Mayor Craig Morgan writes a monthly column for the Round Rock Leader.
We have almost hit the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic in Texas, and it has certainly been the defining issue of the last year. In the early days, we had to make decisions with little information to best protect the health of our community while keeping Round Rock moving forward.
One of our guiding principles was this — that the City Council would make decisions together as an elected body. Over the past year, Council passed a face covering ordinance, directed federal funding to benefit struggling families through the Round Rock Area Serving Center, and, through our awesome City staff, kept essential City services running like clockwork.
It’s important we not lose our strategic mindset even during a pandemic. Just as City staff have worked to provide essential services, Council continued to hold our regularly scheduled meetings to ensure we didn’t miss a beat. We quickly implemented remote meeting participation and installed plexiglass dividers for councilmembers who choose to attend in person.
There are so many votes we take that, while they don’t always make headlines, have substantial impact on our City’s future. We make decisions that ensure our public safety professionals are well trained and equipped to respond to emergency calls. We approve plans and contracts for parks, roads and utilities to provide the quality of life expected from us. These acts of governance have been a motivating force for me during the pandemic. I enjoy being a part of an elected team of unique perspectives that work together on decisions that will benefit our community for years to come.
Governing feels like a novel concept as we watch politics become the prevailing concern of government. Decisions are often considered “wins” or “losses,” often with little regard for the long-term impacts. This should never be the case on our City Council. According to our City Charter, candidates don’t run with a party affiliation so our focus remains on governance and not politics. Again, governance and not politics. Those may not sound like significantly different terms, but they are.
When we govern, our focus is on serving the community for the benefit of all, guided by vision, goals, and value to the community. Our City Council is charged with continuing Round Rock’s legacy of success, and every decision we make helps create our future. In contrast, politics is focused on ideologies and philosophical principles, on simply getting elected or re-elected.
That said, we do have to make decisions that require ideological discussion, such as ordinances related to smoking in establishments, noise ordinances or face-covering requirements. Council focuses on approaching these decisions with an open, collaborative mindset in an ongoing attempt to avoid making emotional, knee-jerk reactions. We must also, however, ensure these issues don’t cause us to lose our focus on the important work of governance.
City Council just held our annual retreat to update and prioritize our strategic plan. This is a meeting where we intentionally focus on the work of governing by anticipating potential issues and determining our vision and goals as a Council. This year, we discussed staying on track to provide essential services of high-value to taxpayers, provide infrastructure to support coming growth, promote a high-quality of life, maintain our designation as the Sports Capital of Texas, invest in our beloved Downtown and ensure our neighborhoods are places that residents are proud to call home.
Round Rock has seen success through long-term visioning and planning. In the coming years and decades, we must maintain and grow our hard-earned reputation for success. It is our job as City Council to provide a level of stability that ensures we don’t lose our focus on the long-term health of our community while also taking care of immediate needs.
Even as we deal with curveballs thrown at us by COVID-19, you can expect to continue to see the marks of governance on our community. This year will see several road projects come to fruition to improve connectivity and relieve congestion as we continue to grow. Infrastructure investments in our Downtown area will continue, our new public library will make strides toward its completion in 2023. As we gain ground on overcoming the pandemic, our Sports Management and Tourism team stands ready to host national tournaments in a post-COVID-19 world. Our Neighborhood Services and Community Risk Reduction teams will continue efforts to empower and support neighborhoods and residents who need help.
We continue to strive to be an example of government that is effective. The decisions we make — or don’t make — today will matter for generations to come. It is clear the growth in our area is not slowing anytime soon, and it is up to us to focus on governance, not politics, for the benefit of our community.