Get to know your Buda candidates

By Sahar Chmais
Three women are in the race to win the At-Large Position 3 to serve Buda residents, and while they come from different backgrounds, they agreed on many points.
Buda’s candidate forum, presented by the Buda Area Chamber of Commerce (BACC), made way for residents to get to know their candidates and their goals for the city. They were asked about businesses, growth and thoughts on the upcoming Buda bond.
“The Buda Area Chamber of Commerce takes our role in providing this forum as a public service helping citizens to be informed of their future city leaders,” said John Hatch, BACC chair.
“After listening to these candidates, it is unfortunate only one can be elected.  The city of Buda will be in good hands regardless of who wins the race. As all three candidates are women, we are guaranteed to have more diversity on the council.”
Although the candidates gave some unique answers while also supporting each other’s perspectives, the Hays Free Press chose two questions to highlight the contenders.
What does it mean to you to run for an At-Large position, and what are your plans to bring all parts of Buda together? 
LaVonia Horne-Williams: The biggest part about this position is understanding that it will represent the city of Buda as a whole.
One thing that I’m hoping to work together on is to bring east and west Buda together. I want to work toward finding an opportunity for the city to work together, regardless of the side of town, and bring the same quality of life throughout the entire city.
Emily Jones: It is important that citizens can elect somebody who they want representing them, regardless of where they live, and also have somebody representing them who lives in their area as well.
What we are Working on in Planning & Zoning Commission is ensuring amenities in Buda are spread throughout the city, so every Buda citizen can enjoy parklands and amenities.
Virginia Jurika: It’s an honor to serve our community at the highest level. Whether I represent west, east, or central Buda, it is in everyone’s interest in the community.
Service over self; I leave personal agendas out the door. Collaboration is the key. We are here to listen to and serve the citizens. We should serve problems with collaboration, with service in a timely manner, looking at our budget.
Do you think the Unified Development Code (UDC), as written, is a good document and working as planned, or would you like to see some changes made? 
Jurika: The UDC requires some streamlining in some areas. We have to come together to look at the areas and how to make the growth of the city, businesses and the type of housing we want.
In 2011, the comprehensive plan called for green development. Have we seen green development around? I have not. This document has a lot of strategic planning, and sometimes I think the difficulty is in the strategic implementation. One of those is to look at UDC and see what areas we can streamline. Yes, it requires a revision.
Jones: There are changes that need to be made. In a growing city, documents need to grow with us.
Some things are a little gray, like the Specific Use Permits (SUPs), some language around form-based zoning is not really clear. We want to make sure that the document is in lockstep with what we want and what we are presenting to the people coming in who are trying to develop or build here. There should not be anything left in the gray area. It should be clear for our protection of the city. It needs to be reviewed every so often.
Horne-Williams: It is a good document, and it is good to have foundational documents for the city. However as we grow,  there will be things that will grow with us and changes need to be made.
Changes we would need to see include food trailers, for example. 10 years ago, we would not have thought of food trailers, and now they are an opportunity for people to have business without the expense of brick and mortar business in Buda. It also shows we are accepting of small businesses and accepting of different types of businesses coming in. But we want to have rules set in place and how they will function in our city.
Questions and responses have been condensed for the purpose of brevity. Residents can view the full forum online. 

LaVonia Horne-Williams as been a Buda resident for over two decades. She has experience in procurement, finance and construction. Additionally, her plate stays full serving in the Buda Economic Development Corporation, Buda Historic Preservation Committee and working for Austin ISD.

Virginia Jurika is Chilean born, but as she says, “Texan by the grace of God.” She has been a Buda resident since 2009 and lived all over the world, where she implemented projects for humanitarian organizations. Jurika also has a Masters Degree in Organization and Dynamics from the University of Pennsylvania.

Emily Jones has lived in Central Texas all of her life and has been a Buda resident for seven years. She worked in construction and development for 24 years. Jones is the Vice Chair in Planning and Zoning Committee, and works as an estimating director with a focus on estimating, bidding, budgeting and financing.

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Sahar Chmais holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin. She has been covering cities in Hays County for one year, touching on residents' struggles and successes, city issues, COVID-19 and more. Prior to reporting on the local spectrum, Sahar reported for a national news organization, covering gun violence. Sahar enjoys working as a local reporter because she gets to work with real people and their stories.

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