Candidate for Mayor, Dillon Meek
By Dillon Meek
Today, Waco is a great city filled with great people, but I believe that Waco’s greatest days are ahead. Waco’s geographic location, local momentum, and the (still-promising) Texas economy have created an opportunity for greater prosperity for all Wacoans. The five years I served on the Waco City Council, I learned that consensus building and partnership are not only possible but imperative. The firm foundation of Waco’s people working together, coupled with strong leadership, is how we will achieve this promise. The mayor should focus on convening, driving and working towards positive outcomes on the following, alongside the city council, city staff, and community stakeholders.
Three responsibilities that are important for the Waco Mayor in the years ahead are:
- Improving Earning Opportunities
- Working Strategically and Collaboratively to Make Waco a Better Place
- Planning for the Future
Improving All Wacoan’s Earning Opportunities
Waco’s economy has a lot going for it right now. We are between some of the country’s fastest growing cities and have a strong cultural identity that appeals to businesses, tourists and families.
There are some steps we must take to ensure growth is healthy and holistic, so every Wacoan’s career and earning opportunities are increased.
First, the City should work to upskill citizens into higher-paying jobs by convening with local partners and learning institutions to develop a rapid, skilled workforce training program. There continue to be job openings throughout Waco that pay well, but there are not enough applicants that have the technical skills required for the job. (Think: HVAC techs, electricians, welders, plumbers). Studies show rapid training programs at accessible community centers increase median income levels.
Second, thanks to good leadership, Waco has experienced recent momentum in business recruitment and expansion. Continuing the momentum that increases industrial/commercial expansion can help reduce the tax burden on residents. The City should also work to expand its incentive offerings to benefit entrepreneurs and small businesses. Further, Waco needs to proactively recruit absent businesses that meet identified economic needs; the mayor should build a coalition to determine the missing pieces to our economic ecosystem, target companies by name, and leverage our assets to get them to open shop in Waco.
Third, Waco must support our thriving entrepreneur ecosystem. The mayor can convene community partners to work with Start-Up Waco, so local entrepreneurs can easily access incentives, mentorship, space, and capital investment, plus have a voice in shaping the small business landscape.
For every one of these economic development initiatives, we must ask what strategies could be implemented to ensure people of all races have equitable participation (in the economy and all spheres of our community). In Waco right now, 13.5 percent of white households make less than $25,000 a year, compared with 25.3 percent among Hispanics, and 51.1 percent among Blacks. The mayor should encourage targeted approaches so a middle class is built in communities that have traditionally lacked mobility. An economy where all citizens can actively participate benefits everyone.
Lastly, when the economic impact of COVID-19 was realized, Waco and business-supporting partners rose to help our local economy in every way possible; this must continue in the months ahead.
Use Strategy and Collaboration to Make Waco a Better Place to Live
There are some steps we can take to improve the lives of Waco citizens.
First, Waco is a better place to live if it gives latitude and support to non-profits, churches and backbone-organizations that work to improve Waco culture. Communication is key; the mayor has the power to convene pastors and churches, non-profit boards and civic clubs so all corners of Waco know the needs, existing resources and opportunities to participate. Government cannot solve all of Waco’s challenges, but the mayor can convene and support organizations that can, and in so doing, receive greater returns.
Second, Waco is a better place to live if it is safe for everyone. I support the work our police department has done to reduce crime and build trust with community members. The recently established Community Policing Division will make neighborhoods safer; data shows these divisions result in increased trust and reduced crime. Policing and race equity are of high importance. While Waco has made strides (ie adopting the 8 Can’t Wait policies), the mayor must prioritize authentic partnership between community leaders and the police department.
Third, Waco is a better place to live if Wacoans are healthy. For all public health matters (including COVID-19), the City should convene health officials to provide science-based recommendations to the public. If these recommendations could result in a policy decision that might conflict with other interests (such as economic or mental health interests) we must carefully weigh all of these interests with transparency, alongside experts of all said interests so the right balance can be struck.
Fourth, Waco is a better place to live if we re-evaluate housing and neighborhood development strategies. Specifically, I will call for best practices for mixed-income housing approaches that are community-positive, reduce displacement and are incentivized by available federal grants. Additionally, neighborhood associations must be empowered to shape and advance their neighborhoods. The mayor should ensure these associations have information and an empowered seat at the table. Studies indicate this will provide valuable returns to the tax base.
Planning for the Future
In the next 15 years, approximately 10 million more people will move to Texas.
The mayor should call for smart, sustainable growth and current infrastructure needs outlined in the Waco Comprehensive Plan and continue Waco’s robust capital improvement and street plan. Waco has to get ahead of possible infrastructure problems that comes from growth, such as reducing traffic congestion.
The mayor should follow the Comprehensive Plan’s priorities of healthy revitalization in the city core because making use of existing infrastructure and services conserves resources. This Plan also recognizes the role of greenfield development, encouraging policies making it sustainable and livable, including increased parks. Each area of the city deserves tailored master plans and design strategies to catalyze thoughtful development with appropriate incentives and restrictions.
Biographical Information for Dillon Meek
Dillon’s greatest joys in his life are his faith and his family, that includes his wife Lindsey and his two children Mabry (3) and Davis (2). Dillon is a graduate of Baylor University and Baylor Law School, after which he has worked as an attorney and in business specializing in real estate. Dillon served on the Waco City Council from 2015-2020, representing Council District IV, which includes parts of downtown and Central Waco. While on City Council, he learned the importance of listening, fostering collaboration, and building consensus. He has served on the boards of the following organizations: Downtown Waco Farmers Market, Unbound Waco, Waco Metropolitan Planning Organization, City Center Waco, Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Greater Waco Sports Commission and Inspiracion.
He is running for mayor because he loves Waco and believes the City can utilize his five years of experience on the Waco City Council to grow the economy and improve the quality of life in a way that advances every Wacoan. Waco’s best days are ahead!