Get To Know Frisco City Council Place 2 Candidate Shona Huffman
Get To Know Frisco City Council Place 2 Candidate Shona Huffman
Show Notes & Links:
- Shona Huffman’s Website
- Runoff Election Date: Saturday, June 18, 2016
Connect with Lifestyle Frisco on:
Scott Ellis: Welcome to the Frisco Podcast. I’m your host, Scott Ellis, and today we are here with City Council place two candidate, Shona Huffman, running in the runoff elections that are coming up on June 18.
Shona, welcome to the show. It’s good to have you on the Frisco Podcast.
Shona Huffman: It’s great to be here. Good to talk with you.
Scott Ellis: Thank you for coming out today. You are running in place two for City Council.
Shona Huffman: That’s correct.
Scott Ellis: That is a seat being vacated by Jeff Cheney, correct?
Shona Huffman: Correct, Jeff Cheney. He is terming out of seat two.
Scott Ellis: The runoffs are on June 18. What that means is there was the regular election that already happened, nobody got 50% plus one vote.
Shona Huffman: Correct.
Scott Ellis: Although, I think you were fairly close.
Shona Huffman: Fairly close, we were in between, we were right around 49%. Very close.
Scott Ellis: Very close, but because nobody got 50% plus one we go to a runoff, so the top two vote getters get to keep going for a while.
Shona Huffman: We get to extend this journey for a little while longer, yes.
Scott Ellis: That’s going to happen. The voting is on June 18, and there’s early voting I think … When does that start?
Shona Huffman: Early voting is going to start on June 6, which is a Monday. It will be 8:00 to 5:00, June 6th through June 11th. That’s a Monday through a Saturday. Then they’ll take a break on June 12th, and then on June 13th and 14th, which is a Monday, Tuesday it will be 7:00 to 7:00. Then on Saturday the 18th it’ll be 7:00 to 7:00 again. Plenty of opportunities for people to come back out and cast their votes again.
Scott Ellis: That’s right. It’s super easy to vote in Frisco, so there’s no excuse.
Shona Huffman: Super easy to vote in Frisco, and kids will be out of school. There’s no excuse to not have time to get out there. Everyone can get out there and vote. It’s hugely important that if you … Especially those who cast their vote the first time, go out and do it again, and make sure that the leaders that you want to have taking us forward over the next few years, gets their voices heard.
Scott Ellis: All right. Very good. What made you want to run for City Council? I know you’ve been involved in the city for a while. Maybe tell us a little bit about how you’ve been involved, and why you want to be on City Council now.
Shona Huffman: We’ve actually lived in this community for 12.5 years now. We moved from a neighboring suburb, and we, like most young families in this community, moved here for the schools and what we saw Frisco doing as a community. We kept driving up this way and saw what was happening, and just really wanted to be part of it here. We often talk about the fact that that’s one of the best decisions we ever made as a family. We’ve been here 12.5 years as I said, my husband Brian and I, and we have two daughters, Chloe and Lily who are … Chloe is an 8th grader at Cobb Middle School, and Lily is a 6th grader at Cobb Middle School. We often make the joke that we are in the trenches of two middle school girls in our home. We accept prayers and encouragement and wisdom in that, but I have been involved in the community for a number of years.
I started off in my career as a high school teacher. I spent 12 years in the high school classroom.
Scott Ellis: What did you teach?
Shona Huffman: Government and Civics and US History.
Scott Ellis: Very good.
Shona Huffman: I also happen to be a co-coach on a national debate team, nationally ranked, and enjoy that very much. I spent a lot of time looking at policy, a lot of time researching policies across the United States, but loved Civics and loved Government and loved teaching that, but loved how our system works, loved everything from the Federal level all the way down to the Municipal level. That was my first love.
I have a Master’s degree in Poli-Sci. It truly is a passion of mine. As I’ve gotten involved over the past several years in Frisco, a lot of that has come through Leadership, Frisco and other organizations that I’ve been part of, but a key part of that has been in my work with the Chamber of Commerce, as the Director of Government Affairs. My job has been to, on a daily basis, look out for the policies and the pieces of legislation both at the Federal and State levels, but also at the city level that impact our community, and to basically help advocate for the things that are best for the business community and the residents because I firmly believe that what we do well here as a business community, very much impacts our residents, and how we keep our residents happy, and what makes us a strong community, is also very much what creates a thriving business community. It’s a huge partnership there.
