June is a time of endings—graduations and retirement for many—but also a time of new beginnings in the city of Blanco. Two new faces on city council and one on the Blanco school board bring varied experiences and fresh ideas to their new positions.
Newly-elected mayor Christina (“Tina”) Gourley, a Blanco resident for over 17 years, brings a wealth of experience from her position as an internal auditor for the State of Texas with 20 years State service. A Magna cum Laude graduate of Concordia University in 2001, Tina combines years of experience in the business world with a long-time knowledge of the community of Blanco and its needs. As a member of city council, elected in 2008, she quickly focused on economic development—recruiting new businesses to the area and promoting tourism. Her goals for Blanco include the following, in her words:
• Immediate attention to our city’s sewer and water plants
• Working through the city’s Water/Wastewater Department to obtain state permit and contractor bids to dredge decades of silt buildup, resulting in increased water capacity in the river bed
• Added support for our police, fire, and EMS departments, which provide such value and are so essential to our community
• Following through with prior council actions such as re-letting bids for the long-awaited city police office. “The council approved this prior to my 2008 election to the city council, and will provide much-needed space both for the police department as well as the remaining city departments on the square.”
• Encouraging citizen input to ensure the Blanco city council reflects the citizens’ voices
Although Tina will be working in Austin for another year before her retirement, she has made arrangements to be available to residents at city hall on Fridays.
Bobby McClung returns to city council after a year’s break, having served previously from 2004-2008. The Fort Worth native is a graduate of the University of Texas and founder of Momentum Online, which was purchased by ERF Wireless, Inc. He is now the executive in charge of ISP operations for that firm. A resident of Blanco County since 1990, McClung has two daughters who graduated from Blanco High School and now are attending college. In his previous term, Bobby worked hard to promote safe activities for young people in the community, at one time hoping to buy the old mohair warehouse to use a recreation center.
In a recent phone conversation, he reiterated that need for making Blanco a place where young families will want to settle. He describes himself as “dedicated to bringing healthy activities to the youth in our community through more recreational, cultural, and sports facilities.”
When asked where the biggest challenge for Blanco lies, he is quick to reply that Blanco must manage growth opportunities to build a “vibrant” community with good schools so that the tax base will increase. With increased revenue, infrastructure such as paved streets with curbs and sidewalks will make Blanco more family-friendly. In his words, growth should be viewed not as a necessary evil, but as an opportunity to build a strong community which still maintains a rural character and is uniquely Blanco.
Bobby sees his role on council as coming in with common sense, avoiding a personal agenda of any kind. One issue he cites is the recently-adopted trash ordinance, which if passed without amendments, would have severely penalized anyone whose fenceline has tall grass along it or whose property has fallen branches after a storm. As well, the city would have had a difficult time annexing large tracts of land which would not be in compliance with the original ordinance. He stressed that ordinances taken from places like San Antonio or Austin may not be appropriate for Blanco.
Recently-elected BISD trustee Darrel Wagner may be new to his position, but he is familiar to many in town as a native son who was born and grew up in Blanco, graduating from Blanco High School in 1980, when high school students attended classes in what is now the Learning Center. Darrel is married to Blanco native Dana, formerly Dana Riba, and has two sons—Britton, who will be a freshman at Blanco High School in the fall; and Jordon, who will be a sixth grader at Blanco Middle School. Darrel is the general manager of Wagner Materials and Construction, a family business. In his spare time Darrel enjoys hunting, boating, and camping with his family.
Darrel was motivated to run for the school board through his association with long-time friends and fellow BISD trustees Troy Immel, Charles Riley, and Kirk Felps. In comparing the district now to that of his youth, he says school was “pretty primitive” back then—no air-conditioning in the summer, and not much heat in the winter. In contrast, today’s schools are “ahead of the curve in technology” in his words, and he is happy about that, both for his own boys and for all the students of BISD.