2022 General Election Interview Series Helotes City Councilmember Place 2 Candidate Jen Sones

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Helotes City Council Candidate Place 2 Jenifer Sones

Helotes News sends interview questions to the candidates via email. We publish the interviews in the order received. We email all candidates at the same time. Please view the Helotes News Election Center 2022 for a log of our out-going initial emails to candidates.

General Background

Helotes News: How long have you been a resident of Helotes?

Jen Sones: I am married to an Army veteran and we were stationed at Fort Sam Houston several times over the years. Our kids consider Texas as their home. After my husband retired from active duty, we moved to Helotes in 2018 from our duty station at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Helotes News: What do you enjoy about Helotes?

Jen Sones: My husband and I enjoy walking our dog on the canyon, and love the beauty of the Hill Country. Helotes is unique because it has maintained its small-town charm despite the rapid growth of Northwest San Antonio. For me this is due to the genuine, friendly nature of our community. When friends from our military days visit, they comment on the kindness and warmth of the people they encounter. Neighbors know their neighbors, and look out for each other. This was especially evident when the snow storm hit in February 2021. It was neat to see neighbors come together to share water, firewood and groceries. Support also came from the City of Helotes when it opened its facilities to provide water for community members without service.

Helotes News: What frustrates you about Helotes?

Jen Sones: At times there is a communications challenge between citizens and the City of Helotes. Although the city provides a myriad of information on its website and social media sites, sometimes there is still confusion concerning the activities of city government. If I have the privilege of serving as a council member, it is my hope that I can use my background in communications to support Mayor Whitehead’s initiative to establish direct email notifications to citizens with important information. I also plan on using social media to update citizens on the current activities of city council. Citizen involvement is critical, and I want to promote and encourage it.

Helotes News: Are you currently employed? If yes, with whom? If you are not employed, are you retired, a business owner or financially independent?

Jen Sones: I am not employed full-time, and am at a crossroads as our family enters a new season. For many years, I homeschooled our children and managed frequent moves as a military family. As two of our children have graduated and moved on to college, I started one-one-one tutoring with dyslexic students. One of my students completed the program last fall and I am screening a new student this week.

Helotes News: What is/was your professional background before you were added to the ballot?

Jen Sones: I hold a degree in communications/public relations. After several internships in Washington, DC, I landed my first job in our nation’s capitol after graduation. Over the next six years, I worked for several national and international organizations in publishing, marketing and communications. I left my career in Washington when I married my husband who was already on active duty. During our tour in Honolulu, I was hired as a senior account representative at an advertising and public relations agency. After our move to San Antonio, I continued to freelance for several clients. After having four children in seven years, I turned my focus to serving as a full-time parent and Army spouse.

Civic Engagement & Community Events

Helotes News: Tell us a few things about how you are involved in our community.

Jen Sones: My husband and I are enjoying a new season where we have time to be more involved in our community. Although I am opting not to go into a lot of detail, my husband and I are committed to volunteering with city events because we care about Helotes. We also appreciate having the time and resources to step out and help community members in need. If my answer seems vague, that is intentional. We support because we love Helotes—not because I am running for city council. If any voter is interested, I can provide more details.

My family attends weekly church services at Oak Hills Church. I participate in a Bible study with women from Helotes and Northwest San Antonio.

Helotes News: What events have you attended in our city?

Jen Sones: Market Days is one of our favorite events in Helotes. We love bringing our dog, and checking out the vendors. We usually end our day with pastry and coffee at one of our favorite Old Town spots. It has been fun to see how Market Days has grown over the years. With COVID behind us, we are looking forward to attending more events in the future.

Helotes News: What events do you support or think should be eliminated/reworked? Tell us why.

Jen Sones: As a general principle, I support eliminating or reworking any city activity when the expenditure does not match the participation levels. I also support eliminating city activities that are redundant and could be streamlined to save valuable resources.

Helotes News: Do you have any ideas about adding public spaces or additional community events to Helotes?

