Get to know your candidates

The Hays Free Press asked all our Buda and Kyle city council candidates the following questions. Here’s what they had to say.

 

Rick Koch
Candidate for City of Kyle, District 5

Q. Do you consider yourself to be left-brained or right-brained?

A. This is a good question, but City Council seats should always belong to Team Kyle, to our right brains and left brains. The more we use our whole brain, the better we think about setting ourselves up for future prosperity. 

Most political questions rest on the idea of division. I have spent the past three years on City Council looking for ways to bring people together rather than pointing out what makes us different or choosing sides, even if it’s just picking the side of our brain.  

While each side of the brain has certain functions, it’s long been said that the left side is where logic happens and the right side is where creativity happens, and that we all have one “dominant” side that’s more active than the other side. If we’re “left-brained,” we’re more literal and, if we’re “right-brained” we’re more creative. For the vast majority of us, one side doesn’t control us. 

The brain isn’t that simple. We use both sides of our brain when making decisions.  If you used only half of your brain, you wouldn’t be able to function properly.

I bring this up because this question is a microcosm of how many people view government on all levels. Am I on the right or the left, am I a Republican or a Democrat? 

If a City Council member wants your vote, the expectation appears to be that they need to belong to the team you’ve decided to associate with, regardless of the candidate’s desire to represent the interests of every constituent.

I understand why we as humans move towards tribalism, which can manifest into “us” versus “them” mentality. Tribalism can bring people together, but also drive them apart. I respect that there are benefits that this way of thinking brings, but I also acknowledge the detriments and separation it can cause. 

I will not pledge allegiance to a political party or a dominant side of my brain as I do not see it as constructive for the people of Kyle. In my experience, party lines only create a mechanism for people to easily choose who they want to vote for based on issues city leaders don’t have to deal with. If you are a staunch Republican or Democrat, my viewpoint is often unpopular at first glance. In a world of national politics and division, people with strong beliefs don’t like it when I don’t pick a side. And it does cost me votes, but I stand on being aware of all citizens’ shared concerns, needs, and goals.

When it comes to the city of Kyle, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to keep unnecessary division out, as I do not believe this all or nothing thinking serves our community.  Doing this has come at a cost to me from the very beginning of running for City Council, but it’s a price I am most willing to pay to keep the focus on being an active listener, open to hearing all citizens’ viewpoints with the mindset to allow my preconceived ideas to be challenged. I believe in pulling a council together, building consensus and working collaboratively to put the needs of the citizens of Kyle first. 

City Council is non-partisan by design. We aren’t supposed to let party rhetoric interfere with the day to day needs of the city. From the beginning, I have pledged my allegiance to Team Kyle, not to a party.  If I need to create a team to beat, I’ll gladly make the rivals, Buda or San Marcos, not that I wish harm on them, because I love our neighbors, and Hays County as a whole. But when it comes to Kyle, I want us to WIN in the region on all fronts. My vision is to offer in Kyle, a better quality of life, to be united in the things that matter most in our daily lives, and to have the kind of city staff and leadership that represents more than empty words. 

When first running for City Council in 2018, I knocked on neighborhood doors in the midst of the Supreme Court Kavanaugh hearings. The good people of Kyle would answer their doors, often with CNN, Fox News, or MSNBC in the background covering the proceedings. Imagine being caught up in this national story and a local citizen running for City Council comes knocking on your door.

It made for quite an experience. Without hesitation, 9 out of 10 times the first question fiercely asked of me was whether I was a Republican or Democrat, followed by a stern look, ready to pounce if I gave the incorrect answer. 

Based on many factors, I knew exactly what answer they wanted to hear. Sometimes it was obvious by what they were watching, how they phrased the question, or what political signs they had in their yard. But the number 1 indicator was their primary election voting record, which by state law requires all of us to pick a side if we want to participate in the primary election vote. 

Knowing all this, I did not give them the answer they wanted to hear that could have easily won the day. That would be doing anything for a vote and I’m not going to represent myself that way for a nonpartisan seat on City Council.

Instead, I did my best to redirect and find a city issue that mattered to my neighbors such as talking about roads, neighborhood patrols, keeping crime low, or how we should grow the business community to shift the tax burden off homeowners, etc.

While a few doors did abruptly slam in my face when attempting to talk city issues, I am happy to say that most of the time voters didn’t allow political party to be a hard and fast dividing line. Most engaged with me and shared their thoughts, experiences, and expectations for The City of Kyle. 