That’s really where I’ve gotten involved a lot, is in just being on a day to day, watching out for things that were happening, working with our current city staff and our current elected officials and our county officials on different projects. Whether it’s things that needed to come in as far as business or things that were promoting commerce, or when it was actually things to help protect local government, and things that we saw that maybe the State government or Federal government was looking to control aspects here in our community. We can do it better here. We don’t need anybody else telling us how to do it. Those are some of the ways I started getting to get involved.
When it came to making the decision to run for Council, we started to look at … I was so heavily ingrained in attending City Council meetings every time there was a City Council meeting, every event that they were doing for 3.5 years, as we were looking down that path, we started to see a lot of the possible turnover that was about to happen. Both on City Council levels, with some people terming out, on planning and zoning, with some others hitting their term limits, and also with our city staff. It’s no secret that several of our key staff leaders are looking to retire at some point soon, and as we go to move forward as a community, it’s going to be hugely important that we have leaders that can carry us through that transition. Those leaders have got to have a really in-depth knowledge of where we’ve been, where we are right now, and where we’re going, to make sure that that transition is smooth.
As we sat around and watched what was possibly happening, and I kept thinking we need to make sure that we have strong leaders, and I would talk to others and say, “We need to make sure that we find some really strong leaders going forward,” I had somebody kind of point those fingers back at me and say, “You really need to consider, instead of talking about how we find strong leaders, you need to consider stepping in and showing your leadership that you’ve already done, and bringing that knowledge to the table.” That’s how we got to this point, and I think that’s what we bring to the table is an in-depth knowledge. I don’t have to train myself on the issues we’ve already been involved in. I don’t have to learn a lot of those steps that we’re taking or we’ve already taken. I’ve been involved. I have been part of that. I’ve been watching that. I’ve been invested in that for several years, and I’m ready to lead on day one.
Scott Ellis: Speaking of issues, there’s one that we were just talking about before we started recording. People will have heard about this by the time this airs, but as of recording time, we just found out that the bury the lines issues … The issues being buried, if you will.
Shona Huffman: It is.
Scott Ellis: A decision has been made, and the results are-
Shona Huffman: The results are that the lines, the proposed transmission lines, and that’s what we want to be clear on. It’s not regular electric lines around the city, it is the proposed new giant transmission lines that were going to run down Main Street from the tollway to 423. They were going run overhead, the PUC made the decision this morning in a two to one decision, that they would be buried.
If you can’t see the smile on my face through the Podcast, hopefully you can hear that because I’m a resident of Main Street on that side, and so I personally am effected by that. I drive down Main Street multiple times a day because I work off of Main Street, and I also have been one of the leaders in this process, with all the commercial property owners to get this done. I think I was sharing with you before, at one point about nine months ago or so, we added up the hours that I had invested in this, and we were over 200. At this point, I think it’s safe to say that I’m probably 3- to 400 hours of investment in research and getting this project buried.
I am pleased with the decision. I am pleased for the residents in that area. I am pleased for the commercial property owners who have worked to develop that area of town, and I am pleased that our city stepped up to the plate in a tremendous way to support those efforts. I don’t think enough can be said about our city staff and our city officials for thinking and believing that this was a project that needed to happen. This truly was a team/community effort.
I say it all the time, I think one of the things that makes Frisco the best community to live in is we come together as a community to do things that are good for our community. This is truly one of those examples.
Scott Ellis: We’ve seen, with the things that we cover around town, we have seen that time and time again in numerous different ways. It sounds like yet another good example of people in the community and the city coming together and accomplishing what they want to accomplish.
