Eight leaders in the community share their views of 2020 with regard to their positions.
TIM CEPLINA, HOUSTON POLICE CHIEF
2019 proved to be a challenging year. Locally we saw several changes in our city administration, had fantastic community support in passing a tax for police, fire and parks, and have made progress with our School Resource Officer program. We have put things in motion for this year that will be great for the officers and the community.
2020 will be a great year for our department. We have implemented a uniform change that will be more practical for daily wear. This change will allow officers to move the weight from their gun belt on their waist, up to the torso. This can help alleviate back issues in the future and make them healthier. The uniforms will also be easier to maintain than our current ones.
We will also engage in more training for the officers than we ever have been able to provide them. Officers will be able to take the mandatory training required by POST, as well as specializing in areas that they enjoy and benefit the department. We have trained a new generalist instructor, firearms instructor and taser instructor. We have plans to further training for each officer and develop them into the best officers they can be.
For our community, I see great things in store beginning this year. This community has been supportive of the department and it is appreciated. I want our citizens to feel safe and know we are doing everything possible to make our area better. We will continue to target drug crimes. Our officers will continue to work traffic and make the roads here safer. We will also continue to work with other agencies and develop relationships with them to better utilize our resources. Overall, I think this will be a great year of new developments for our community and department. I look forward to it.
LAURA CROWLEY, TEXAS COUNTY FOOD PANTRY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Whew! I’m not sad that we’ve moved past 2019 here at the Texas County Food Pantry. It was a tough year without our full grant funding, but we made it.
I have high hopes for 2020. My goal for the upcoming year is to create awareness of the needs our county faces. I have been down on my luck and in tough financial spots, and I am empathetic to those who find themselves in hard times. Let’s face it: There are negative connotations about asking for assistance. Whether it be a person who needs assistance and is too prideful to ask, or someone who doesn’t understand the struggle looking down on someone who does.
It’s not necessary to judge but it IS necessary to help when able. We are here to give a hand up, not a hand out, and I believe that’s one of the many misconceptions surrounding what we do here. From the client who only asks for shoes for their child to the client who is living in a tent with much more substantial needs, our priority is to treat each one with compassion and assist as much as possible.
I’m going to say it like it is: We need help! Our financial donations have severely dropped off over the past couple of years as well as our volunteers. I have high expectations of getting that back. There is so much work to be done on a daily basis and even though I have a wonderful staff and some outstanding volunteers, there’s not enough of us to get it all done.
I want those who care about our community and want to give back to volunteer as little or as much time as they are able. I promise someone will be blessed because of it and in return, so will you.
Do small things with great love.
CITY OF HOUSTON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
What can be said about 2019 other than whew, what a ride!
Looking back at my Economic Development action plan that I presented to the board in December of 2018, we were able to really accomplish a lot! From working on and completing some very important studies with the labor study, housing study (report being presented to board on Jan. 21), and the fiber study, we set a great foundation to build off of in 2020. The Piney River Technical Center is closer than it ever has to opening up its doors and begin teaching the career and technical classes that for too many were just a dream a short while ago.
The City of Houston took a big step forward with work beginning on a building code, which along with the fiber study and the work that we have done to get fiber to the home for Houston residents will help improve the quality of life for those who live here now and in the future. We were successful in inviting a national site selection firm in to help give us an understanding of what we as a community could do to improve our opportunities when it comes to attracting new jobs to the area. Finally, we were able to get the dairy building filled with Online Metal Supply and the change of ownership of Evans Sports into the hands of a local couple. 2019 was a whirlwind year with so many ups and downs personally and professionally, but it was only the start!
Here we are just a few days into 2020 and we already see a year that could be much more rewarding in what we accomplish than the year before. The fiber to the home project is starting with the selection of the engineering firm and the chance to have gigabyte speeds to homes and businesses here in Houston could be a reality as soon as early fall. The housing study will allow us to concentrate on certain housing that is needed within our region, at the same time working with local and regional developers to improve the quality of housing that is available within Houston. As the housing increases along with access to high-speed broadband internet, we should see an increase in residency which would, in turn, allow us to work on our employment struggles that were highlighted within the labor study. Also, we will be working with Mineral Area College on several programs that local business can take advantage of to help train their current employees at the same time educating those that are not in the workforce in areas such as Manufacturing Technology.
The Board of Alderman and the City Administration will begin working on an incentive policy in the next couple of months that will allow us to be competitive when it comes to attracting new jobs to the area, whether it is with current business or new. This will also include a housing incentive plan that would be something that no other community that I know of currently offers, which will set us apart from others.
