Craig Sanders Helotes City Council Candidate 2020 – Interview Part 1

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This article was originally published to the Craig Sanders Helotes City Council Candidate 2020 page on April 5th, 2020 linked to the Helotes Election Center. We converted the page to an article after the November 2020 General Election.

General Background

How long have you been a resident of Helotes?

My family and I moved to Helotes in 2010 while still on active duty with the United States Air Force.  We instantly fell in love with our house in Iron Horse Canyon, our neighbors, and the Helotes community at large.  After moving so many times in the military we decided to permanently plant our roots here in Helotes.

What do you enjoy about Helotes?

I love the geographical location of Helotes in that it is close to the City of San Antonio, and yet still close to the Hill Country.  I’m an avid runner and I’m blessed to live near one of the most majestic running routes in south-central Texas that is appropriately named “Scenic Loop”.  A run from Old Town to Grey Forest and back is always an uplifting experience for me.  My family enjoys spending time in Old Town whether it is shopping, stopping for a quick coffee, eating some of the best BBQ in the surrounding area, relaxing with a glass of wine or craft beer, or just enjoying musical entertainment.  There is surprisingly a lot to do in a town the size of Helotes and it is all just a few minutes away for most residents.  I also appreciate the “small town” feeling that Helotes projects in its events like The Cornyval, Cowboy Christmas Parade, and 4th of July festivities to name just a few.  It is unfortunate, but many cities have lost those type of community-binding celebrations.  Lastly, I appreciate the kindness and generosity of the residents of Helotes who donate their money and time for so many worthy causes.  I’ve lived in numerous countries and many states over the years and I know a great place to live when I see it.

What frustrates you about Helotes?

I worry that sometimes we take what makes Helotes special for granted, in the sense that Helotes’ uniqueness will just always be there without any concerted planning or effort.  The increased growth and desirability to live in Helotes is a great thing, though I am concerned about Helotes growing too fast and that it could potentially turn into urban sprawl if not managed correctly.  I also worry about city infrastructure and services not being able to keep up with the rapid pace of growth, especially as we develop new Helotes communities such as Bricewood which is located off Galm Road.

Are you currently employed? If yes, with whom?

Department of the Air Force Civilian (3+ years)

If you are not employed, are you retired, a business owner or financially independent?

N/A

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

I grew up in a small town in northwest Pennsylvania where I learned the meaning of right from wrong, hard work, and conservative values that helped lay the foundation of who I am today.  I served 30 years in the United States Air Force as an Information Technology and Cyber Operations senior enlisted leader.  I had the distinct privilege of leading and motivating 100s of America’s finest young adults while also managing numerous multi-million-dollar Information Technology projects across all organizational levels within the United States Air Force.  I was also a contractor for four years where I provided data analytic and project management expertise for both the military Intelligence and Cyber communities.  Currently I’m a government civilian leading the development of a wide range of innovative Information Technology and Communications activities that directly impact our war fighters.  I have a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Saint Leo University and I’m about half-way done with my Master’s Degree in Business and Organizational Security Management with Webster University.

Civic Engagement & Community Events

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

Throughout my military career I was taught to give back to both my military and host communities.  I’ve truly missed that since I retired from the military in 2013.  Starting in 2017 I felt comfortable enough with my personal time to start giving back to the Helotes community.  I was elected to the Iron Horse Canyon (IHC) Homeowners Association Board (HOA) Board of Directors (BOD) in 2017 and I’m still serving as a Board member.  As a Board member I’m involved in developing a fiscally responsible budget, maintaining adequate reserve funds, determining assessments, collecting assessments, enforcing compliance of HOA bylaws, and providing oversight to the HOA Property Management team that supports 630+ homes ranging in value from $270K to $900K.  My HOA duties also requires some interaction with the city government.  In 2018, I headed a grass roots movement that opposed a construction plan for high-density townhomes adjacent to IHC.  I (along with many awesome volunteers) helped collect 600+ signatures in opposition of the proposed plan and then presented it to the Planning & Zoning Commission and City Council.  In 2020, I became a member of the Helotes Robert F. McDermott American Legion Post #309 in which I plan to help give back to the community and to support other veterans.  Lastly, I had the distinct honor to volunteer a few hours at the 2020 Casa Helotes Spaghetti Fundraiser that supports Helotes senior citizens.

What events have you attended in our city?

Cornyval, Marketplace Day, 4th of July Celebrations, almost every running event held in Helotes, and the Casa Helotes Spaghetti Fundraiser

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

I strongly recommend the city continue to fully support Marketplace Day and any other events that support Helotes businesses.  I think it is a no brainer that thriving businesses in Helotes is good for everyone to include the city government.

