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Wednesday, December 18, 2002 by

Until yesterday, Mayor Gus Garcia was acting like a man determined to run for the mayoral post once more. Garcia said last week that he would announce his intentions today. That still stands, but the way in which the event is happening raises questions. According to Paul Saldaña, the Mayor’s chief aide, his boss will meet with members of his office staff at 8:30am to tell them about his decision. After that, Saldaña will work with the Mayor to craft a press release for issue at 10am and the Mayor will be available to answer reporters’ questions between about 10:30 and 11am. This does not look like a re-election announcement.

If Garcia declines to run, the Council Member who most aspires to the job— Will Wynn—and the best-known private citizen who has voiced an interest— Robin Rather—would be looking at how best to mobilize their forces. Rather could probably count on wide support among environmentalists. But Wynn has his share of support in the environmental community also. Many members of the downtown community would support Wynn, and many other members of the business community would be torn between the two.

Wynn did not return phone calls, but his executive assistant, Josh Allen, said, “I don’t think he’s made a decision.” But he added, “I think he’s really strongly considering it.”

Rather, who counts Wynn among her friends, said she had received many phone calls Tuesday from friends asking whether she would make the race. She said, as she did the last time the issue arose, that she would not run against Garcia. As for a race against Wynn, she said, “I supported Will when he ran and I want to be the kind of person who puts friendship before politics—and I’m not sure that’s possible.” Rather said if Garcia does not run, “That’s going to be a little bit of a seismic shock to the community, and I think it’s very important that the community stay as united as it can.”

Rather said she recently had lunch with the Mayor. They spent most of it talking about the local economy. “It’s going to be a pretty dark time and a lot of people that have been giving me advice have said a smart person would lay out and pick their timing when there’s a little bit more daylight at the end of the tunnel than there happens to be right now.” Austin will be facing a lot of “demons,” and whoever is Mayor will not be able to shine because of the difficulty of the road ahead, Rather said.

She concluded, “I’m not certain of a whole lot of things tonight, but I’m sure that a local version of the statewide races we just had is not appropriate or intelligent right now and I don’t want to have any part of that.”

Council Members Daryl Slusher and Jackie Goodman each considered running for the position when Watson resigned and both declined to run against Garcia. Since then, both have been through bruising battles gathering signatures and fighting lawsuits relating to their candidacy as two-term incumbents. Slusher said the surmise that he would not want to mount a campaign two years running was “absolutely correct. I don’t want to run two years in a row. I’m happy with where I am and think I can get a lot done. I was just thinking this morning how happy I am to not have to spend the holidays getting ready for an election campaign,” he concluded. Goodman could not be reached for comment, but her sentiments are likely to be similar to Slusher’s.

Tesch, Mills have years of civic involvement

The outgoing city manager of Round Rock has been tapped by Williamson County Commissioners to serve as one of their three representatives on the board of the Regional Mobility Authority. Bob Bennett will retire from the city in January after 26 years of public service. He will be joined on the RMA board by real estate developers Bob Tesch of Cedar Park and Jim Mills of Georgetown.

Commissioners received 17 applications, narrowing the list down to a field of six finalists before conducting interviews for the three positions. “We had a very good group of people apply,” said Williamson County Pct. 4 Commissioner, Frankie Limmer. “We could almost have sat down and put all the names in a hat and pulled three out.”

Bennett, nicknamed “Mr. Round Rock,” is the best known of the three outside Williamson County, having served as city manager between 1979 and 1985, then returning to that position in 1987 and serving until the present. He received the Round Rock Chamber of Commerce’s first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award this year along with former Assistant City Manager Joanne Land . He announced last year that he planned to retire, but then agreed to stay on to help guide the city through its budget cycle following the events of September 11. Prior to his work as city manager, he was Round Rock’s Director of Planning and Community Development and worked as a land use and environmental planner in Houston.

Georgetown representative Jim Mills is the president of the Rivercrest Group, Inc., former president of the Brushy Creek WCID and a past director of the Brazos River Authority. He has a BS in landscape architecture and city planning and was named Business Person of the Year by the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce in 2000. The Rivercrest Group is working on single-family developments in Austin and Pflugerville and multi-use projects in Round Rock and Georgetown.

Bob Tesch of Cedar Park is the head of Tesch and Associates, a real estate and development company. He has been active in economic development efforts in Cedar Park, and served as a board member of the Cedar Park Chamber of Commerce. He is also the owner and operator of an assisted-living facility in the Dallas suburb of Plano.

Limmer said securing representation from the county’s three largest cities was important. “Our first project will likely be US 183-A in Cedar Park, so it’s very important that we have a geographic spread of the members of the board,” he said. “I think we’ve accomplished that.” And while he said that experience with transportation issues was an important factor in the selection process, commissioners were also concerned with the board members’ financial experience. “We wanted them to have a good knowledge of transportation, but we also wanted them to have some knowledge of funding . . . especially in the field of bonds. Bob Bennett has extensive experience with that . . . so do Jim Mills and Bob Tesch,” Limmer said.

