Four out of the seven seats on the Lubbock City Council will be changing this summer. After elections Saturday, Lubbock is welcoming in Dan Pope as Mayor and Steve Massengale as the City Council representative for District 4. Two seats are still being contested, close elections will lead to runoffs on June 25 for the District 1 seat (Juan Chadis and Frank Gutierrez are in the running) and the District 2 seat (Sheila Patterson Harris and Jared B. Hall are in the running).
District 5 representative Karen Gibson who has held her seat since 2010 said that after these new elections, she will be the most senior member of the council. She said “Mayor Pope” aloud in an interview with EverythingLubbock.com Sunday, then paused, realizing it was the first time she’d said “Mayor Pope” instead of “Mayor Robertson.”
What is Gibson’s advice to the newly-elected council members?
“Be patient, listen, keep your eyes and your ears open,” she said.
She expected there would be runoffs determining several of these council seats and said that no matter which candidates win, she has confidence that each person who is running is committed to improving the city of Lubbock.
Gibson admitted that a job working on city council is not as easy as some might think. Looking back to the time she joined the council, Gibson said she prepared and studied for months in advance.
“I thought going in I was pretty much in the know, and my first meeting I knew nothing,” she said. Gibson explained that it took months to acclimatize to all of the responsibilities in her post.
Gibson added that these new council members will have an especially tough workload from the start of their term.
“Those first few months it is literally like drinking through a fire-hose. It just is a flood,” she said. “Remember, these new council members, the first thing that is gonna hit them is the budget and you’re dealing with a $730 plus million dollar budget right off the bat. And we’re gonna have four new council members, that’s the largest number that I’ve had for the turnover of council members.”
Gibson added that the budget approval process is tough and very time consuming for the council. She is glad that Massengale and Pope have experience working for the school board at Lubbock ISD because she believes that experience will help both men in handling the city’s budget.
District 3 Representative Jeff Griffith, who will also be one of the three continuing members of the new council, explained that he was also elected through the runoff process and faced similar challenges starting off on the council.
“As soon as I got sworn in, those budget books are thousand pages plus. We want everyone to dig in budget-wise because the clock is ticking on analyzing that much data,” he said.
Griffith added that the budget process requires a large amount of reading and “homework” for all council members.
“There’s always a difference in personalities, but I’m confident everyone will have the same teamwork standpoint to study the budget,” Griffith said.
On top of those responsibilities, Gibson said the new council will also have to focus immediatley on finding someone to fill the city manager position as James Loomis is set to retire at the end of this year.
“I feel that’s probably gonna be one of the biggest things this council does,” she said.
She explained that Dan Pope’s leadership style will also play a role in shaping how the council handles big decisions such as the selection of a new city manager.
Jeff Griffith added that the city expects to swear in the new representatives for Districts 1 and 2 in early July. He saidup until that time, the existing council will continue working.
“We’ll try to get as much done as possible with the current council to get everything processed so that when the new council is seated, everyone can jump right into the budget,” Griffith explained.
Gibson said she’s excited for all this change. She’s hoping the new council members are ready to hit the ground running upon taking office
“I feel like we are just right on that verge of moving forward, of being progressive, the council now has been working so well in moving the city forward and i don’t want to stop that momentum,” she said.