As you may have noticed by the signs around town, we are amidst election season here in Nacogdoches. Chatter at the coffee shops, on the sidewalk, and via social media tell me people are paying attention to what’s going on in our community—which is a wonderful thing.
The democratic process is vitally important at the local level since grassroots policies are where the day-to-day impact can be seen from a citizen’s perspective. However, local elections have very low voter turnout despite the fact that it is a citizen’s most important expression of opinion.
At the broadest level, our country has one of the largest and most complex structures for local government in the world and although they may seem similar from the outside, the daily functionality of different types of local governments is diverse. The City of Nacogdoches functions under a council- manager form of government created through a city charter, approved by the citizens. This form of government combines the political leadership of council members, including the mayor, who represents the community and make policies, with the strong managerial skills of a city manager and their staff who works to implement these policies and ensure the community is being properly served. This form of government is known to be successful, as policy implementation can be facilitated by the city manager in order to align day-to-day operations with the mission and values of the community and its elected officials.
The role city council members play is essential to this process. Those who choose to serve the community as a city council member, play a critical part in setting policies that provide services to those living within the city limits each day. While we often talk about city employees and their immense value to our community, we should also recognize the time and dedication provided to unpaid city council members.
City council members are in place to give a roadmap to the city manager who then implements this to city employees. To do this, the city council spends a great deal of time adopting a budget, setting big-picture goals to improve quality of life, and implementing local regulations to ensure orderly progress.
It is also important to note that in Nacogdoches our city council elections are non-partisan. This means no candidate has to affiliate with a certain political party. This is due to the fact that political parties are irrelevant to providing local services, and cooperation is more achievable when party affiliation is not present. Cities like Ft. Worth and Austin are structured in the same manner, while Houston is not.
Although this may sound complex, the City of Nacogdoches and its current elected officials take pride in their ability to have a conversation with their constituents. You will often hear these conversations referenced during City Council meetings—which is also a wonderful thing. However, your role as citizens starts with a vote. If you live in the city limits, don’t forget to take this important step in having your voice heard.
Saturday, May 4 from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm is election day at the Nacogdoches County Annex and the City Council position for the Northeast Ward, Northwest Ward, and Mayor’s race is on the ballot. Early voting starts April 22 through April 30, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Amy Mehaffey began her work with the City of Nacogdoches in July 2015. Prior to this, she worked as a 4-H Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. In this role she did marketing and promotion for the Texas 4-H Youth Development Program and served as the event coordinator for Texas 4-H Roundup, the agency’s largest event. Amy graduated in May 2015 with her PhD in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Sciences with an emphasis in youth development. During the pursuit of this degree she also received a certificate in Prevention Science and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Previously, she completed a Master’s of Science in Agricultural Communications at Texas A&M University and a Bachelor’s of Science in the same field at Texas Tech University. Amy is also a freelance photographer and enjoys Texas A&M football in the fall. She is married to John Michael Mehaffey who is a professor of Animal Science at Stephen F. Austin State University. They are proud parents to Hattie Mae Mehaffey, born September 1, 2016 and Hunter Leigh Mehaffey born July 2018.