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

No, but if I did, I would first identify how to pay for it within the existing city budget.

Political

What is your primary motivation for seeking election to City Council?

I want to be the voice of reason on City Council that truly listens to the concerns of residents and who will have the courage to stand up for them when nobody is watching.  My motivation stems from the grass roots townhome movement I mentioned earlier.  The City Council originally voted in favor of the petitioners in that situation, but then changed their vote several months later without any homeowners present to provide the Council with input to a new townhome plan.  I promise to be the leader who will want to know the facts and receive input from the community prior to rendering a decision, especially if the vote could overturn a previous Council decision.

As an incumbent, what is the primary argument you should be re-elected/appointed?

N/A

As a challenger, what is the primary argument you should replace the incumbent/appointed councilperson for your place?

First and foremost, the voters of Helotes should have the final say on who represents them on Council.  The fact that the appointed incumbent that I’m running against must go through the election process to serve an elected term is exactly how the system is supposed to work.  I have nothing bad to say about my opponent and so I won’t take the political bait.  What I will say is that I’ve lived in Helotes for a decade and I am a candid person whose loyalty will rest solely with the residents of Helotes.  I will rely on my extensive leadership experiences, critical thinking skills, moral compass, and a life-long military record of exhibiting sound judgement to help lead Helotes through the challenges of today and tomorrow.

As an incumbent, what is your primary argument you should be elected to/reelected to the city council place you currently hold?

N/A

If elected to council, how will you approach decision making as one of five voting members?

I will do my homework to make sure I fully understand the issue at hand prior to the Council meeting.  I will communicate with the Mayor and other Council members if I have questions or concerns.  If the opportunity allows, I will seek input from residents.  As far as interacting with fellow Council members, I will debate with them and keep an open mind when they are making their arguments.  I feel like I’m not a closed-minded person and I can be persuaded to change my perspective, but I need facts and solid logic…not just an emotional plea like “that is the way we’ve always done it” or chest thumping to change my mind.  On the other hand, I have no problem being the lone voice of dissent if I feel something is not in the best interest of Helotes.

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

I’m a very sincere person who loves to talk with people.  I will embrace technology (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) when appropriate and perhaps once a month have a designated coffee session open to the public.  I’d also be interested in attending the various Helotes community HOA meetings to bring back ideas and concerns to the City Council.  As a side note, if you see me running along the roadside or shopping…feel free to stop me to ask a question.  I honestly want to be that approachable.

Helotes Thematic

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

I’ve heard people describe Helotes as the town from the 1960’s Andy Griffith TV show called Mayberry, but I’m not sure I’d describe it quite like that.  I think Helotes is friendly and physically small like Mayberry, but Helotes is located next to a major metropolitan area, so it functions at a much faster pace than most small towns.  My family from Pennsylvania came to visit a few years back and they loved the nostalgic Old Town part of Helotes while also being amazed by the Hill Country terrain and all its greenery.  I’m not sure I could have described it for them prior to their visit to do it justice.

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?

I still see Helotes as a small town with special charm, though city leadership must remain mindful of what makes its special as they shape and influence how Helotes moves forward during these challenging times of rapid growth.

If you are an advocate of the small-town theme, how will you work with your council colleagues to continue supporting our small-town theme?

It is my understanding that the current City Council plans to build city monuments on Highway 16 as you enter/leave Helotes.  If we manage growth correctly, then we really should not need monuments erected to let people know if they are in Helotes or not.  I also believe the City Council needs to consistently apply existing city ordinances, like in Chapter 98, Article IX, Section 98-251 (https://library.municode.com/tx/helotes/codes/code_of_ordinances?nodeId=CD_ORD_CH98ZO_ARTIXARREPLZOCOCO_S98-251OB), that talks about respecting historical areas and maintaining the Hill Country theme when commercial buildings are constructed or renovated.  I fully support landowner rights; but I believe the city has an obligation to help influence how buildings are integrated into the Helotes community.  City government should also continue leveraging the Helotes Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to attract businesses to meet resident’s needs and to help foster an economy that doesn’t just survive…but thrives!  However, this cannot be done effectively if the EDC has its money taken away by the city to do other things.  Lastly, I think the city needs to stay fully engaged in supporting Marketplace Day as well as all the other activities/events I mentioned earlier that makes Helotes special.

If you do not subscribe to the small-town theme, how will you work with your council colleagues who disagree with your viewpoint?

N/A