Shona Huffman: It’s a great effort on all parts, and I think that … One thing that the PBC said is that typically see landowner versus landowner involved in this, or they see residents versus the businesses. That’s not the case here. You saw the business community joining hands with the residential community, joining hands with the ISD and the city to come together, and we worked well together. I think we’ve done that a lot over the years.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, very good. I think it’s probably a good indicator of what you’re in for, should you get elected to city council. I know we’ve had conversations with multiple city council people on the show. We’ve had Mayor Maso on the show and one of the things a lot of people are not aware of is that when city Council positions are not paid, there’s a small stipe but it’s a very small stipe. But it’s also a tremendous amount of work. This is a lot of time for everyone. So, for those that have full-time jobs and do this on top of it, you’re really working two full-time jobs. It’s a big commitment.
Shona Huffman: You are. There is a big commitment. One of the key things that I think is key here too is I have the blessing of being able to work part-time. Not that that matters in a sense because we had many of our public servants who have worked full-time or part-time or any of those as they’ve served, so to me it’s not about that part but I think it’s about understanding the level of commitment that this position takes. Nobody goes into this thinking that it’s going to be easy, or at least they shouldn’t go into this.
I think one of the things that is a benefit for me is that because I’ve been so involved over the last several years, I’m very aware of the meetings. I’m very aware of the commitments because I’ve been attending them as well, even as, not as an elected official but as a citizen and as someone who was working within the community, I’ve been attending those events and having those meetings along with them and so, there is an awareness of what the level of engagement has to be but as a growing city, I think that’s necessary. And I would expect that of anyone that would represent me as a voter and as a citizen, so, yes, there is a huge effort that’s involved in that but I very much believe that not only am I up to the task but also am very aware of what that commitment looks like.
Scott Ellis: Good. It’s definitely not something to be taken lightly. Now that the power lines are handled, what are some of the other issues that are maybe top of mind for you, things that have come up in conversations you’ve had with people during the race for city Council? What are some of the things you’re thinking about and focusing on?
Shona Huffman: Utilities are always a huge issue when it comes to a growing and developing area. Especially when we’re growing as fast as were so there are several utility issues, that are still kind of bubbling up and percolating a little bit. There’s another one on the west side. There is another issue on the east side, that involves transmission lines, so I’m very engaged with both of those. I have been already meetings with not only city staff but also with other elected officials, but I’ve also already been meeting because I have a lot of those resources. I’ve been meeting with the electrical providers, to get all of the information, to find out what the facts are and to help make some of the decisions that are best for our community, because that’s really who we represent. When you are elected city Council, you don’t represent the region. You represent our borders within Frisco. That’s really my priority. Any of utility issues that we have going forward is huge and I say that I’m not a regulatory utility attorney but but I have done a lot of studying and research over the last three years and it has somewhat become one of those special interests of mine and I think I bring a lot of that base to the table.
Some of the other issues that come with growth and development are … There’s growing pains in that. It is not easy to grow a city and to grow it as fast as we grow it and have been growing it and to do that well. That’s kind of an issue for us. We have some competing interests that we need to make sure that we do this in a way that we’re not necessarily giving up one thing that means something to us in order to get something else and sometimes we need to find a way to balance those things, so as we grow and develop, we are losing some of the green fields that have been here the last several years that many of us moved here and loved, we are losing some of that and not that I want that but at the same time, those property owners in a property rights state, as a lifetime conservative, those are things that as we move forward, I need to be mindful of the fact that property owners have the right to develop their property the way they are zoned for and see fit, so there’s a lot of that balance that you need to strive between maybe what the community might want versus what a property owner might want and sometimes those things can be in conflict.
I see that as a very important issue going forward in how we balance that and how we work creatively to – Maybe not – We can’t fix those problems but how we come up with the best decisions maybe in the end. I think that’s something else and certainly water falls into that. I’ve been working very much in depth with trying to support getting the reservoir, the lower Bodart Creek Reservoir. Online, we’ve got some issues that the water district is stumbling with with that – Not because of our own issues but because of the new EPA standards that have been added – and I’ve been at the forefront at working on that and helping get that expedited because again, we’re a growing region and we’ve got to be able to supply water in that area. But I think it’s also in how do you maintain a community feel when you have a lot of new people moving in and may not understand what that community looks like or bring other ideas to the table, how do you pull that all together to keep a united community? I think that that’s something that we very much need to keep at the forefront.
