Spring 2021 Katy City Council election Q&A - Ward A

By R. Hans Miller | News Editor
Posted 4/3/21

The city of Katy has two city council seats up for grabs as well as a bond package with two propositions totaling $6 million. Information regarding the candidates for Wards A are below in the form of …

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Spring 2021 Katy City Council election Q&A - Ward A

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The city of Katy has two city council seats up for grabs as well as a bond package with two propositions totaling $6 million. Information regarding the candidates for Ward A is below in the form of question and answer exchanges regarding issues the city is facing.

Ward A incumbent Dusty Thiele, who was appointed to council when former Council Member Frank Carroll resigned last November, is not running to retain his seat. Instead, the seat will see a new face representing Ward A as either Dan Smith or Diane Walker earns the most votes. 

The questions below were provided to the candidates at the same time and they were provided with the same word count limits and deadline to return their responses.  Responses are listed in alphabetical order by last name below and contact information for each candidate located in the sidebars on the left.

Why are you running for Katy City Council and what should voters know about you?

Smith: Katy is truly a treasure, with rich heritage and strong community spirit.  In only 10 short years, the number of Katy households has grown by nearly 50%. Our city is changing quickly, and all aspects of Katy need to keep pace with this explosive growth.

I am running to bring my 20 years of professional experience creating great experiences for my customers to Katy City Hall. I view residents as “customers” of the City of Katy. Every ordinance passed, dollar spent, and city employee action must serve and provide a great experience to residents. This customer service mindset, along with resident input, will guide my decisions on council.

My top priorities also include improving economic development and enhancing public safety. As Katy and the surrounding areas continue to grow, I will fully support our first responders and funding investments in Police, Fire, and EMS services.

Walker: I want to be a voice for all residents. Between growing up here and my volunteering I have met and cultivated relationships with many members of the community. Katy is changing and we can’t keep doing things one way because “that is how it’s always been done.” We need to join together as a community and be able to respectfully express our ideas and concerns and be heard. I will be the candidate uniting natives, new, young, and old.

I spent 11 years on active duty in the U.S Navy and 13 years as a federal law enforcement analyst. I believe that working within the government gives me a much better understanding of how the government works and allows me to navigate within governmental organizations better than those with only private sector backgrounds. I am an analyst by trade. Research and tough questions are a welcomed challenge and my passion.

Do you support making Katy’s Animal Control Department a “no kill” animal shelter with an in-house adoption program? If so, why? If not, why not?

Smith: I strongly support the humane and ethical treatment of all animals. I have visited both Katy Animal Control as well as Rosenberg, which was identified by the “No Kill” community as a vision of good. 

My biggest learning from Rosenberg Animal Control was how they focus on each case as an individual in order to take the appropriate action.  While they focus on getting adoptable pets out of the shelter into loving homes, they do euthanize animals when it is deemed to be the best outcome for the animal and/or the public.  I think this individualized approach is a good one, and something Katy can seek to replicate.

I am very excited to have an Animal Control Advisory Board in place, and I am looking forward their recommendations on programs such as adoptions, partnerships, and more.  I would support adoptions from the shelter in a way that fits within the context of our city and the relatively low number of animals.  Weekly events operated in partnership with 501(c)(3) charities could be a great start.

Ultimately, it is the job of City Council to listen to the taxpaying citizens who put them there. I am committed to representing Katy residents.

Walker: I fully support making Katy’s Animal Control a “no kill” shelter. Last year I started researching how we as a city could implement this. I spoke with shelters from surrounding cities and combed through their budgets. I have spoken to many residents that are excited to see that adoptions from our shelter may be an option in the near future. This is absolutely something that we can and should do. We just need to make sure that we take the time needed to do it in a well-planned-out manner. We can do this by utilizing our newly formed Animal Advisory Board and welcoming feedback from the community.

