In what a Killeen City Council member called a one-of-a-kind event, he and fellow elected officials and Mayor Debbie Nash-King descended from the stage Thursday to explain to residents how they govern.
“I’m going to touch on some things you need to know as a citizen here in Killeen,” Pro tem Mayor Ken Wilkerson said. “Coming to council, what I realized was that people were contacting us to handle things that we may not have been authorized or licensed to handle. It is important that citizens know what we can and cannot do.
Wilkerson, five of the other six board members — Nina Cobb, Michael Boyd, Jose Segarra, Jessica Gonzalez and Riakos Adams — and Nash-King offered PowerPoint presentations or briefly remarked on their responsibilities and goals. Councilman Ramon Alvarez attended the meeting but did not make a presentation or talk about his goals.
“Voters, you elect the members of council who in turn hire the city manager,” Wilkerson said with a laugh. “Mr (Kent) Cagle here, he is the executioner. He executes our plans, our directions. So, on a daily basis, he is the one who manages the staff every day, manages the various departments.
Wilkerson, the other council members, Nash-King and Cagle were seated at two tables in front of the dais. About 35 people attended what they called a town hall event.
Cagle is “educated, experienced to deal with this,” Wilkerson said. “He has extensive experience in this area – not only in Killeen but in other towns as well. You’re hiring the board to provide that kind of direction as to where we want to go. We work for you. You are our only boss.
Scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the event lasted just under two and a half hours.
“We come up with our own ideas, but ultimately it’s your voice. We are your representatives. That being said, you have to understand too, whatever is going on, no one is working unilaterally here – not one of us, not even the mayor. It takes four of us – four city council members to do or pass anything here in the city.
Wilkerson is one of three non-executive members. Alvarez and Segarra are the others.
“The mayor is the head of the city for ceremonial purposes,” Wilkerson said. “If you see the mayor making a unilateral decision, we’re in a bad place because she has the power in … emergency conditions. (It’s) because you can’t manage by committee at this time- the.
The mayor during his presentation spoke about the new global plan of the city.
“If we’re going to invest more than $300,000, it’s important that we have the utmost discipline to ensure the integrity of the overall plan,” she said. “If we invest in it, we have to use it.”
In August, the city council adopted the overall plan after hiring Dallas consultant Kevin Shepherd of Verdunity to help draft it. In November 2020, board members agreed to pay Verdunity $349,140 to develop it.
Following public meetings, data collection and feedback from stakeholders, including the Global Plan Advisory Committee, the document was adopted by the board in August.
At the heart of the overall plan are funding gaps “between needs and income, a lack of alignment between your values, your plans, your policies (and) your projects, and your culture of apathy,” Shepherd said.
Nash-King called the overall plan “very important to me.”
“If we want to grow, we should already have the municipal infrastructure and services in place. If we don’t…we need to raise taxes and fees, and we don’t want to impose that on any of our residents.
I don’t have much to say,” he said. “I just want to say ‘Thank you’ for coming here. Glad to see this board doing…something like that. I can tell you this is the first time such a thing has been done.
Segarra, former mayor of Killeen, is in his fourth term as a council member.
“We heard from our citizens,” the District 1 representative said. “We answered the call and then we put this town hall in place. We also want to share with you the visions we have for our city in the future. It’s really important that we can connect.
This includes community engagement.
“In District 1 (North Killeen), there are a lot of improvements and important things that we are really working on,” Gonzalez said. “Safety first. We have a very active police department. Within District 1, what we do differently…is we have a task force — a team of five people working diligently. “We have representation on the ground floor. There’s a long way to go on security, but we’re making great strides.”
She also briefly mentioned the overall plan.
“The town of Killeen, overall, is a culturally diverse place. We don’t want this plan sitting on a shelf. The overall plan is essential to our future growth.
The District 2 council member spoke about his service on volunteer councils and described the composition of his district.
“I was appointed to a vacancy in March,” he said of how he became a board member. “Since then, I joined the audit committee. I am now the president. I sit on the board of directors (Killeen-Tempo Metropolitan Planning Organization) and represent the city on the Bell County Health District.
Adams explained that District 2 looks “a bit small” on the southeast side of town.
“The airfield (Skylark Field) and the golf course (Stonetree Golf Club) are no longer in District 2” after redistricting last year. “It was the biggest district because we had one of the biggest growths in the last 10 years,” Adams said.
For the representative from District 3, which covers much of South Killeen, Thursday’s meeting was about humanizing the service process.
“You can’t please everyone,” Cobb said. “That’s the most important thing about being a counsellor. You can’t please everyone, but if you can please 99.5% of your constituents in your riding, I think we’re doing a great job. I believe our council and our mayor are doing a great job.
Plus, she said, “it’s good to know we’re working together.”
“I am human and imperfect, like each of you. Sometimes the days are long and I don’t want you to think you’re forgotten. That’s why it’s so good that we have support staff to take care of business.
Boyd represents District 4, west of Killeen – the city’s largest district with 38,000 residents.
“I am a strong advocate for our district,” he said. “I am happy to serve and… find solutions to some of the age-old problems in the town of Killeen.”
Those issues, Boyd said, include road repairs, “lack of parks and open spaces,” and limited police presence.
“I work to solve them. Robinett Road has been recently milled and capped. Bunny Trail is prioritized and funded for reconstruction. Watercrest Road, we had a meeting… to discuss the redesign. It is also prioritized and funded for reconstruction.
Boyd also said the priority given to developing the park and improving trails throughout the city is “coming up” and emphasized that road safety remains a personal priority.
According to the city’s website, Killeen has 22 parks and trails. Two of them – Iduma Neighborhood Park and Fort Hood Regional Trail – are in District 4.
It also includes Central Texas College, Fort Hood-Killeen Regional Airport, AdventHealth-Central Texas, Texas A&M University-Central Texas, Robert M. Shoemaker High School, five elementary schools, and two middle schools.