I was reading this morning that we have out of any of the areas growing in the country, we are the top one in the last five years because we’ve added 36,000 people. How do we do that and still maintain what the Frisco community looks and feels like and I want to make sure that, for the person who comes 10 years from now and the person who came 10 and 20 years before now, that that community feel is still ever present and that’s a huge part of what I think about and look for when we’re solving these problems.
Scott Ellis: Okay, yeah, those seem to be issues that are cropping up commonly in conversations that we’re having as well. Water is always top of mind, especially this time of year going into summer. The growth in Frisco is clearly something that everybody’s keeping a close eye on, because it’s just happening so fast. Certainly through our eyes, it looks like we’ve done a pretty good job. Maybe not perfect in all ways, nor would you expect that, but I can’t imagine a lot of cities or places that I’ve lived that have experienced growth, and even a fraction of what we’re having here, have managed it nearly as well and I think that goes back to speaking to some of the institutional knowledge and the longevity of some of our city managers and leaders that have been around for a long time and forward thinking, in what was coming to Frisco.
Shona Huffman: Right and I think forward thinking is key. There’s that sense of, you want to have forward thinking with an eye back to the past, of knowing what we are and where we’ve come from, it’s not going to happen, happen stance. We’re going to have to be prepared for what comes and it’s interesting to me that there’s some who want to slow the growth and I’m not sure how you slow that growth, because other people want to move here for the exact same reasons that we’ve chosen to move here and that growth is coming, so then the question becomes more about, how do you do that in a way that is productive, in a way that is beneficial, in a way that actually, like I said, promotes community.
Scott Ellis: Yeah, I think that’s a very good point. I know there are people that would like to see it slowed down but I don’t know that we can cause that. It’s going to come so we just have to deal with it.
Shona Huffman: Sort of building a wall and there are others that promote building walls out there.
Scott Ellis: I don’t think we want to put a wall around Frisco. That might send the wrong message.
Shona Huffman: I’m not sure that that would … You certainly don’t want to send the message that we are closed.
Scott Ellis: No, not by a long shot. Let’s go back and talk about the utilities a little bit though, because I know this has been an issue more and more recently and that in particular is the Encore issue, so what has been your involvement and knowledge of that one so far and can you tell us a little bit about what’s happening there?
Shona Huffman: So, there’s a question of a proposed substation along Legacy, that is, would be right across from Legacy Christian Academy and also Alan Elementary and it backs up to a neighborhood. It is a green spaced area, it is zoned for a green space area and a future zoning shows green spaced area back there. That is, what you look at, homeowners buy property for. It is key to know that it is also right under power lines that exist, large transmission lines that already exist have been there for decades. Encore has chosen this piece of property. Encore does not own the property yet but they have asked the city for an SUP, which is a special use permit, to be able to, since it’s not zoned for utility, to be able to get permission to do that, to put a substation there. The residents in that area, are against that and they don’t want a substation built right behind their homes, when that was not what the plan was. One of the things we often need to remember his residents is that regardless of what we were told when we bought our property, that it’s our due diligence to make sure that whatever that zoning of property behind us or around us, especially if it is along major thoroughfares, that we do our due diligence to make sure what that is zoned for, as were buying property. To know what might come in in the future.
These residents, I believe, have done that and it was not zoned for utilities, so it has been through one public hearing at this point with the planning and zoning. They’ve heard loud and clear from the residents at the time, that they wanted them to look for other locations. They will be holding more public hearings with both planning and zoning, before planning and zoning would make a recommendation, either to turn it down or to approve it and then City Council would have the opportunity to either accept that recommendation or overturn that recommendation by super majority.
There are several steps ahead. What is happening is on June 2, Encore is having a meeting with the community to then have citizens input to that process and I would encourage citizens to get involved in that process and to attend that meeting. It will be at Reading High School. I believe it starts at 7 PM on June 2, but it will be an opportunity for residents to be heard. Understand that, power has to go somewhere in a developing area and that there are legal requirements on that and constraints but at the same time, it’s important that our residents are heard and that, if there’s opportunities to move this substation elsewhere and there’s better locations, that we do our due diligence as a community to seek that out. At the point that I’m at right now, I very much believe that there is a better option and I don’t have that better option right now but again it’s not my … I believe it’s Encore’s job to find a better option, of where it should go and so I will continue to research, continue to study that and find out and continue to hear from residents.
