Meet the Candidates: City Council District 2

It’s once again time for the Denton City Council Elections. Early voting will be from April 22-30 and May 4 will be election day. Locations for voting can be found here, and if you are unsure which district you need to vote in, that can be found here. Additional information about the Denton City Council Elections can be found here. You can check out The Dentonite’s guide to the 2019 City Council Elections for a thorough breakdown of information needed, such as polling dates, times, and locations.

The Dentonite will be hosting a candidate forum on April 20 at Dan’s Silverleaf at 2:30 pm. The forum will be moderated by Dewey Marshall and Deana Ayers. All candidates have confirmed that they will be there, with the exception of Gerard Hudspeth (District 1), Keely Briggs (District 2) and John Ryan (District 4). If you have any questions you would like asked at the forum, you can submit them through this google form.

The Dentonite has sent a general questionnaire to all the filed candidates in each district. The answers to these questions have been compiled together and will be made into separate posts, with District 1, District 2, and District 3 and District 4.

Keely Briggs was elected to the Denton City Council in 2015 and is running unopposed. The responses to the questions we sent out to her are as follows.

Keely Briggs

Photo courtesy of Keely Briggs.

Photo courtesy of Keely Briggs.

What boards or organizations are you involved with in the Denton community? Based on your involvement in the community and on these boards or organizations, what skills do you believe you will bring to the city council, or continue to bring?

“There are several boards and committees that I serve on as part of my role as a city council member within Denton or representing our community both regionally and nationally.  The opportunity to participate on these boards and committees has strengthened my capabilities as a leader, enhanced my ability to effectively collaborate toward solutions, and deepened my understanding of important topics that impact Denton.  The experiences continue to make me a better representative and servant of my district and the city at large. These positions include, but are not limited to: Denton County Homelessness Leadership Team; National League of Cities Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Federal Advocacy Committee; Denton Economic Development Partnership Board; National League of Cities Council on Youth, Education, and Families; Dallas Regional Mobility Committee; Lake Ray Roberts Planning and Zoning Commission; City of Denton Committee on Citizen Engagement; City of Denton Committee on the Environment; City of Denton Mobility Committee; City of Denton Development Code Review Committee; Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 2 Board; and I stay active in elementary, middle-school, and high-school PTA and PTSAs.”

What is the biggest issue(s) facing your district that you want voters to know means a lot to your campaign? What changes would you like to institute to address these issues?

“Public Safety and Infrastructure are two of the biggest things facing District 2, and frankly anyone in Denton.  We have been upgrading and adding equipment, facilities, staff, and stations to our Fire and EMS in order to keep up with a growing population with diverse needs, and to put our firefighters and EMS personnel in the best position to safely do their job.  Our police force is under the new leadership of Chief Frank Dixon. I am proud of the selection that City Manager Todd Hileman made in hiring Chief Dixon and I continue to be impressed with our police department as they evolve with our growing city. Just as we are doing with Fire and EMS, we are going to have to keep our police department funded for growth and ensure that they have the right tools and people to be effective in their community policing approach.  We are faced with two challenges when it comes to infrastructure — we have to simultaneously prepare for the future while making up for the past. Whether its electric lines, sewage, water, waste management, sidewalks, bike lanes, or roads…, we have a lot ahead of us and a lot of building and maintenance that was deferred and neglected in years past. If the entire city feels like it is under construction, well, it pretty much is. From my perspective, I see that the right things are now being done the right way under the leadership and direction that we have put into place across the city.  Aside from public safety and infrastructure, the thing that keeps me up at night is affordable housing. This is not an issue unique to Denton. This is a national issue, but we are going to have to do everything we can to tackle it at the local level. Over the next two years, I want to see a focused effort at coordination and collaboration of the agencies, businesses, and key stakeholders in our community to tackle this issue across the community.”

What are three achievable goals that you would champion in the next two years if you won?

  1. More efficient and safer mobility — walking, biking, driving.

  2. Evolving our economic development policy and focus to actively engage in expanding the capacity of our healthcare provider landscape; and to recruit, retain, and support emerging businesses which capitalize on the research and workforce that our universities develop (the types of jobs that keep the best and brightest here after they graduate).

  3. A broader coordinated effort to tackle affordable housing issues.

  4. Making homelessness for individuals and families in Denton rare, less reoccurring, and shorter in duration.

What are the most important policies Denton needs to implement to ensure that it reaches and maintains sustainability?

