamwork, strong leadership skills, and my analytical mind and attention to details.  Being an attorney and Army officer has given me a distinct opportunity to combine experiences in building strong, effective teams, and then leading those teams through difficult tasks, while also enabling me to hone my ability to quickly filter through voluminous information and spot the important issues and details. These skills will serve me well as a Trustee as I grapple with the numerous demands placed on our district.

► 4. First and foremost, our children must be safe at school, and a very important step in accomplishing this is to address the mental health needs and well-being of our students and educators. Secondly, I would focus my efforts as Trustee on finding better ways to measure student and educator achievement.  Third, I’d like to see an expansion of programs of innovative learning, especially by incorporating more volunteer adult mentoring in the classroom to provide every child with a strong support system at school.

Jennifer Wood • GISD Trustee Place 5

► 1. I am running for GISD Board of Trustees, Place 3 to influence change; to be a voice that asks many (and hopefully) the right questions prior to decision implementation. Decisions should be made based on data and the unbiased input of those affected. I am committed that every child receives an equal and appropriate education. We must ensure that we have the appropriate training in our schools to support the behavioral, academic, physical, and/or artistic needs of all our students. 

► 2. I am the mother of three sons, whose ages are eight, six, and three. My most recent years have been spent investing in and caring for them. Now that they are older, I am looking forward to increased participation in the Georgetown community. Notably, my professional career as an optometrist has been spent in service to others. I have worked in both the clinical and research realms to improve the visual outcomes of Veterans who sustained ocular and/or traumatic brain injuries in Afghanistan and Iraq. I continue to work and support increased awareness of the effects of visual disabilities in an aging population. I also examine visually impaired students and provide guidelines for their success in a classroom setting, which calls for collaboration with school districts and communities. Finally, I am an active parent in my children’s school and provide support in a variety of ways. 

► 3. As the daughter of a military service member, I moved extensively and had to quickly adapt to new environments and people. As the daughter of a teacher, I learned about curriculum, childhood development, and perseverance. Professionally, as an optometrist, I have spent my career serving blind and low vision individuals. My role as an invested parent, my desire to serve, my ability to collaborate and work well with others, and my perseverance all bring strength to my candidacy position. 

► 4. For the past three years, the Texas Education Agency has rated GISD’s Special Education Determination Status as “Needs Intervention.” I believe that this is a concern to many in our community. Our district would benefit from the development of an objective task force to determine the effectiveness of our special education programs. Additionally, I believe that GISD would benefit from a systemic, effective approach to addressing disruptive behavior. Finally, I support the creation of a centralized Early Childhood Center for district supported Pre-Kindergarten students and would like to explore the option of a tuition-based PreK that can be offered to those students who do not meet eligibility requirements. 

Andy Webb  (I) • GISD Trustee Place 5

► 1. I was very fortunate to have the chance to be engaged at a campus level for many years with both of my kids. I was also able to coach youth baseball for many years, giving me the chance to work with kids and parents from all over Georgetown and learn how to lead and manage a team effectively (albeit 4-11 year olds).  During this time, I had opportunities to be involved with District-level initiatives and learn more about how a committee works in GISD. These experiences gave me the background and base with which to run a campaign, and the principles I learned on the fields in San Gabriel Park influence me in every single day of my volunteer and professional life.

► 2. Parent of two GISD students • GISD Board of Trustees (2013-present) • GISD Education Foundation (2015-present) • City of Georgetown Planning & Zoning Commission (2014-18) • City of Georgetown Williams Drive Planning Cte (2017) • Williamson County A&M Club and Foundation (2000-present) • Zion Lutheran Church Council VP & President (4 years) • Round Rock Chamber of Commerce Board (4 years) • Chairman of Leadership Round Rock Planning Committee (9 years)

► 3. I am incredibly proud of the Georgetown Community and have been blessed with many opportunities over the years to be involved with the leadership of GISD, as well as serve in other capacities here.  Like many others, I was not raised here but moved here—intentionally—for the betterment of my family and a chance to build my business. Over the past several years, it has been a privilege to see Georgetown flourish. I feel a true responsibility to be a steward of the special community of excellence I was able to move to and to do whatever I can to make it better for the children we serve in our district. My strengths in building positive relationships, connecting leaders in the community and making sure we are all doing the right kind of work makes me very proud. There are countless opportunities here and it has been a privilege to see the positive impact of this special place on those around me.

► 4. To continue our proactive approach and preparations for growth. I want to do this while creating a learning organization that serves our community and prepares the leaders of tomorrow—our students and employees. To provide this leadership in a culture and environment that is safe, nurturing and challenges everyone on our campuses and in our administration to achieve what they might not have previously thought possible.

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