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    Former Mayor, Todd Purcell, swears in new Mayor Bill Foulds at the May 12 City Council Meeting. Century News photo by John Pacheco.

City gets new mayor

Foulds becomes first new mayor in 19 years
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"My top three priorities are transportation, city employees, and the proposed town center," newly elected Mayor Bill Foulds said.

For the first time in 19 years, the City of Dripping Springs has a new mayor. Bill Foulds was sworn into office by the man he is replacing Mayor Todd Purcell, during the city council meeting on May 12. 

Foulds decided to run for mayor after he learned that Mayor Todd Purcell would step down after 19 years in office, and would not seek re-election.

“After I learned that Mayor Purcell had decided not to seek re-election, I decided to run because I’m the most qualified,” Foulds said in an interview with the Century News. “I have a great deal of experience on the council, I was involved with the founding of the Parks and Recs Commission in the late 1990’s, and I’ve been Mayor Pro Tem for the past 8 years. I know where the city has been, plus I’m one of the architects of the vision of where we’re going. I’d like to see those things continue. 

Foulds has served on the DS City Council, as Mayor Pro Tem (Place 3), since 2001. 

Now that he is in office, he says his top three priorities remain unchanged since he announced his campaign. “It’s hard to believe how much things have changed because of covid since I first announced for mayor, but my top three priorities are still transportation, city employees, and the proposed town center [TIRZ].”

Transportation

“Transportation is be my number one priority,” Foulds said. “Now that wastewater is moving forward, the most common concern from our residents that I hear about is infrastructure, the roads, how and when we are going to improve them. I’d like to work together with the state and county to move things along. Make them more aware of our needs, become more involved with CAMPO [Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization], and the use of state funds—most of our roads are state funded.”

“We’ve had discussions with our Pct. 4 Hays County Commissioner Walt Smith on ways FM 150 may be expanded going southwest of town, and providing another connection to help traffic avoid the intersection of Hwy 290 and Ranch Road 12,” Foulds said. “We’ve already provided one alternative through Rob Shelton Blvd [connecting Founders Park Road with Hwy 290 and Sports Park Road], and the Heritage Development will soon provide another alternative in the northwest corner by circling around the high school stadium and connecting Hwy 290 and Ranch Road 12. It’s important to have proper planning. If a city or county has identified an area for transportation improvements it’s easier to require a developer to participate.”

Foulds said that Heritage has filed its preliminary plat, and hence the northwest bypass to the Hwy 290 and Ranch Road 12 may now happen “sooner rather than later.” 

“Once they submit their construction plans, they will have to start building the roads,” Foulds said. “That’s a good thing, because prior to them filing their plat, we weren’t sure when they would start.”

Foulds, who often refers to himself as fiscally conservative during city council meetings, also outlined one variable that will help with city road management “One road item I’ve already discussed with city staff is our franchise fee on solid waste services,” Foulds said. “We collect a franchise fee off trash collection because the trash trucks are heavy and do a lot of damage to our city roads. I’ve asked our city staff to explore dedicating the majority of that franchise fee to maintain our roads [the roads the city is directly responsible for]. That money will grow, as the city grows, and that will be a big help. Then we can still work with the county and the state on the other roads.”

City Employees

Foulds second priority is city employees. “I want to make sure our city staff and employees are equipped with the tools they need to take care of our city,” Foulds said. “We have to invest in our city employees and equipment. With all our growth, things are very different than when I first started. Then we had only 2 team members and we were leasing office space.”

Foulds said that because of covid-19, he did learn one unexpected way to ease office crowding at city hall and ease fixed office costs associated with city staff growth. “Because of covid-19 coming into existence, we had to modify the way our team members work the way everybody else did,” Foulds said. “As a result, we discovered that our employees could work remotely. I suspect that going forward, working from home, or a remote location, will ease our office crowding or need for additional office space and reduce all the costs that go with that.”

“My concern with city employees is that we are now just beginning our budget process, so I’m not sure where the numbers are going to take us—especially since we may take a hit on HOT [hotel occupancy tax],” Foulds said. “I am comfortable that we are moving things the right way. For example our recent hire of Laura Mueller as the city’s in-house attorney will produce plenty of cost-savings. Prior to this, Mueller has been working with the city staff as Assistant City Attorney since fall of 2016, as an associate of the Bojorquez Law Firm, P.C. Which meant prior to her hire, every time the city had a question, we would start the clock on a billable hour. Hiring her directly as an employee, and having access to her 24/7 frees up worries I might have about unexpected large legal bills for the city. I would also add that having worked with her for a number of years, I’m comfortable we have an attorney who understands our unique situation with all this growth, and a person who works well with our staff and our processes.”

Town Hall Center

His third priority is the Town Center. “We now have an interlocal agreement between the three parties for a Town Center,— namely the City, the Dripping Springs ISD, and the library,” Foulds said. “For the first time in over a year-and-a-half, all three parties agree to the whole concept. After seeing models, and planning documents, everyone is now starting to come together to see if this thing can be done, and we can begin working on the particulars. The town center will help create and maintain the character and sense of community for Dripping Springs. I think it’s important to work on it now, before we lose control because of all our growth.”

We’ll know a lot more in the in the next three months, hopefully by the end of March,” Foulds said. “The parties to the proposed Town Center are the City, The Dripping Springs ISD, the Dripping Springs Community Library, and the county.”

2020 City Election

Although officially “elected” as Mayor, Foulds win came about under an unusual circumstance.  In a rare non-coronavirus cancellation story, the City of Dripping Springs City Council cancelled the May 2 General Election.

When the candidate filing period ended on Feb. 4, all candidates for the city election were unopposed. Due to the candidates running uncontested, the city was not required by law to hold a municipal election, and all the uncontested candidates were declared winners. The included Foulds as mayor; incumbent Wade King for Council Member Place 2; and newcomer April Harris Allison was elected as Council Member Place 4, replacing John Kroll who did not run for re-election.

During the city council meeting on May 12, after Foulds' swearing in as mayor, city council then appointed the former mayor, Todd Purcell, to Foulds old position on the city council on Place 3. 

“The City had an option of appointing someone until Nov., as opposed to holding a special election, and the option of appointment just made good horse sense,” Foulds said. “For one, we didn’t have the expense of a special election for a posting that was only going to last five to six months, and two, as former mayor and a first-responder, Todd Purcell has a wealth of institutional memory that will help our city emergency management coordinator Roman Baligad continue with the city’s covid-19 response.”

The two men, Foulds and Purcell, have a history of working well together. Foulds run for mayor was endorsed by Purcell.

“When I shared my decision to step down with Bill Foulds, and he mentioned his interest in running for mayor, I was very pleased,” Purcell said in a statement to the Century News. “With Bill we  get a seamless transition. He’s a great guy and he has served as Mayor Pro Tem for the last eight years. He is aware and  up to the challenges that lay ahead for our Dripping springs community.”

Foulds said that he welcomes public input on city policies and the workings of the city government. “As we go through the budget process, and all the unique obstacles covid-19 presents to us, I would like to hear feedback from our residents,” Foulds said. 

Foulds' email is bfoulds@cityofdrippingsprings.com  . Currently all city council, commission, and other city meetings are virtual until further notice, due to covid-19 concerns. For more information, visit cityofdrippingsprings.com .

Dripping Springs Century-News

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Dripping Springs, Texas 78620

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