LEAP LEADs Blog, Week 3

October 4, 2021

Yvette Mendoza

LEAP LEADs members enjoyed another eventful and informative evening at their third meeting of the fall semester. Discussion and presentations covered a variety of topics, from local government to professional strategic thinking (e.g., resumes, thank-you cards) and more. 

We kicked off the evening with a discussion on personal-professional growth, expanding on our previous discussions on having a growth mindset, by examining a self-improvement method of sorts: becoming a more “T-shaped” person, with respect to knowledge base, developing not only breadth of knowledge and awareness on some topics, but also deeper depth of knowledge on specific areas most interesting to us.

We then went over the importance of a resume and how to properly write one. This helped us prepare for future jobs.

As part of our continued community exploration, we enjoyed local fare from El Gordo Taqueria for dinner. Dishes ranged from the very simple Nachos with Chicken Fajita meat to the more traditional plates such as Mexican Enchiladas, Carne Asada, and Mole Chicken.  The portions were generous, and we all enjoyed getting to try out another “new” restaurant. (A special shout-out to the staff for the fast, friendly, and professional service – it can be tough to get 15 separate take-out dinners correct, but we had no problems!

After dinner, we dove into a different sector from our two previous meetings, broadening our ‘micro’ discussions on law enforcement into a more ‘macro’ conversation on local (‘city’) government. Our two special guests, Mayor Andy Brauninger and City Councilmember Joe Rodriquez, provided their insight on how Huntsville works, and how a city should work, from the governance perspective.

Prior to our guests’ arrival, we had spent some time reviewing basic facts about city government structure, using the City of San Antonio’s organizational chart to compare and contrast types of departments and offices with the City of Huntsville. (Is it a coincidence that the author of this blog is from San Antonio…? Maybe – maybe not!)  It was interesting to discover that, in spite of the size difference (San Antonio =1.4M+; Huntsville = 42000+), Texas cities are structured very similarly – we noted the cohesion of department types and office names. 

Mayor Brauninger shared how his career in business was a very different animal than local government, and how he overcame the steep learning curve between the speed of private business and the care needed in the governance of a city. 

Councilmember Joe Rodriquez’s telling of his journey resounded a little more closely with a few of our Hispanic members, who were intrigued by his long history of public service.

Thank you to both Mayor Brauninger and Councilmember Rodriquez, for not only sharing your stories and insight into local governance, but also both for demonstrating such care for community now, and for your military service to our country. More than a few of our group felt inspired, which showed when multiple hands were raised to volunteer to write thank-you cards, the topic on which we closed our evening.

Independence Day in Huntsville, Texas

The City of Huntsville knows how to put on a party–especially a birthday party. In this case, it was the nation’s 245th birthday. To celebrate, the City’s Parks and Leisure department offered residents numerous activities, including rock-wall climbing, mechanical bull riding, face-painting, balloon art, dunk-the-local celebrity, watermelon-eating contests, numerous vendors providing food and fourth-of-July fare, and more.

Parks Director Penny Joiner Welcomes Residents to the Independence Day Celebration

Residents had their pick of activities. One of the most popular was the bull-riding, which could be adapted for the participant’s age (and fear). Kids often took a ride on the bull, then headed straight for the line again, to go at it another time. Of course, some adults found the fun irresistible, too.

When kids weren’t on the bull, they headed to the rockwall, where the goal was to climb to the top and ring the bell. A few made it!

Not all the kids made it all the way up, but they had fun, with staff lending encouraging words.

The crowd size was steady, peaking around five-thirty, but was never so large as to be overwhelming or intrude on the fun.

If residents got tired or hungry, there were vendors on hand to stem the cravings.

And every forty-five minutes, there was a watermelon-eating contest to occupy the crowd, either by participating or enjoying the show.

The good news is no one got sick! The better news is that everyone had fun.

Of course, even with all the fun, sometimes the agony of defeat was difficult to handle.

Of course, there was always staff on hand watching over things…

…or providing instructions…

But a lot of the fun was just seeing people who were enjoying themselves.

If people needed a break, there was a coloring booth, which occupied many.

And if people were feeling feisty, they could attempt to “dunk the local celebrity,” which included folks such as KSAM’s Glenn Edwards, the City of Huntsville’s Deputy City Manager Rick Rudometkin, and the City’s Chief of the Fire Department, Greg Mathis. Greg was dunked the most, perhaps because he had the most fun with the participants.

It was a great day, spearheaded by Penny Joiner, Kristy Wheeler, and with help from many other City of Huntsville staff, including intern Jade Jones.

Citizenship and Engagement: Being an Informed Voter

As a public service to the community, the Walker County Republican Women hosted a “candidates’ forum” on Monday night, inviting candidates at all levels and of all stripes to meet the public. With five minutes to discuss their intentions and platform and an almost unlimited time to mingle, the forum provided a key service to the voting public.

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The Walker County Hospital District candidates were the first to speak. With three positions up for election and six candidates running for the position, the meet and greet was important to decide on who to elect this November. Two of the candidates currently serve on the board while the other four are seeking election for the first time. This was an informative meeting; we learned about the important distinction between the Walker County Hospital District Board and the Huntsville Memorial Hospital Board. The Hospital Board is a board of directors composed of community leaders who oversee the broad direction of the Hospital. The Hospital District Board, on the other hand, is made up of elected officials responsible for overseeing the District, its finances, its physical structures, and its health care.  Although this latter district has the ability to tax, such revenues only make up a small portion of the hospital’s overall revenues.

The Huntsville City Council candidates also participated with their own five-minute overviews.  They also engaged in a Q&A by the audience, and addressed the bond election.  The voters of Huntsville will decide on three bond propositions:

  • Proposition One: Improve Public Safety Facilities (not to exceed 31,000,000)
  • Proposition Two: Improve City Service Facilities (not to exceed 24,000,000)
  • Proposition Three: Improve City Waterworks and Sewer Facilitiies (not to exceed 73,000,000)

With these weighty matters on our minds, we thanked the Republican Women for organizing the event, and we exited pondering upcoming decisions.

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