We just passed a big one in the Landscape and Tree Preservation Ordinance that is part of our overall update to the Denton Development Code.  Our expiring Tree Ordinance lacked clarity and effectiveness. It has needed revision and updating for over a dozen years, we just lacked the political willpower to take it on.  I am proud of the council, staff, members of the Committee on the Environment, and, most importantly, the stakeholders within the community who recognized the environmental, economic, and aesthetic value of trees and realized that we needed a better ordinance in order to effectively mitigate tree canopy loss.  Going forward, and I sense that we are increasingly doing this as a council body, we need to approach all of our decision-making with sustainability as a key perspective. Many of our policies and decisions have a sustainability component. I really think that we are beginning to recognize this and that we are seeing the environment as infrastructure, the foundation that we share with all future generations.  We are seeing environmental sustainability as strength, not a burden, in our community.
How do you feel about the transportation options currently available in our city? Do we have enough options? If not, what will you do to increase those?

I think all the ingredients are here, we just have to continue to focus on improving and integrating.  We need roads to be safer for pedestrians and cyclists and we need roads and traffic patterns to be more efficient for automobiles — these are infrastructure issues.  We need continue to improve our partnership and coordination with DCTA (this is a separate agency and not a city department). When it comes to shared personal mobility (bikes and electric scooters), I am not against them but I am cautious.  I want to make sure we have a better infrastructure underlying their use (safe and repaired roads and more bike lanes/protected bike lanes) and I want to make sure we understand and learn form results of pilot programs in other cities (large and small) across the country before we make policy.

Is the city spending money in the right places? What would you change, if anything?

The development of the past two budgets has been refreshing.  The conversations we have with our city manager and staff to set priorities and to understand financial needs to address those priorities has been much more transparent and collaborative than the first two years of budgeting I was a part of.  I feel like, as a body, we now have a budgeting process that helps us reach a consensus on adopting budgets which reflect our collective priorities and to do so in a way that respects our taxpayers and puts our staff in a position to deliver quality service.  

How do you plan to involve residents in the decision making process in our town?

Citizen engagement and personal responsiveness have been my hallmarks as a city council member.   I have worked hard from day one on city council to meet the people of District 2 where they are and help them understand what is going on and to have a conversation about it.  For some, that comes in the form of face-to-face meetings and phone calls. For others it is via email. Others engage across multiple social media platforms — and I am there. Many people have stayed informed by subscribing to my email newsletter “Engage D2,” following my blog, attending my “D2 Conversations” at the North Branch Library, or joining me for a mid-week Walk and Talk. All of this is key to a communication strategy for me that facilitates informed input from a diverse cross-section of the people and stakeholders of the district that I have been elected to represent. That citizen and stakeholder input is a critical part of the decision-making process for me. I plan to keep doing it.

What sets you apart from the other candidates across all districts? What is it about you that you believe the council is lacking that you will bring to the table?

As I am already on council and running unopposed, I would prefer to leave this question unanswered.

Time is always a big concern for city council candidates. What would you say to those who are concerned that you wear too many hats and won’t be able to fully dedicate the attention needed to represent your district?

As I am already on council and have served two terms, I believe that I have shown this to not be a concern or issue.  I put in an average of 50 hours a week serving on council.

What is something that we haven’t covered that you want voters to know about you, your mission, and why you are running for city council?

I feel fortunate to be at a point in my life that I can serve as a council member for D2 and in our great city.  I feel even more fortunate to have been give the opportunity now for a third and final term representing D2 on our city council.  Denton is home for all of us. The challenges and opportunities that our community faces are not unique. But our community’s capacity to take on these challenges and realize our opportunities is unique.  I believe that. And I believe that it is important to remember that how we choose to act and what we choose to prioritize not only influences the quality of our home right now, but influences the families, individuals, and businesses that will call Denton their home in the generations ahead.  Serving on city council is a massive responsibility and is not to be taken lightly. Effective council people learn very quickly that ideologies get checked at the door when it comes to running a city. Denton is our home and it has to work for all of us.

Other Information

More information about Briggs’ candidacy can be found here.

Remember that election day is on May 4 and early voting will be from April 22-30. More information on polling locations, times, and district lookups can be found here. Don’t forget to join us April 20 at Dan’s Silverleaf for The Dentonite’s candidate forum at 2:30 pm.

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Header image courtesy of Element5 Digital on Unsplash.

Header design by Kylie Phillips.