We will begin a new marketing strategy for the City of Houston in the coming months that will help us highlight our location as an amazing place to live, work and play. With a new website that will allow our citizens and others throughout the country to see our wonderful community through the window of the internet, we will market the amazing qualities of this region to the world. Also, with a branding campaign that will be done in house and with members of the community we will change the way people identify with our community and the region. This will also allow us to highlight how we market our community and to whom we market it.
Finally, we will be rolling out some amazing changes to the building codes and zoning that the community uses. These changes will allow us to grow the way we want to grow and makes sure that the growth we see in the upcoming years is positive growth.
The City of Houston and the region as a whole has some great potential to see positive growth this upcoming year, however, we won’t be able to accomplish this unless we can work together toward a common goal, a common purpose which to me is working hard every day to make Houston better than it was the day before.
Margaret Mead said it best: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
SCOTT LINDSEY, TEXAS COUNTY SHERIFF
As sheriff, my hope for 2020 – like every day – is for the citizens of Texas County to be safe and crime free. However, the reality is that there will always be crime and tragedy in the world and our county is no different. My expectation is that the deputies and I are as prepared as possible to respond to incidents and seek justice for victims.
I feel like my office made many improvements in 2019, my first full year as sheriff. Some of the challenges of life are to always continue to improve and not become complacent with the status quo. As we enter the new year, I will be evaluating my own performance along with everyone who works at the sheriff’s office. I have been blessed to have a great team that really cares about making a difference in the county.
Technology is always changing, and law enforcement is no different than any other field. We will be attempting to upgrade the items used by the deputies to make them more productive and safer. I also hope to retain good employees and attract quality applicants for open positions. Unfortunately, the county may not be able to pay every employee as much as I would like, but we can provide the type of atmosphere that leads to a productive and rewarding career. A career that gives people the chance to change lives in a positive manner.
There is no escaping the fact that 2020 is an election year. On a national scale, there is great divide in ideology. My hope is that both sides can retain civility throughout the year, however there is a clear difference in values between the major political parties. I will be seeking re-election this year also. My first 14 months of being sheriff have quickly flown by. I feel good about the progress we have made, and I hope the citizens of Texas County will allow me to continue to work for them.
I think the ’20s will be an interesting time to be living, with our society experiencing many changes, some for the good and others not. I worry for my children who are growing up that our culture doesn’t value the principles of working hard to earn rewards and personal responsibility for mistakes. Although I’m sure that’s fear that has been shared by many parents over several decades.
Technology will continue to drive the future and I’m sure there will be new things to solve problems we haven’t even thought about yet.
LORETTE SMITH, TEXAS COUNTY LIBRARY DIRECTOR
It is my hopeful expectation to have all new public computers within the coming 2020 year here at Houston, along with new computers for the early literacy program at all branch locations in Texas County. Three of the branches – Cabool, Licking and Summersville – received new public computers within the last year, that are an all-in-one system, meaning there is no longer a monitor sitting on top of a modem box. That is what is needed here at Houston. The computers Houston now has are outdated and very badly need replacing. As do the Early Literacy computers, with Houston being the worst!
Houston did have a touchscreen children’s computer but it is totally out of commission at this time. I have submitted a grant for funding to get new Early Literacy computers for all branches in Texas County and have great hope that it will be awarded.
My other hopeful expectation is to grow our children’s program even more than what it was last year. The summer reading program last year really generated more children than previous years, and I think (hope) this year it will be even bigger!
I feel we have a very helpful and supportive team at all our branches. They are always sharing their ideas and supplies with each other to help make each branches children’s program thrive. And by them continuing this way, it will only make any program with the children of Texas County better and be more developmentally skilled.
ROBBIE SMITH, CITY OF HOUSTON FIRE CHIEF
Here we are, 2020 has come upon us so quickly.
First of all, thank you to our community and surrounding area for your continued support. Our hope in moving forward this year is to better serve our citizens with purchasing battery operated rescue tools and lifting airbags. Our vehicle committee, which is comprised of five department command staff personnel (with over 91 combined years of experience, professional and volunteer), has now fully completed our specifications for a new fire engine. These specifications meet our department goals to best perform our duties and serve the citizens for many years to come.
Our expectations are to bring to Houston as many as possible, Missouri University Fire Rescue Training Institute classes for our personnel and neighboring departments. Department training and training with our neighboring departments is first priority.
As always, we need manpower and are accepting applications for new volunteer firefighters.