The key thing that I would say in this issue is that these are not issues that we can just make side comments and throw our opinions out on, especially even as candidates. It takes a lot of background knowledge and understanding to know what the law says about the utility companies and where they can go and what happens when cities say “no”. What that process looks like because there’s a process to that too and just like the Bury The Lines, that was a long process and so, are we ready to go through another long process like that? Possibly but there’s a lot of things that need to happen before that. I think what I bring to the table as a candidate in that, is that I have that knowledge. I’m not speaking just out of opinion on this issue. I have a ton of background knowledge on how this process works. I’ve been in the trenches on this. I’m not just speaking in hyperbole about it. I’m actually speaking from real life experience of doing this and getting in the trenches and working for the residents on this. A key issue, yes, but we need to continue to hear from the residents at this point.
Scott Ellis: Ok, very good. Well, Shona. Anything else you’d like to leave us with before we wrap things up here and move on and get ready for the elections?
Shona Huffman: You know, this has been an exciting process. It has been a long … We announced our candidacy last July for City Council and I would not have made this decision if I did not feel that truly the experience that I bring to the table and the knowledge that I bring to the table was what was right for Frisco at this time and as a resident, I expect that of the people who represent me, so I would expect the same from any candidate who would do that, so I believe in this long road that I’ve heard from constituents and I’ve heard that they love this community and that’s why they’re here. We are not perfect.
We’ve got our own faults but we have a wonderful community to live in and it would be not only my pleasure but also my humble honor to serve this community as a public servant and to be in the trenches working side by side with our residents to continue to make this city great and those of you that have already gone out and voted, thank you for that and those that have been supporting us all along, thank you for that. We need your vote one more time, so we would encourage you to get back out, runoffs tend to be very low attended and so we want to make sure that your voices are heard, so get back out and vote again. I’d also ask you to go to maybe ShonaFrisco.com and check out some information about me. You could also see me on Facebook at Shona Huffman and find out more about me and if you’ve got questions for me, don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know and I’d be happy to meet with you.
Scott Ellis: That’s the great thing about local elections is the people you are voting are very directly accessible to you on Facebook, email – they may even live in your neighborhood. Don’t go beat their door down too much but they’re not very far away.
Shona Huffman: You see us in the grocery store, you see us in the schools. We are here living and breathing in this community too, so that’s important and I think that’s a great thing about local elections. Get involved and go vote.
Scott Ellis: It’s important for people to understand as well that the runoff elections in particular have historically had very low voter turnout, so every vote in the most literal sense, every vote really does count.
Shona Huffman: Every vote counts, every vote counts and it is your voice, it is your one opportunity and we get very excited about presidential elections and we all turn out for the primary elections for that and yet the decision makers who are closest to you and the ones who have an impact on you on an hourly basis in what you’re doing in everyday, are those who are at your local level, so that’s where your voice needs to be heard, so get out and use it.
Scott Ellis: I’ve been ending every episode with almost exactly those words, so you’ve just made my job easy today. It’s never more important than it is on a local level. These are the people that really affect your day to day life, more than anyone else, so take a couple of minutes, it’s a fast process. I’ve never seen any real lines for voting in Frisco in the local elections. You’re going to go in, you’re going to cast your vote and you’re going to be out of there in a few minutes. Please go make it happen. The last day, the official voting day is June 18th. That’s a Saturday. We’re going to have location information and everything else linked up in the show notes, so please get out there and vote one more time.
Shona Huffman: Please get out there and vote and if you’re going to be out of town because you’re vacations already started, you can do request mail-in ballots and those are available through the city too, so you can request those.
Scott Ellis: Ok, good to know. We’ll hunt that down and put a link to that in the show notes as well. In the meantime, Shona, thank you very much for joining us today and for everybody out there listening, we will talk to you next time on the Frisco Podcast.
Shona Huffman: Thank you.