I have always been a numbers guy. They tell a story - not the whole story, but a story nonetheless. For the past year, my pet project has been to string together six budgets from the City of Richardson. I included the funds and departments that I thought were most interesting.
This was all done manually copying data over from PDF files, so please excuse any occasional error or formatting mismatch. As I went further back, I stopped including the estimated amounts and only included the actual amounts spent/received and the budgeted amounts spent/received.
Anyway, for those of you who happen to stumble upon this little corner of my campaign webpage, I hope you enjoy looking at this spreadsheet as much as I enjoyed creating it.
My grandma, Joan Crooks, has been one of my greatest influences in life. She taught me the value of service over self, and giving back for the rights reasons - not because you have anything to gain from it, but because your community needs you. Even at 95 years young, she spends every election registering voters at her retirement community. She is witty, sharp, and doesn't miss a day of church if she can help it. Her experience setting up a food pantry in Jeffersonville, the Center for Lay Ministries, is the main reason that volunteering for the Network of Community Ministries is so significant to me. I asked her to say a few words about service for my campaign blog:
Why is it important to be civically involved in the city or immediate community where you live?
I think in the long run, to involve yourself is enriching for your community and for yourself. You meet new people, have an opportunity to share new ideas, and it’s good for your mental health to be active. I believe in the golden rule, and that we should do unto others as we would want for ourselves. I think our Creator expects us to help our follow man. Also, I believe that volunteering and involving yourself in your community gives you a sense of purpose beyond your significant other, and can make life more meaningful in times of adversity.
You’ve been involved in making a lot of positive changes happen where you live, whether in Jeffersonville or Edmond – what motivates you, and what makes you successful at pushing for change?
I’m motivated to enrich the community and help other people. You have to be on fire about your cause. You have to believe in it, whether it’s helping an agency, candidate, board of directors, or being a volunteer somewhere. You have to put your heart into it and have a true passion for it. I did what I could do when I had the energy do it. My suggestion to future servants would be to do what you can while you’re able to.
What makes a healthy, strong community?
A group of people who believe in the same thing and are working together for a greater cause. People who are selfless and care about the wellbeing of others and the community more than their own wellbeing.
Tell us about a time when you made a positive change in your community.
My husband and I started a Youth Shelter for delinquent children that had to be removed from their homes. They could be tutored and had a safe place to live. Also, I was chairman of the board of the Center for Lay Ministries. We united 7 inner city churches of different denominations to have a central food pantry instead of each church having their own pantry. Many people were fed through this effort. In addition, this resulted in personal connections that extended beyond just food, as individuals received financial guidance and emotional support.
Why did you decide to run for Richardson City Council?
JC: I want to give back to the city that gave me so much growing up. The values I learned from my Boy Scout troop leaders, my teachers and my neighbors were a positive force on me. It is the kind of experience you only get growing up in a community like Richardson. I am at a point in my life and career where I can dedicate the immense amount of time this role requires, and I have the experience and passion to be a productive addition the team that is City Council. I am ready to serve.
How has your experience—personal or professional—prepared you for this role?
JC: The greatest qualification for City Council is a desire to serve other people. If you don’t wake up every day with a passion to volunteer, you have no business being in this position. I have plenty of volunteer experience both in major decision-making roles and on the ground at established organizations like the United Way and the Network of Community Ministries. Whether it has been through organized activities at church or spontaneous tasks, like patching a neighbor’s wall, I have always felt most purposeful when helping someone besides myself.
Aside from my drive to serve, I hold two master’s degrees in business and have six years working in corporate compliance. I especially think my experience at a fast-growing startup company that went public will allow me to bring a unique and helpful perspective to council as Richardson works to develop the Innovation Quarter. On the flip side, I currently audit processes for a Fortune 500 company. If you’ve tuned into City Council work-sessions, you’ll notice that the ability to dig deep and ask good questions is a critical skill for any city councilman.
What are some of the biggest issues facing Richardson today, and how do you plan to address them if elected?
JC: Infrastructure is the name of the game. In preparation for this campaign, I’ve watched every City Council meeting and work session for the past year and a half, every budget workshop for the past three years, and read hundreds of pages of zoning documents. The one major takeaway is that we must look at different ways get ahead of aging infrastructure. We set aside tax revenue and issue debt to repair streets already in poor condition. I’d like to take a triage approach as well and give city staff the flexibility to make fast and lasting repairs to potholes as they spring up. That way, we prevent our streets currently in good condition from deteriorating and will, over time, come out ahead.
Another issue is that COVID-19 has caused serious hardship for our local businesses. I am absolutely committed to trying out innovative ways to promote our small businesses to the wider Dallas-Fort Worth population, such as designated nights for different regions of town and specialized branding. I’d also like to ensure that the city has a small business emergency relief plan in place should something like COVID-19 ever happen again.
With the financial challenges imposed by COVID-19 and Senate Bill 2 in mind, what would be your approach to building the city’s budget?
JC: We need to return our focus to the basics for the 2021-2022 budget. That means prioritizing public safety, infrastructure and parks. We also need to pay close attention to what we call “operations and maintenance” costs when approving new programs and ramping old ones back up. With a new bond package set to be put to voters later this year, it is imperative we don’t strain our future budgets with new programs that have a large overhead.
Eventually, I would like to structure our budgets so that we move away from issuing short-term debt to pay for certain recurring costs. COVID-19 and SB2 have made that vision more difficult to achieve, but I still think reducing our reliance on debt for things like major equipment purchases is a worthwhile long-term goal.
What else should voters know about you?
JC: I’ve set a relentless pace for myself knocking on doors, meeting people and studying the decisions past councils have made because I want to be able hit the ground running when I am elected. I don’t plan on stopping once I’m elected. We’re going to take this energy and apply it to solving the issues that matter. I encourage voters to please call, email or text me with any questions or top concerns they have—I welcome the opportunity to earn their votes and trust.