City Council Candidate Questionnaire: TJ Gilmore

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Lewisville Mayor Pro Tem TJ Gilmore (Photo by Steve Southwell)
Lewisville Mayor Pro Tem TJ Gilmore (Photo by Steve Southwell)

The Lewisville Texan Journal sent a list of questions to Lewisville City Council candidates to familiarize voters with each potential member. Each candidate had almost two weeks to return their answers. Answers from candidates who participated are published as received, unedited.

Early voting for the May election begins April 24 and continues until May 2. Election day is May 6. In addition to the city council, voters will decide on a Lewisville ISD bond proposition and the LISD Board of Trustees

Here are the responses sent to us from TJ Gilmore, who is running for Place 3.

Have you ever run for or served in an elected office before? If so, please list campaigns and offices held.
Ran for Lewisville City Council Place 4 in 2009. Elected to Place 3 in 2010.

Have you been convicted of any crimes other than traffic tickets, lost any civil lawsuits or declared bankruptcy in the past 10 years?
No

How much of your time on average per week are you committed to giving voters for this position?
I currently average between 10 and 15 hours a week on various council activities. I have a passion for how our city runs and for making Lewisville even better for residents, that takes a lot more time than simply reading agenda items and voting. It means getting out into our neighborhoods, visiting our region to identify best practices, representing our city in both State and National venues, and constantly asking questions and listening to residents so I can best represent them in policy decisions.

In the past year, how many public meetings or workshops for the City of Lewisville have you attended?
I have no idea. In 2016 I believe I missed 2 council meetings. I attended dozens of workshops, neighborhood events, committee meetings, and other public functions. There is not a week that passes that I don’t have at least 2-3 city related functions to attend.

What Lewisville organizations, boards, committees or other volunteer positions have you served and which are you currently serving?
Currently: Committee Chair for Boy Scout Troop 9168. Denton County Behavioral Health Leadership Team, Denton County Homelessness Leadership Team, North Central Texas Council of Governments Emergency Preparedness Planning Council, an alternate for the NCTCoG Conservation Council through my employer, Lewisville Morning Rotary member, and Lewisville Fighting Farmer Band Parent (I sling nachos at football games like a boss).
Formerly: Community Development Block Grant Committee, Planning and Zoning Board, Citizen’s Oil and Gas Committee, Cub Scout Pack 233 Cubmaster.

What do you want to do as a council member that you could not do as a resident?
There was a time when I thought you had to be a council member to get things done. Thankfully, I was mistaken. Lewisville is an extremely open community, with approachable staff and council. I’m certain that any goals that I or another resident put forth would get a fair shake and, if the value is there, that new idea would be implemented.

What one thing would you tell voters sets you most clearly apart from your opponents?
Community. I’m proud to have grown deep roots for myself and my family here. I’ve worked hard to ensure we have a strong and clearly stated vision for what Lewisville residents want. This required not listening to those most like me, but listening to all residents and ensuring we address their concerns and needs. I will continue to build those bridges with neighborhoods, social services groups, faith communities, and businesses. Evidence of my achievements can be seen in the Vision 2025 plan, MARTY Mobile City Hall, Neighborhood Services Department redesign, Neighbors Leading Neighbors, City Hall Online Dashboard, Tax Clarity pages, online video of council workshops, Block Party in a Box program, and the new Farmers Market project. I didn’t do these things on my own. They are all projects I’ve had the privilege of working with other leaders to ensure connections between the city and residents.

What is the most pressing issue facing Lewisville, and what do you think the city council should do about it?
Resident engagement. The vast amount of news about government really turns people away and encourages thinking poorly of elected officials. As your voice on city council it’s crucial we do all we can to be open, transparent, and to reach out to inform residents of the decisions that impact lives every day. Our local government is crucial to the health and safety of residents, the success of residents and businesses, and the quality of life we all enjoy.

Council continues to work on outreach- we have a new youth leadership program coming. Mobile city hall events with more community meet and greets, and I’m currently exploring ideas to integrate our businesses, faith communities, and social services groups more closely.

Are there any issues that you feel are important, but that the city council is not addressing?
There are lots of important issues. Redevelopment. Limited funds for various programs and services. Planning for our water future. Helping our seniors age in place. Providing more quality of life options that make us attractive for people looking for a great place to live. All of these and more are important, and I believe our council and staff are doing a great job of staying on top of the issues and implementing policies to address them.

How do you plan to interface with the public and receive input if you are elected?
I will continue to do what I’ve always done- be at events, blog and participate in social media, offer the occasional coffee with a councilman, and be available to anyone who has questions or concerns. I’m a open book and always make time for others.

