This article is the final interview of the Helotes Mayoral candidates on the May 1st, 2021 ballot. Only candidates who participated in the previous interview were invited to participate in the second and final interview for this election cycle.
Helotes News: How would you collaborate with the Helotes Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) to foster managed commercial growth in Helotes?
Rich Whitehead: The position of Mayor should serve to facilitate the support and development of the community. As such, any direct investment in the community must be done by the HEDC, but should be done so by the direction of the leadership of the HEDC and appropriate voting of support by city council. The Mayor’s involvement should be limited to passing on ideas, needs, and concerns, and then the Mayor should support the decisions of the HEDC. Collaboration by the Mayor should be limited to sharing of ideas, and not be viewed as ’controlling’ the HEDC.
Helotes News: In terms of oversight, how involved do you plan to be with the activities and action items brought before you on Council from the HEDC, Planning and Zoning, Board of Adjustments?
Rich Whitehead: One of the reasons I am running for Mayor is a fundamental difference in opinion on how the city should be run. Currently, the Mayor has extended his control of boards, committees, and the HEDC to a point that if you disagree with the Mayor then you will be removed. I want to foster differing opinions, civilized debate, and intelligent discussion. As such, as Mayor I will facilitate the inclusion of agenda items as submitted by HEDC, P and Z, Board of Adjustments and other boards in a timely fashion, regardless of my personal position on the topics. Good government can only happen with the transparent discussion of business.
Helotes News: We’re not expecting you to know it all. So, if there is one thing you could change about Helotes zoning, what would it be?
Rich Whitehead: Zoning decisions are made by a dedicated P and Z committee and ultimately adopted by city council vote. Property rights should be protected and zoning changes should only be made when it is in the best interests of the community, the individuals directly affected, and the city. Currently, zoning changes have been made by city council in the name of increasing tax base with disregard to affected citizens. I would like to see council become a more responsible advocate for the community.
Helotes News: There is a good amount of frustration with traffic in Helotes. What is your view on our private and commercial traffic?
Rich Whitehead: There are several major traffic issues, two of which are Bandera road issues and proposed cut thru traffic from Davis Ranch thru Beverly Hills. While ultimate decisions rest with TxDOT and Bexar County respectively, I believe the Mayor needs to take an active role in being a ‘squeaky wheel’ to those organizations for the needs of our community. Cut-thru roads thru Beverly Hills should be prevented, and every option to prevent that should be explored. Recent fatalities on Bandera Road demands that we press TxDoT for review and measures taken to make our roads safer.
Helotes News: What areas, if any, do you believe the City can work better with TX DoT to improve our commuter’s experience.
Rich Whitehead: Proactive review of traffic signal placement, active pursuit of solutions, and consideration to traffic flow will highlight changes needed and help place pressure for needed change on TxDot. The city needs to foster cooperative relationships with Tx Dot so that needed changes can be made.
Helotes News: Will you report observed or employee reported violations of Texas Municipal and Penal codes to the proper authorities?
Rich Whitehead: Of course. Of course by establishing proper expectations of employees, preventative employee training, and increased attention in the hiring process will greatly reduce unfortunate incidents.
Helotes News: How will you ensure the items brought before you on the City Council Meeting Agenda packets for any given meeting are presented to you unbiased, complete without relevant facts or background omissions?
Rich Whitehead: While this question is mostly directed to council members, the Mayor has a responsibility to do his due diligence to ensure factual representation and complete inclusion of relevant material in the construction of the Agenda packets.
Last Minute Thoughts
Helotes News: Consider everything you have learned from campaigning this year; what is the most important positive item you learned about that should be sustained or improved upon, and what is the most negative item that should be eliminated or amended? You don’t have to answer if there is nothing that comes to mind.
Rich Whitehead: The greatest positive of Helotes I have learned in this campaign is the quality of people we have in Helotes. We are blessed to have a quality and diverse community that enjoys building relationships with their neighbors and this quality needs to be protected and fostered.
The biggest negative I have learned is the vast number of people and businesses in Helotes that live in fear of their leadership. Way to many times has it been expressed to me that people disagree with Mayor Schoolcraft but fear retribution if they voice a differing opinion. People should never live in fear of their leadership. This is a democracy and not a kingdom, and I look forward to restoring peoples comfort to disagree and feel safe to express their opinions.