Smithville ISD Place 6
What made you want to run for this position?
I have three kids - 8th grade, 5th grade and kinder - all of them enrolled in Smithville ISD schools. Our family is "all in" on public schools - we believe in it and we support it. I've seen how hard the administration, teachers and staff have worked over the last two years dealing with Covid and all the mandates thrown at them. If I don't raise my hand and say I'm willing to get to work, I'm not answering the call. Each of us as parents, as citizens, has a responsibility to put our shoulder to the wheel when it's our turn.
What kind of experience - educational, professional or personal - do you bring to this position?
I majored in economics and Spanish and earned an MBA a few years after college. My wife is a veterinarian - education has meant a lot for our family and has opened many doors.
I want Smithville students to have a robust education that teaches them the basics but also teaches them to think independently - to think entrepreneurially so that whether they want to start their own ranch, be an astronaut or the next Jim Allison or have their own business right out of high school, that they've got the skills to do it. I've spent most of the last 22 years in banking and insurance; the banking specifically was public finance - helping rural school districts develop and communicate infrastructure plans to their communities. Good schools attract businesses, businesses bring jobs - and a key but often overlooked fact is that businesses also ultimately pay more taxes than homeowners, therefore reducing the tax burden for homeowners.
Today I help manage a group of small insurance companies and also serve on their corporate boards. I've served on several nonprofit boards over the years and testified on insurance legislation in front of the Texas state senate and house in 2015 and 2017 - both of which bills became law. In retrospect, I've been participating in governance on a state and municipal level for much of my working life.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing Smithville ISD?
For Smithville ISD, while there will certainly be growth in student population, I think technology connectivity and teacher retention are two of the biggest challenges we will face.
Smithville is still a rural district - AT&T doesn't offer good internet options in the south part of Bastrop County. When Covid hit, it was very hard for kids to learn remotely, even though the District was able to loan iPads to many of the kids. The District needs to collaborate with providers and with right-of-way owners like Bluebonnet to try to drive connectivity. It won't be easy, certainly. But progress is achievable.
Teacher retention needs to be a big focus. As all of the surrounding districts grow faster, they will attract more businesses, more rooftops and bigger tax base. They may very well hire away teachers we've trained for two to three years because they can pay them better. That's part of the importance of attracting businesses to Smithville. But discerning ways we can remain a "district of preference" when it comes to teachers wanting to stay someplace and be part of something meaningful - a district whose culture values their sacrifices and efforts and who seeks to help them grow professionally as they help our kids grow - that's the sort of culture that leads to a top-notch teaching staff.
How do you expect Smithville ISD to adapt as Bastrop County’s population grows? Where do you see the city in five years?
Student-to-teacher ratios will be stretched with growth. It's likely to hit Smithville ISD just a little slower, but strategic planning will need to encompass both the addition of staff, and likely in the future, some additional space or renovation. Maximizing resources we already have will be important.
What is one issue you want to fix or improve if you take office?
One thing to “fix” or focus on is retaining and recruiting good teachers, and ensuring a student/teacher ratio that maximizes student learning potential.
Why should the voters choose you? What sets you apart from your opponent?
I have more experience in the extremely wide array of topics that a school district faces than other candidates. I've served public school districts professionally. I've served on boards. As a public finance banker for nearly a decade, I worked with school districts from the initial planning stages and community surveys all the way through project funding, and it was amazing to see the community pride that arose through those efforts. Some of those school districts were ranchers and farmers, some were seasonal and mostly relied on tourism and some were just flat-out poor rural districts with no tax base, few jobs and few resources. But the most fulfilling thing in all of them was to see how through transparency and communication, a common vision was forged around key projects. Building a broad basis of support among parents, businesses, retirees and civic leaders will be key to Smithville ISD's future. I won't shy away from hard conversations and hard decisions, but I will do my best to be an ambassador for the school district and help community members understand why we as a board make the choices we do after soliciting their input.
Moreover, as I said initially - all three of our children are in Smithville schools and our family is here to be a part of the solution and a part of the community. All the volunteer hours coaching two kids' rec teams per season show as much! I love watching all these kids form relationships with each other and learn new skills. The environment we create for Smithville ISD enables that. Culture matters, and leadership matters. I will never quit working on those two fronts. Culture is about creating shared values, and leadership is about vision and communication. Every day I serve on the Smithville ISD, those two themes will be banners over my work."
Any other information you would like to share with voters?
I developed a great love for breakfast burritos fifteen years ago when we lived in Colorado. When we moved to Texas ten years ago, breakfast tacos were a big adjustment - they were smaller and the eggs fell out. But chopped brisket and eggs for breakfast? I will never leave Texas.