It said something to me about the invested citizens of our community. Through long and thoughtful conversations, I came to a real-time tested conclusion that at Kyle’s core, most voters want the same things when it comes to our community, a place where people want to live and thrive, share common goals, connect, contribute, and have freedom of expression. 

I do my best to represent Kyle as a whole, as a growing city. Through sound policy, I aim to create ways for our quality of life to grow for every resident, no matter our individual take on national issues. 

I recently spoke on a national podcast sharing my thoughts on Kyle and where we are going as a city. It’s less than 30 minutes if you would like to take a listen here. It reflects my attitude towards our budding city. It is my hope that we, as a community, can continue to create policy that is in our best interest, that brings you and I together, and increases the chance of connection instead of division.

Q. They say consistency is key. What is something you’re adamantly consistent with in your life?

A. Knowing what I don’t know. 

The truth is, we often elect local representatives to make big decisions that impact our quality of life, who don’t know enough about how their city functions, and base decisions on personal experience.

While serving on the Planning and Zoning Commission for two years, a City appointed board that studies and recommends changes in our land use matters, I learned there is a lot a City Council member should know before starting their service.  An unwise City Council can do a lot of long-term damage. I’ve heard many former council members explain that once they figured out what was going on, they spent their time and taxpayer money fixing the mistakes of those who came before them, and then their own.

This year the City of Kyle has a $172 million dollar budget. When people say that being on council is a heavy responsibility that is not an overstatement. 

If you’re not aware of your limitations, of what you don’t know, or where to look for the best answers, you’re going to make bad votes that have a lasting impact in a way you didn’t intend.

Q. What do you want to be remembered for?

Before I was elected to City Council, as a Kyle resident, I wrote and submitted a parking ordinance to the City of Kyle. It was written to reduce costly parking ticket fines. At the time, Kyle did not have a parking ordinance. This meant all parking tickets defaulted to the state minimum fine.

I learned this in 2016, after KPD conducted late night parking ticket sweeps throughout several neighborhoods. Many residents were ticketed for simple parking violations, like parking the wrong direction in front of their house. What would typically be a $20-$30 fine in other cities, was a staggering $150 in Kyle. To top it off, all the money went to the state.

On August 1, 2017, the City adopted my parking ordinance reducing fines to a reasonable amount. It was a great accomplishment for me as a private citizen, democracy at its finest.

Fast forward to 2019. I have since been elected to council and am hearing from residents that simple parking fines were still in the hundreds. I looked into the matter only to find out that the City never followed the ordinance passed by the previous council.

Taking corrective action, the City reviewed two years of incorrectly assessed higher fines and refunded the difference to hundreds of residents. 

This story was chronicled on January 8, 2020 in a Hays Free Press article titled, “City of Kyle refunds more than 2 years worth of overcharged parking fines”

While it would be nice to be remembered for many of the new advancements coming to Kyle, I bring up this story because I believe it demonstrates how I’m willing to work to better my city not only as a council member, but also as a private citizen. 

Q. What is your go-to drink in the morning before work?

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, mine are centered around coffee meetings in Kyle. Coffee shops and early morning restaurants are where I meet with people almost daily to discuss city related issues before taking on my normal work day.

My Kyle Brain takes in information best in the morning when it’s refreshed, and especially after a very strong cup of coffee. Because of my morning meeting practice, I have pro-status knowledge on Kyle’s local coffee shop offerings and am an expert on the Americano, my drink of choice because it’s strong. For example, downtown’s newest coffee shop, Kyle’s Daily Grind, offers an XL iced Americano that includes 6 shots of espresso. It’s delicious and delivers an excellent level of alertness to problem solve the day.

Donny Wills
Candidate for City of Kyle, District 5

Q. Do you consider yourself to be left-brained or right-brained? 

A. Really depends. As a builder I have to use lots of mathematics, facts, and logic…there are many times I have to be very visual and artistic. No one aspect of my life would put me into either category of thinking. I have an Associates in Music, while I have nearly completed my Bachelors in Criminal Psychology. Both have very different thinking processes.

Q. They say consistency is key. What is something you’re adamantly consistent with in your life? 

A. First and foremost important is being a Father. Giving my children a structured and consistent enviroment to learn and thrive in. Secondly is Building. When someone trusts you to build their dream home, the quality, workmanship, and materials all need to be consistent.

Q. What do you want to be remembered for? 

A. Making a difference. I want to make a difference in as many people’s lives as I can. If I die, I want one person in this world to be moved to succeed.

