San Marcos is one of the fastest-growing cities of its size in the country, and leaders are looking to balance growth with protection of the existing neighborhoods and the environment. The five candidates vying for two City Council seats in the Nov. 5 election all have ideas on how to do that.
Lisa Prewitt has run a landscaping business for 17 years in San Marcos. She got involved in city politics when she became concerned about multi-family developments near the river and served as vice chair of the citizens advisory committee for the city’s recently completed master plan.
A top priority for Prewitt is economic development, but not at the expense of environmentally sensitive areas or neighborhood integrity, she said.
“We need more industry and more commerce,” Prewitt said. “When looking at industry we need to look at companies that bring in jobs for the people that live here and for our Texas State students. Those companies need to hire our locals.”
She pointed to CFAN Co., an aeronautics manufacturer, as the type of company she’d like to attract more of to San Marcos because of high-paying jobs that could attract Texas State students to stick around after graduation.
Bill Taylor is an insurance counselor who has served on more than half the boards and commissions in the city. He now chairs the Planning and Zoning Commission. He also served on the City Council from 2002 to 2005, when he was defeated by Chris Jones.
He wants to help attract businesses that hire locally and pay well.
“If we never attract another company that flips burgers and doesn’t pay a living wage, that’s fine with me,” he said.
Taylor would like to see non-environmentally sensitive areas set up with streamlined zoning and made shovel-ready to lure businesses in the manufacturing and industrial fields.
He’s also interested in teaming up with Texas State mass transit to improve bus routes around San Marcos. “The city has to be willing to spend the money,” he said.
Jude Prather, an Army veteran who served a combat tour in Iraq, won his seat on the council three years ago on a “back to basics” campaign to improve roads, sidewalks, utilities and green space. He said he’s seeking a second term to see those projects through.
He also wants to bring high-paying jobs to San Marcos in the manufacturing, technology and distribution industries with the goal of raising the per capita income in the city. “We need to continue to have strong finances as a goal while investing in the future,” he said.
Those investments should include infrastructure and traffic improvements while balancing the need to protect the river, the environment and neighborhood integrity, he said.
Mason Murphy, a career counselor at Texas State University, said job creation is his top priority.
“The approach that we need to look at first is to understand that we’re in a global economy. We’re not only competing against other cities, we’re competing against India, China and other countries,” he said, noting that some cities send overseas delegations to attract businesses.
He said he’d like to see the city work with churches and nonprofit groups to create mentoring programs for low-income and struggling students.
Murphy previously served on the city’s comprehensive master plan committee.
Thom Prentice, who used to teach journalism and education at Texas State University, is concerned about poverty, noting that 38 percent of people in the city are living below the poverty line. At the same time, he doesn’t want development along the river, creeks or streams.
“In this city, we have a policy of fees for trees: Cut down a tree, pay a fee,” he said. “I think that we need more trees.”
Prentice has been outspoken on his views: He was arrested in May on a charge of disrupting a public meeting after police led him away from a confrontation at a San Marcos Planning and Zoning Commission meeting. He pleaded not guilty to the charge, which is pending.
“I’m a pro-democracy advocate and I raised a citizen’s point of order at the planning and zoning meeting where they were going to vote on an item and then let the public comment on it,” he explained.
Prentice, who made an unsuccessful bid for mayor last year, supports requiring new developments to include some green energy resources, such as solar panels or wind turbines. He’d like to see more green spaces in the city.
City Council members serve three-year terms and are paid $950 a month.
Occupation: Owns a landscaping business
“We have plenty of land that is not environmentally sensitive and that’s where we need to develop. I think development is great, but it has to be high-quality and in the right place.”
Occupation: Insurance counselor
“I want to balance the needs of business and economic development with the environment. … I’m not scared to make unpopular decisions if I feel like it’s the best thing for San Marcos.”
Occupation: Veteran’s services officer for Hays County, City Council member
“We’re one of the fastest-growing cities in America and we’re improving roads, sidewalks, green space, utilities and enhancing parks and green space. I’m running for re-election so that I can finish those things.”
Occupation: Career counselor at Texas State University
“We need to recruit companies that have sustained themselves over time. We need to also recruit companies that are in emerging technology fields.”
Occupation: Former college professor
“I think every development decision is a part of the global warming decision.”