Travis County Commissioners made their three selections to the seven-member board of the RMA last week. (See In Fact Daily, Dec. 11, 2002 .) Governor Rick Perry is expected to select the chair of the group late this month or in early January.

Commissioners set elections To incorporate Webberville, Volente

Webberville residents learn from fight with TXI

The call for an election at yesterday’s Commissioners Court meeting to incorporate Webberville was far more peaceful than last week’s tangle over Volente.

Still, the Village of Webberville was born out of controversy when residents opposed a plan by Texas Industries (TXI) to bring a rock crusher to the area in 1999. As local resident Hector Gonzales told the court, the community is already “bookended” on both sides of town by the sand and gravel industry. A move to bring even more industry to the area brought the citizens together to create the Webberville Neighborhood Association and later to consider incorporation as a village.

“On our move toward incorporation, several other factors emerged,” Gonzales said. “This will now allow us to have a voice, enabling us to preserve the quality of life.”

Webberville was settled in 1827, “before Austin was Austin and before Texas was Texas,” Gonzales told the court. In the intervening years, many “undesirable elements” have been pushed out toward the southeast end of the county. The Webberville area now sits between the extra-territorial jurisdictions of Austin and Bastrop.

“It seems like every time we turn around, something undesirable is coming out in our direction,” fellow resident Ken Moon told commissioners. “If the people on the west side of town don’t want something, it seems like they just say go ahead and put it over on our side of town. We would like to have some say in what goes on out there.”

Webberville is faced with a number of issues, Moon said. Not only is TXI committed to sand and gravel operations in the area, but the City of Austin is considering the creation of a municipal landfill on several thousand acres of property the city owns just outside of town. Nearby residents also have concerns about how sand and gravel operations have contaminated water in nearby Garfield. Most people in Webberville are on shallow water wells, Moon told the court.

More than 50 residents in the Webberville area signed a petition for incorporation, far more than the 10 percent of residents needed under state law. As a Type C General-Law municipality, the Village of Webberville must be smaller than 2 square miles. The population of a Type C municipality requires a population between 201 and 4,999. A commission form of government applies to all Type C General-Law municipalities.

County Judge Sam Biscoe warned residents they would carry the burden of road maintenance once the village is incorporated. He added that it would also be Webberville’s burden to pay or provide the right-of-way for state roadway projects.

Biscoe called for incorporation elections for both Webberville and Volente at yesterday’s meeting. The call for the Volente election came after a lengthy executive session of the Commissioners Court. Both elections—one for a Type B General-Law Municipality and the other for a Type C General-Law Municipality—are set for Feb. 1.

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

Swan song . . . Commissioner Diana Castañeda told fellow members of the Zoning and Platting Commission last night that her 18 months of service with them had been, “It’s been interesting, it’s been exciting, it’s been boring, it’s been frustrating.” She told Chair Betty Baker she knew that “I’ve been a bit of an albatross . . . I’ve been a bit of a stir to the pot . . . I think that’s important because this is a public process.” Casteñada said she had learned a lot from her service and promised to appear before the commission as a citizen. She has said she is resigning for health reasons. Council Member Raul Alvarez has already appointed John-Michael Cortez to take Casteñada’s place. The Commission had nine members present for the first time in several months for its short meeting last night . . . Commission rejects request for zoning change . . . The Zoning and Platting Commission last night voted 5-4 against recommending a change from DR (development reserve) to single-family-3 CO for property at 10318 Old Manchaca Road. Baker said she did not like the precedent that such zoning would set in the mostly rural area. Joining her in the negative vote were Commissioners Melissa Whaley, Joseph Martinez, Clarke Hammond and John Donisi . . . Medway plat approved . . . Travis County commissioners approved an initial plat for Medway Ranch at yesterday’s Commissioners Court meeting; however, Commissioner Karen Sonleitner made it clear the county has made purchasing the property for preserve land a top priority . . . HLC needs more commissioners . . . Liz Goins and Lauretta Dowd have announced their resignations from the Historic Landmark Commission. Dowd, chair of the panel, has served since 1994. Goins was first appointed in December 2000 . . . Good-bye Scott Davis . . . County commissioners honored Justice of the Peace Scott Davis for his 14 years of service to the county. Commissioner Karen Sonleitner praised Davis for his creativity in handling truants. Davis is leaving office to explore other career options . . . Voinis joins Public Strategies . . . Another high-profile figure in the Texas political scene is joining the public affairs firm Public Strategies, Inc. Nick Voinis worked on the campaign of David Dewhurst, the Texas Land Commissioner who defeated Democrat John Sharp to win the Lieutenant Governor’s race. He was previously communications director for Lt. Governor Bill Ratliff, State Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander and US Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison.

©

2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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