Jen Sones: I support adding public spaces that encourage Helotes as a destination. For example, if there is a proposal for a new park, it is important to place it in a location that showcases our city. I am excited about the new Community Arts Grant Program that was recently passed by the city council. An initiative of the Helotes Economic Development Corporation, the program commissions artists to create works that feature the charm, history and character of Helotes. It will be fun to see how the new initiative, managed by a committee of citizen volunteers, will bring new and iconic art to our city.

I support adding community events based on the interests of a majority of our citizens and local businesses. For example, I would support bringing back the popular Jazz a’Round Old Town Helotes festival if there is a sufficient amount of interest.

Political

Helotes News: What is your primary motivation for seeking reelection/election to City Council?

Jen Sones: After watching the discouraging political events happening on the national stage, I wanted to get involved and support at the local level. I loved being a part of the grassroots effort to elect new leadership in Helotes last Spring, and I am in a season of life where I have time to commit to the work of the city council. After years of moving with the military, it is exciting to establish roots in Helotes through service. I’ve already enjoyed meeting people through the campaign for city council.

Helotes News: As a challenger, what is the primary argument you should replace the incumbent councilperson for your place?

Jen Sones: While I appreciate that my opponent, Council member Salazar, wants to serve Helotes, she has been absent and late on multiple occasions for council meetings and appears unprepared. Helotes deserves more from a city council member and I am willing and able to commit to attending council meetings with full preparation for the issues at hand. My opponent and I approach issues from different perspectives as I would take a conservative approach to making decisions before the council.

Helotes News: If re/elected to council, how will you approach decision making as one of five voting members?

Jen Sones: It is the responsibility of a member of the city council to adhere to the law. For example, a candidate may say they oppose a development in Helotes, but that position is misleading if city council does not have the legal authority to stop it. Council does not have the power to tell a company they cannot build on a piece of property when they are in compliance with city ordinances, including commercial zoning. Recently there has been confusion as to what powers the mayor and city council have in current development projects—both commercial and residential. My opponent has made several decisions on emotion and personal preference rather than following the law. These decisions leave the City of Helotes vulnerable to expensive lawsuits. Lawsuits negatively impact the city budget, and have a ripple effect on how the city provides essential services to include public works, police and fire.

Helotes News: How will you engage citizens in the decision-making process, or will you?

Jen Sones: Citizen involvement is critical and I will foster and encourage it if elected to council. It is especially important for citizens to be involved when land is annexed as important decisions will be made regarding zoning at that time. There is an opportunity for citizens to be heard at the beginning of each council meeting. A citizen has three minutes to state their concerns before the city council, and may speak on any topic. The City of Helotes recently redesigned their website, and I’ve provided a link to the meeting agendas, minutes and recordings of past and upcoming council meetings. https://helotes-tx.gov/government/agendas-meetings/

As for my approach to citizen interaction, I want to take an honest, direct, and personal approach when answering citizen questions—especially when it may not be a popular answer. I want to be part of a team. I am eager and willing to learn about the myriad of topics that land at city council. I am committed to listening. I am committed to respecting other’s ideas even when disagreements arise. It is also my desire to be accessible to citizens by regularly monitoring and answering questions through my council email on the city web site.

Helotes Thematic

Helotes News: How would you describe Helotes to someone who has never visited our city?

Jen Sones: Friends have asked me the same question. Helotes offers a small-town feel combined with the beauty of the Hill Country, yet we are minutes away from all the amenities of a large city. This description is enticing as we’ve hosted a steady stream of friends and family from all over the country since moving to Helotes.

Helotes News: Do you view Helotes as a small town with small-town charm? Or, do you view Helotes as a small-town that has outgrown or is outgrowing that theme?

Jen Sones: I probably have a perspective similar to other military families in Helotes. Because we have lived all over the world, we appreciate how Helotes is unique and unlike any other city we’ve called home. For me, Helotes feels like a small town. I frequently walk our dog, and welcome it when a Helotes police officer stops to say hi in order to build a relationship with a member of the community. When I shop at the big box stores in Helotes, I appreciate how the national chains have made an effort to showcase local activities. Our local business owners learn the names of their customers, and take the time to visit with them. Helotes has its challenges as well. The seventh largest city in the country, our neighbor San Antonio, is exploding. Helotes isn’t a gated city and all the challenges of San Antonio, and an unsecured Southern border impact us.