Brownwood council candidates speak at chamber luncheon
Brownwood City Council Ward 3 candidates Melody Nowowiejski and Linda Heitman spoke on topics including housing and the current city government at the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon Friday.
Rex Tackett moderated the Q&A at the Brownwood Country Club.
Early voting in the May 1 election for the Brownwood and Bangs city councils begins Monday at the Brown County Elections Office.
Nowowiejski and Heitman are competing to replace Larry Mathis in Brownwood's Ward 3. Mathis announced his resignation from the council because he and his wife are moving out of town.
Nowowiejski said she works part-time in real estate management and is a full-time mother of four children. Heitman is the executive director of Brown County Home Solutions, a nonprofit organization created to address homelessness in the county.
Nowowiejski, who grew up in Webster, graduated from Howard Payne University in 2002 with a degree in pre-law. She attended law school for a year at Texas Tech University before realizing a career in law wasn’t for her. She said her work experience includes retail and education.
Heitman worked in low-income property management in far West Texas before moving to Brownwood. She said she lived outside of Texas for 20 years before returning to the state in 2013.
Before she was hired as the Brown County Home Solutions director, Heitman worked in a Brownwood CPA office.
Nowowiejski said although she didn’t complete law school, she did not lose her love for the law and politics. Nowowiejski said she’d thought previously about running for the city council but did not want to run against an incumbent.
Local government is “where the best kind of government happens," Nowowiejski said.
“These last 15 years have been a good process for me to rethink how I view government, how I view priorities and who is best equipped. And the answer is that we are, and that’s why I want to be on city council because I think this is something I’d be good at, this is where I can contribute. We all have something we can give to the city and help it function and prosper best.”
Heitman said she’s gotten involved in the community, and once she started working at Brown County Home Solutions, “I found my calling,” Heitman said.
She said two friends asked her to consider running for the Ward 3 seat.
“I got to thinking about it and the work that I’ve done in the community with the low income, with those at risk of homelessness, as well as the homeless,” Heitman said. “I thought, this is a great forum to be able to continue the work that we’ve already done with the city. We have forged amazing relationships with the city, the county, organizations and through this work have forged ties to be able to solve problems.”
Heitman said she’s an “out-of-the box thinker” who loves helping people, helping the community and seeing all residents “have access to a better life.”
Nowowiejski said her decade of service on the Pregnancy Care Center board has given her experience in helping make decisions in the best interest of an entity. She said after attending Brownwood City Council meetings, she sees similarity in governing the Pregnancy Care Center and the city.
Heitman said while she hasn’t served on a governmental board, she worked as a city secretary in Nebraska.
”So I’m very familiar with the workings of city government,” Heitman said. “I also have continuing education with Texas Tech University on governmental accounting. Within Brown County Home Solutions, we do a lot of funds accounting which is very similar to city government accounting.”
Heitman said the most compelling issue facing the city is “affordable housing,” which she said is subsidized housing.
“I’d like to see more affordable housing come to Brownwood,” Heitman said. “Affordable housing is a real issue here. I see it every day in trying to get housing for people.
Heitman said she has connections within industry and with the state. Noting the presence of jobs in the service industry that pay $8 to $11 an hour, Heitman said subsidized housing would make it possible for tenants in that income range to afford rent.
Nowowiejski agreed that affordable housing is an issue but said it “doesn’t have to be subsidized.” She suggested a scenario of “smaller houses that are not in disrepair … I just think it would be nice to have something between a $250,000 house and renting for the rest of their life.”
Both women said they believe the current city government and Brownwood Municipal Development District are doing a good job, and they don’t believe there is wasteful spending in the city’s budget.
Nowowiejski said her candidacy “isn’t a referendum on what the city is doing wrong.”
Early voting hours are:
April 19-23 — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
April 26-27 — 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.