Katy’s permitting process for new buildings/businesses is one of the strictest in the Houston metro area and those seeking permits express concerns about the process being excessive and inconsistent. What do you feel should be done to improve and streamline the process while ensuring safety and quality of life are maintained within city limits?

Smith: City Council recently approved a full audit of the permitting department, which I support.  The results of this audit need to be taken seriously and acted upon. The majority of issues residents tell me about relate to training.  This opportunity falls in two areas: inspection integrity/consistency, and customer service.

We must ensure that all inspectors are properly trained to the same standard.  Residents should never receive a passing inspection by one inspector only to be failed by another for the same thing. 

We must ensure that customer service is an ingrained part of the culture. Inspectors may be paid by the City of Katy, but they work for the resident or business owner whose project they are inspecting.  This people-centered design is very different from what we have today.

We also need to look into implementing better technology to streamline the process and improve convenience, communication, and transparency.  These are important aspects that also fall into improving the experience of the whole process. My entire professional career has been centered around customer service, and I am eager to bring my knowledge and experience to benefit our great residents and businesses who need to work with Katy’s permitting department.

Walker: As I have stated many times before, I would like to see us adopt a computerized system for permits. As a homeowner, I should be able to get online and see where in the process my permit is. By having this system in place not only are we saving the customer time, but it will also allow the staff to better allocate their time.

Business owners throughout the city have suffered economically due to the pandemic. What do you feel the city should do to help local businesses recover from the financial struggles brought about by COVID-19?

Smith: Economic Development is one of my top priorities, and I encourage voters to see my full growth plan at www.DanSmithForKaty.com/issues. This issue goes well beyond the financial impacts from COVID-19.  As a city we must do more to encourage and support businesses in a way that enables them to thrive in Katy.

My plan includes support for the creation of an Economic Development Coordinator role at City Hall, creation of an Economic Development Board for Katy residents, improving Katy’s reputation by fixing challenges in permitting, and more.  Today, the city “outsources” much of the support small businesses need to area organizations such as the county chambers of commerce.  I would like to see Katy take on more of this responsibility with dedicated resources.  We can do this in a budget-neutral way with increased economic activity in the city.  This is a win-win-win for small businesses, the city, and taxpayers!

Walker:  Our local small businesses are a big part of the city’s culture. During the pandemic, I have supported small businesses the same way as I did before COVID-19 and the same way I will continue to do so in the future. I eat and shop local as much as possible. I also encourage the community to do the same. If someone posts on social media asking for a business reference, I direct them to small businesses in the City limits. I would also love to see a link on the City of Katy website that will direct people to local businesses. 

What do you feel is the biggest challenge the city is facing over the next five years and what do you feel should be done by the city to address that concern?

Smith: It is critical that we take action over the next 3-5 years to ensure the City of Katy remains a great place to live for the next generation.  All around our borders is Houston ETJ, which is rapidly growing without zoning restrictions or input from Katy.  This growth impacts everyone.  We are seeing large developments, multi-family apartment complexes, commercial, and industrial growth in the greater Katy area.

We must focus on economic development to secure our small-town charm and increase sales tax revenue to fund city services including Police, Fire, EMS, and flood mitigation. This also enables us to keep residents’ property tax rates low. We need an updated comprehensive plan that will serve as a roadmap for the Capital Improvement Project Fund to ensure we stay ahead of the curve.  This will also include things like infrastructure maintenance and improvements.

I will bring my experience and passion for service to City Council to benefit all residents of Katy. Ultimately, I believe that city government is about customer service, and you are the customer!

Walker:  I believe that the biggest issue facing Katy right now is our aging infrastructure. The City is continuing to work on flood mitigation which is especially important. However, we need to also focus on increasing the capacity of our existing storm drains. Additionally, we need to improve our infrastructure simultaneously. To accomplish this, we need to have a thought-out, computerized maintenance schedule. Katy is an older city, and we need to prevent major waterline and sewage breaks. We need to be more proactive in addressing infrastructure needs.

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