Q. What is your go-to drink in the morning before work? 

A. Chocolate Milk

Daniela Parsley
Candidate for Kyle City Council, District 5

Q. Do you consider yourself to be left-brained or right-brained?

 A. One test I took says I’m more right brained but I’m  definitely a more analytical and facts oriented person and those are left brained person characteristics so I really think it depends on the situation.

Q. They say consistency is key. What is something you’re adamantly consistent with in your life? 

A. My family and I pray and discuss our day at a round table before dinner every day. We say our 3 favorite things and then we talk about our difficult or challenging issues. During this time no electronics are allowed and we only speak Spanish so our children can develop better conversational skills in their second language 

Q. What do you want to be remembered for? 

A. For being a good and caring human being. 

Q. What is your go-to drink in the morning before work? 

A. A cup of coffee with 2 shots of espresso and creamer 

Leah Kaufman
Candidate for Kyle City Council, District 5

Q. Do you consider yourself to be left-brained or right-brained?

A. I am definitely more right brained. I’m an outside the box thinker and love creative projects, especially because my day-to-day work requires a lot of analytical thinking. 

Q. They say consistency is key. What is something you’re adamantly consistent with in your life? 

A. I love this question. It’s hard to choose just one thing, but I’d have to say I consistently focus on growth. I’m always focused on getting out of my comfort zone. We’re at our best when we’re learning new skills, absorbing knowledge and evolving. I’m also consistently an early riser. I write in my free time and the only way to get free time when you have three kids is to be up before the sun.

Q. What do you want to be remembered for? 

A. I want to be remembered as someone who always seized opportunities and took chances on new adventures. Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear. Carpe diem.

Q. What is your go-to drink in the morning before work?

A. Go to drink in the morning?  If I only get to pick one, it’s an almond milk latte with a couple pumps of hazelnut. Next to that is a giant glass of water and a chocolate protein shake because I’m not much of a breakfast person unless it’s the weekend.

LaVonia Horne-Williams
Candidate for Buda City Council, Place 3

Q. Do you consider yourself to be left-brained or right-brained?

 A. I consider myself a combination of the two. I’m analytical but also creative.

Q. They say consistency is key. What is something you’re adamantly consistent with in your life?

 A. I am adamantly consistent about establishing and sustaining relationships that foster positive engagements with people.

Q. What do you want to be remembered for?

A. I would most want to be remembered for being a good person, a good mother, grandmother, and wife.

Q. What is your go-drink in the morning before work?

 A. McDonald’s freshly brewed coffee with cream and equal.

Virginia Jurika
Candidate for Buda City Council, Place 3 

Q. Do you consider yourself to be left-brained or right-brained?

A. I consider myself a “whole-brained” person. While my management style has a left-brain analytical approach, my leadership style has a right-brain or “Pollyanna-like” approach. For instance, as a member of Buda Planning and Zoning Commission, it is my responsibility to make an educated and unbiased decision of a preliminary or final plat of a new subdivision, and based on that information my left brain starts evaluating potential risks, costs and benefits that can be generated from a new project. Having overseen large and small-scale projects and plans for the future in highly volatile environments like Iraq, South Sudan, and Venezuela for Doctors Without Borders (MSF), my right-brain leadership approach has proven effective not only in bringing the crucial people on board and building relationships, but also taking things in stride and finding creative ways to keep people engaged during periods of high uncertainty and stress.

Q. They say consistency is key. What is something you’re adamantly consistent with in your life? 

A. Having integrity. Integrity entails making transparent and sound decisions, keeping the public interest at heart at all times. Integrity is about keeping our word so commitments to the public are met. Some people think reputation is the same as integrity, but they are two different things. Reputation is the way other people perceive you. Integrity is the way you perceive yourself. Others determine your reputation, but only you determine your integrity.

Q. What do you want to be remembered for?

A. Virginia was a successful immigrant story, from her humble background in her native Chile to the USA. While her humanitarian job took her across the globe, she maintained her love of Buda since she moved there in 2009. She ran for City Council not as a career politician, but as a citizen who was committed to bridging the gap between city leaders and residents. Buda residents appreciated the fact that she always kept her word of working with them and for them. She also became the first Hispanic City Council Member.

Q. What is your go-to drink in the morning before work?

A. As businesses flock to Buda for their “last-mile” transportation needs, we must ensure our local government continues to support the small businesses that are the backbone of our community. My go-to drink is a latte from Devil Dog Coffee (DDC), 100% Veteran owned and operated. Their coffee truck is on Main Street by our local art center. I like to talk with Eric, the founder of DDC, about his business and about finding meaningful ways to connect with our neighbors of all ages while sipping great coffee!

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