Haynes ties his past to city's future at chamber forum
Patrick McLaughlin is challenging mayor's bid for fourth term
Speaking at the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon Friday, Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes explained his goals for his hometown by first looking to his past as a big-city attorney.
Haynes, who was first elected in 2010, is seeking a fourth term as mayor and faces challenger Patrick McLaughlin IV in the May 7 elections. The chamber held a mayoral candidates forum as part of the luncheon, which also included an update from Keep Brownwood Beautiful director Pilar Roy.
McLaughlin, a businessman, did not attend the forum.
“I think when I start talking about my vision for the city I have to start by telling you a little bit about my past," Haynes said. "It’s hard to understand my vision for the future without understanding what shapes that vision.”
Haynes said he graduated from Brownwood High School in 1992, attended Abilene Christian University and earned a law degree from The Texas Tech University law school. Haynes and his wife, Lori, moved to Grapevine and Haynes went to work in a Dallas law firm.
“I’ll be honest with you, there were some things that we loved about living in the Metroplex," Haynes said. "We loved having opportunity, wages, pay. We loved having nice restaurants. We love the fact that we could go shopping and anything that we needed or wanted was available all the time.”
Haynes described a Grapevine sports complex “with green grass as far as the eye can see" and running trails that connected city parks.
"What I didn’t like, of course, was the traffic — couldn’t get anywhere," Haynes said. "I didn’t want to miss my kids growing up because I was constantly gone, or the road. I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t drive home and go hunting and fishing. I didn’t like the fact that if I went out on the lake on the weekend it was so crowded."
In 2006, Haynes said, he and his wife decided that rural life was better and moved to Brownwood, where Haynes is in private law practice.
"But now with that background you’ll understand my perspective and the goal, because the goal is to bring some of those things that I loved about the city to Brownwood without losing our rural quality of life," Haynes said. "That means those restaurants, the parks, the wages, those opportunities.
“We’ve recruited new businesses. I would say we’ve changed the landscape of our retail corridor. From the Traffic T to the bayou looks nothing like it looked 12 years ago."
The city has gone on to create a sports facility, improve its park and has built running trails that connect schools and parks, Haynes said.
"We’ve worked with local entrepreneurs to completely revitalize downtown," Haynes said. "Most recently we saved a beautiful historic structure and we’re turning it into an amazing conference center that will be a benefit to Brownwood for decades and decades to come.”
Addressing the cost of the improvements, Haynes said, “The reality is, 1.7 percent a year.” He said that's the average amount city budget's annual increase since 2009.
“In my opinion that is exceptionally fiscally conservative," Haynes said. "We have planned, we have saved, we have worked toward those goals, and we’ve done it when we could afford it. But we’re making a difference.”
Haynes addressed the topic of rising property values, saying "our success is causing property values to go up dramatically.” He said the only tool the city has available is to lower the property tax rate. “We’ve lowered the tax rate three of the last four years and we will lower the tax rate again this year," Haynes said.
He said the city will continue to pave roads, improve parks and public facilities, keep recruiting busineses and continue to help local entrepreneurs improve and revitalize downtown.
“With some hope and some thankfulness and gratitude, and good fortune and prayer, we’re going to see the downtown hotel revitalized and turned into a modern hotel," Haynes said, referring to the planned renovation of the former Brownwood Hotel. "We’re going to recruit events to the Event Center in a way that has not been done in Brown County in decades and we’re going to create opportunities for people to have better paying jobs and better quality of life for their families.”