Kris Whitfield, the longest-serving woman on the Round Rock City Council and a champion for local business, students and the arts, announced Thursday she will resign effective Oct. 6.
Whitfield said she and her husband, the Rev. Eric Whitfield, will be moving to the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest in Wyoming, where they have a second home. The family has owned a large cabin there since 1999, she said, and often spend vacations there enjoying the Rockies.
While fellow City Council members remarked on her unwavering composure over the years on the dais, Whitfield’s voice cracked with emotion as she announced her resignation Thursday night during a regular council meeting.
“I thought I had it together until I said it,” she said after the meeting. “I’ve been going through a roller coaster of emotions as I’ve been telling people.”
Since Whitfield’s term on the council ends in May 2019, the council will likely hold a special election in early December, officials said, and is expected to hold a special meeting to formally open the seat for election.
A Round Rock resident since the early 1990s, Whitfield has made a substantial mark on the community, serving in numerous leadership roles and creating organizations to better the lives of students, artists and business owners.
Whitfield is a founding member and current president of the nonprofit Play4All Foundation, which pursues funding for the city’s Play for All Abilities Park for children of all abilities. As founder of the Round Rock school district’s Partners in Education Foundation, she worked with others to assist in bringing further resources to local students.
Whitfield said the civic groups were a means to fill a gap in the community.
“You just figure out what’s missing in the community, and everybody steps in and we do it,” she said. “That’s what’s so great about living in Round Rock.”
George White, a former Round Rock council member, worked as campaign treasurer during Whitfield’s first campaign for the City Council in 2007. He said she has especially championed the local arts, helping create Round Rock Arts, an arts and cultural nonprofit, in 2009.
White also noted Whitfield’s role in creating the Chalk Walk festival, which garners crowds of more than 30,000 people to downtown Round Rock every October.
White called Whitfield a “great force of nature.”
“She is not one of those people to get lost in the crowd,” he said. “She is going to be in the front row if she sees a need in the community.”
Former Round Rock Mayor Alan McGraw said Whitfield was a relentless advocate for the Play for All Abilities Park and stood out as a strong example of her community service.
“She is the person that will work on everything and anything and give it her all, and is not looking for personal recognition,” he said. “She truly has a heart of service.”
Whitfield also pursued helping local business, serving as chairwoman of the Round Rock Chamber board and on several chamber committees. In 2011, the chamber chose her as Round Rock Citizen of the Year.
Among the biggest decisions Whitfield made on the council was approving $350 million in agreements with Kalahari Resorts to build an African-themed resort across from Dell Diamond. Whitfield said the development will be “the biggest thing we’ve ever seen in Round Rock, ever.”
“It’s an amazing company and family,” she said of Kalahari. “Unless you’ve been there to see (their resorts), you don’t realize what a big deal it is and what it will bring to the city economically.”