Do you think the city is doing enough to be transparent and accountable to the public? What would you change, if anything?
When the Dallas Morning News ranked us as one of the top five most transparent governmental entities out of 113 in North Texas, Lewisville didn’t stop improving. Since that 2015 article we have revamped all our websites, added social media resources, introduced smartphone apps for residents, and are in the beta stage of our new “City Dashboard” where residents can observe, how responsive their city is to residents. This also gives city staff and city council an objective metric for adapting priorities and changing services. I’m pretty comfortable with how the city is doing, but always look for better ways to be accountable and transparent.

What do you think of current residential and commercial zoning and land development policies? Are there any policies you would change? If so, why?
We have spent a significant amount of time on the current plans and structure of our zoning and development. They’re all public documents, and many can be found here: http://www.cityoflewisville.com/about-us/city-departments/planning-and-zoning/special-projects

I’m not seeing any particular areas I would change at this time, however, the market changes. If we find a policy is hurting us, as we recently determined with our hotel/motel requirements, I’m more than willing to explore adjustments to ensure we continue to implement quality projects that add to our city.

Do you support term limits for city council? If so, would you pledge to voluntarily abide by whatever you are proposing?
Our founding fathers built three branches of government, two of them with no term limits. One of those with lifetime appointments. When I hear discussions of term limits, it’s the dollars pumped into the system that corrupts it.

Lewisville elections are not costly and residents have the opportunity to limit any elected position through the ballot box. During my time in office all of the council seats have changed at least once.

If the reason for term limits is to get “new ideas”- I don’t think new necessarily equals ideas. Great ideas come from engagement, knowledge, and a willingness to embrace change.

Should the city be involved in encouraging desirable businesses and employers to locate here to increase our tax base? If so, do you think the city is doing it right? What would you change or emphasize?
The city does participate in events showcasing our opportunities to businesses We constantly talk to companies looking to grow or move to North Texas. Our economic development team at any time has a couple of dozen active projects. The addition of Mary Kay, Norman International, FedEx Distribution Center, and Bed Bath and Beyond’s e-commerce facility just this past year and the announced negotiation to relocate several hundred Nationstar Mortgage jobs to Lewisville show we’re doing it right.

Residents will see soon a summary of our economic development agreements. There’s a misconception that cities write checks to companies. Lewisville doesn’t. Council consistently creates opportunities that ensure the city and the business are partners and the agreement helps both parties. This new summary will show how those decisions have helped us grow.

Do you think the city is doing a good job with regards to its budget and taxation? What if anything would you change about the process, tax rates, or allocation of money to different departments and functions?
I believe, as a homeowner, that I get a tremendous value from the way Lewisville manages its budget and taxation. Value is what our residents say they want and need from their city. Currently, the average residential property owner pays $72 a month for city property tax. For that they receive 24/7 police and fire protection, sidewalks, streets, parks, libraries, community centers, inspections for health and public safety, and dozens of other services. Our annual survey of residents allows Lewisville to more fully understand resident priorities, along with the Vision 2025 plan. If our services and spending don’t align with those tools, city staff and city council can quickly adjust priorities in a data driven manner.

As the state reduces funding to social services agencies, I would like to review our CDBG funding and find out if we need to do more as a city. Our police and fire have to deal with more mental health and homelessness issues- a very expensive way to deal with these problems. I’d continue to explore ways to work county-wide on these two issues to help our first responders and those in the community that need a little stability to get back to being productive.

What is your position on regulation of plastic bag use within the city?
If you’ve ever seen me at a Keep Lewisville Beautiful clean up, you know I really dislike plastic bags. Several cities statewide have banned them. Liberal cities for environmental reasons, and conservative cities due to the impact on fishing, hunting, and livestock.

Our State Legislature is reviewing the issue this session and it’s likely cities in Texas will no longer have a say on plastic bags when the session is done. If we do get to have a say, I’d like to explore it- but I’m not going to buy a lawsuit over it.

What is your position on banning vaping and smoking in public areas, such as parks and trails?
I worked with residents in 2009 to get the current smoking ordinance, passed in 2012, in place. I lost two of my grandparents to lung cancer. I can’t understand people who smoke and litter cigarette butts (my other peeve during Keep Lewisville Beautiful cleanups).

With that said, I believe restricting smoking/vaping in parks and trails takes the restriction too far. The only exception that I might entertain would be creating a buffer around playground structures- but I’ve heard no call for it from residents so I’m not clear on how much of an issue smoking near playgrounds is- or if residents simply respectfully ask smokers to step away from a playground.

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