In part one of our story on exploring the culture of McKinney, McKinney native and TSB staff writer, Michele Bernard, discussed the changes in McKinney’s culture she has witnessed over the years, most for the better and some that are simply different. What does she miss the most? Read part one!
To further explore the culture of McKinney, I next investigated McKinney’s leadership, meaning those who are in a position to drive the decision making that affects the direction and future of our city – namely, the City Council of McKinney. The culture of our city is bound to be shaped by their influence. They communicate, directly, or indirectly, their goals, values and beliefs on a daily basis as they conduct the business of the city.
I think this is a good time to explain that my intention in writing this series was not to label the culture of McKinney as “right or wrong,” but simply to try to identify it and to understand it. I believe that culture is fluid – ever changing to some degree – and after 20 years in McKinney, I wanted to know who we are as a city today, beyond being selected by “Money Magazine” as the fifth best place to live in the United States in 2010.
If we can define culture as a pattern of shared beliefs and values that give members of a group meaning and provide them with rules for behavior within their organization, the culture of McKinney’s City Council members should demonstrate their beliefs and values through their behaviors and works. In other words, their accomplishments. Culture permeates an organization from the top down.
So, does our City Council have shared beliefs and values? What are those beliefs and values? Are their actions, and words, evidence of those beliefs and values?
With this in mind, I asked the City Council, and the Mayor, to weigh in on three questions:
1. What do you think the culture of our city leadership is – how do you define it?
2. Do you feel that the culture of the current City Council is different than in years past? If so, how?
3. How do you think the current culture of council will direct where we want to go as a city?
While not all council members were available to comment due to schedules, here are the responses I received:
Mayor Brian Loughmiller:
1. I think the culture of our city leadership is a combination of a corporate culture with emphasis on efficiency and fiscal responsibility, coupled with a sense of responsibility for protecting quality of life and place in McKinney.
2. As far as comparing this council to prior councils, I don’t make those comparisons as I believe we have had many serve our community for the betterment of our community at the times they served. However, our community has changed, our challenges are different with today’s economy, and with our growth, and our city staff and processes have changed.
3. I believe that by making decisions in a business environment, looking at things like the return on investment for the city, focusing on policies that encourage quality commercial development, and not basing decisions on political expediency, that while short term success may be hard to identify, long term success for the city is more likely.
Geralyn Kever (District 2)
1. The culture of leadership in our city is in transition. From the City Council (with the exception of the Mayor, no current city council member has served over 3.5 years) to the City Manager, to the MISD Superintendent, to the President of the McKinney Chamber, to the presidents of our EDC and CDC and several key city staff appointments – we have a multitude of new leaders across our city. We are in the process of redefining our city leadership culture.
2. Council consensus drives actions vs. individuals. The City Manager executes the consensus direction of Council vs. individuals. Professionalism and strong competencies in the City Manager’s office, and across city staff leadership, means we more effectively and efficiently negotiate opportunities and deliver services for the good of our community.
3. People are tired of political mantras and are looking for leaders who openly debate the issues and offer solid answers and long term direction. Roughly 2/3 of our city is undeveloped. What can we/should we do as a city to lay the groundwork for the future? This question is timely today. The answer will influence the future direction of our city.
Roger Harris (At Large):
1. The culture is such that the leadership of the city is working diligently together to represent the citizens of McKinney and effectively move the city forward to be the best performing, financially sound, and highest sought locations in our area, if not the country. While running for the office I found our citizens very concerned about the lack of development, the loss of businesses, and a poor development environment. I have been very happy to find our Mayor, council, and city management very aware and concerned over the same issues. Steps are being taken in a very effective manner to counter these situations.
2. Councils of the last couple decades have dealt with a rapidly growing city in a rapidly growing county. The national economy was one of, if not the strongest in the world. Today our Council is dealing with the worst economy since the great depression. Shrinking revenues and fiscal constraints are requiring financial actions which are unprecedented. Despite the environment, McKinney leadership is adapting and producing balanced budgets and aggressively pursuing a tactical plan and actions necessary to come out of this economic environment with the city being financially strong and growing, with quality development to insure a strong tax-base foundation for the future.
3 The future direction of the city will be determined by the citizens. The culture on the council is such that listening to the people is top priority. During the campaign I heard loud and clear that our citizens want a common sense approach to development, business retention, financial planning and tax-base creation. That has been my goal and objective.
Travis Ussery (Dist. 3)
1. The current culture of city leadership is attentive to fiscal responsibility, as well as maintaining core services for the city. Our focus on economic development will provide resources to offer broader services with little incremental cost to residents.
2. With a fifty year prospective I don’t believe the current council is, generally, much different than those of the past. Reiterating from #1, our focus is providing the best services possible at the least cost possible to residents. Achieving a broadened commercial tax base should insure a good quality of life is provided with diverse opportunities for all citizens.
3. I feel we, as a council, have begun laying a good foundation for the future of McKinney. We have created two TIRZ that designate future increased tax revenues for uses in designated areas of McKinney. We have created an international presence through our Economic Development Corporation that we believe will yield positive results. We have worked to create corridors to provide for immediate commercial/office use. I believe when financial markets stabilize, and the overall private sector environment improves, McKinney will be positioned to be a great city in which to work and live.
Consistent threads run through the answers of our city leaders; those of fiscal responsibility, making decisions that are in the best interest of our city now, and for the future, maintaining a good quality of life and the promotion of economic development in order to relieve the tax burden on our residents.
Evidence of the culture of our city’s leadership is apparent in values such as those above that are supported through the goals, strategies and philosophies that come into play as they discuss city business during council meetings and work sessions. Among others, some of the goals that are posted in the Council Chambers are
- to promote economic development
- provide a balanced budget
- work for a vibrant downtown area
I often hear discussion during council meetings that centers around “we (council) must be fiscally responsible, I can’t vote for spending that much money on…(whatever is in question), or what is in the best interest of the city in this decision?”
From where I sit, McKinney’s City Council “walks the talk.” They have a set of shared values and beliefs and they champion those values – particularly those of preserving a great quality of life for the residents of our city, as well as making decisions that are in the best interest of the residents as a whole, and of being fiscally responsible.
Current council leadership also espouses their goal of promoting economic development. Despite the economic woes of recent years, they have presented us with a balanced budget for 2012, established TIF zones for sections of McKinney, and, they sealed the deal to have Emerson Process Management to move the world headquarters of its Regulator Technologies business to the Gateway development site in an effort to spur economic development.
Council has made some tough decisions over the past three years as they replaced the former City Manager, Frank Regan, and brought in Jason Gray in an effort to assist our city leaders with reaching their goals. Likewise, the former President of McKinney Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), David Pitstick, left his job in May of 2011. Jim Young is currently serving as President of MEDC after serving as Director of Business Development for more than six years. Economic development is a priority and one that obviously is always in the forefront of council discussion. The current culture of our city leadership seems to embrace change, seizing opportunities for expansion and growth and managing it, rather than the preservationist attitude of the council of the ’90’s.
The cultural values that our City Council promotes as a group will continue to shape the future of our city and this is an important piece of defining who we are as a city.