Q&A with Stephenville mayor Doug Svien.
Q. With the rapid population growth of Stephenville and Tarleton along with new laws restricting the city's ability to annex, there is a greater likelihood of change and redevelopment in some of our older neighborhoods. What are your thoughts on how the city should manage protection of neighborhoods while maintaining a positive growth environment?
A. Stephenville currently has a shortage of single-family housing. Reducing this shortage is a priority and I plan to continue to work with the council and city staff to support development inside the city limits, as well as outside the city.
While there are many acres inside city limits that are available for development (commercial and residential), this is inadequate to meet the total housing needs of Stephenville. Due to this shortage, I will continue to focus on finding solutions for our citizens.
For example, the new annexation law that took effect in 2019 does not limit the City’s ability to annex when the landowner voluntarily allows the annexation. I am currently working a plan with council and staff for developers who looking at building homes inside the city and some outside the city who would voluntarily annex to access city water and sewer.
I also believe that many of our older neighborhoods would benefit from rezoning to allow for more affordable homes to be built. Redevelopment will serve to revitalize these neighborhoods, a win-win scenario.
One of the most recent cases required the council to work with the neighbors, city staff and the developer to create a new zoning type which accommodated both the needs of the developer but also answered the concerns of the neighbors. Again, access to adequate and affordable housing is a critical need for Stephenville, I will continue to work hard to facilitate mutually beneficial housing opportunities for our citizens.
Q. Municipal employment has become very competitive making it more challenging to hire and retain quality employees including police and firefighters. How do you think city employee pay should be evaluated and how important do you think pay is to employee retention?
A. The city has a unique responsibility to recruit and retain quality employees, especially to provide for the safety of our community.
As Mayor, I have and will continue to promote competitive salaries for City employees, comparable to the jobs in the community. Hiring and retaining quality employees is a challenge currently faced by every employer in our community. Pay for city employees is a priority, I have led successful efforts to provide incentives to City employees and we have implemented policies many said could not be accomplished within government.
The programs have provided increase wages to employees based on performance similar to the private sector. It is important the city is able to compete for talent and retain employees. I believe we should continue to innovate in the area of employment policy to develop more options to reward those who are top performers.
While pay is an important factor, there is more to employee retention than simply pay. Other key factors effecting employee retention include benefits and work environment, including supervisors, co-workers and workplace.
Our citizens directly benefit from an adequately staffed and healthy city staff organization, so we should take care of our employees.
Q. As an elected official, there is no clear requirement to spend a certain amount of your time on city issues. Outside of the standard 2nd Tuesday meetings, how much time have you spent on an average month engaged in city policy issues with city staff, citizens or fellow council persons over your last 2 years of service?
A. First, it is my responsibility to work for the citizens of Stephenville to get the job done, no matter how much time it takes. I have a passion for serving this community and there have been weeks when I have spent more than 40 hours on city-related business. I spend between 30-60 hours a month in various roles, engaged in service to the city.
I make it a priority to answer citizens questions, work to resolve concerns raised by citizens and developers, and consult with city staff on a regular basis.
Between May 5, 2020, and March 17, 2022, there were 62 council meetings. I attended 95% of the scheduled meetings.
Here are just a few examples of service I have performed to help promote our community’s future:
• Traveling to meet potential developers and educate self on options others use to improve their cities (last Wednesday I had supper with one developer in Fort Worth and the next day in Dallas spent 7 hours in 14 appointments with potential developers for the city).
• Working with State governmental agencies or on issues related to these agencies (Department of State Health Services, Department of Transportation, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality).
• Walking the halls of the Texas Legislature during the session to advocate for Stephenville.
• Meeting with mayors from other cities to seek advice and gain collaboration on similar issues.
• Meeting with Erath County officials and the Tarleton administration.
Q. What qualities would you like to see in Stephenville’s next city manager?
• Be a leader
• Very knowledgeable about budgets and demonstrated experience of creating efficiencies in their previous jobs.
• Involved in the community
• Experience working with other governmental bodies to (1) to limit duplication of effort (2) willing to consider the most efficient organization structures.
Q. What educational and career experiences in your background make you the most qualified candidate for this position?
My education and career experiences have created in me a heart for service. My goal as Mayor is to listen to the needs of our citizens and to work, as hard as I can, to provide opportunities for the needs of our citizens.
My business experience has taught me the value of innovation, so my priority is to bring more opportunity to our community in the form of services, shopping, employment and entertainment to Stephenville. As your mayor, this is the #1 thing we can do to keep your property taxes as low as possible.
I also understand the importance of taking care of people, especially those who provide for the needs for others. Integrity, Teamwork, Work Ethics, and Focus on the Future are four areas that guide my daily decisions.
Decisions based on:
• 40+ years management experience
• 31 years’ experience in business development
• 11 years’ service on the city council
• 4 years’ experience as mayor
• 12 years’ experience as board president of a trade organization in Texas. These businesses do several hundred million $/year in business.
• 6 years’ service on the Medical Care Advisory Committee … the only Federally mandated state committee dealing with Medicaid issues in Texas.