By LESLEE BASSMAN, Four Points News
During a special called July 2 meeting, Village of Volente City Council appointed candidate Jana Nace as mayor following the June 6 resignation of former Mayor David Springer. With a full dais, council member Bill Connors was the lone vote for resident Steve Baker, the second mayoral candidate.
“Our mission tonight is to elect a new mayor and, if needed, elect a new council member,” Mayor Pro Tem Chris Wilder said at the start of the meeting.
Connors had asked the city to consider either waiting until later July to vote on a new mayor so residents could weigh in on their candidate choice or calling for the vote in an election this November. Wilder said Springer asked to not be a “holdover” official; that is, state law provides that a resigned official must hold over in his or her official capacity until the position is filled. Other council members agreed to pursue the evening’s agenda.
Judy Barrick, chairperson of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission, was approved to take Nace’s newly-vacant council spot, with Connors the sole vote against Barrick.
Both Nace and Barrick were sworn into office at the meeting and will hold their positions until the November 2020 election, continuing with the term that Springer and Nace, as a council member, held.
New Volente mayor
Nace said her hands-on experience with Volente — the village on the north shore of Lake Travis which was incorporated in 2003 and has some 600 residents — began about eight months ago.
“I think it’s important for our community not to dwell on past procedures,” Nace said. “But instead to focus on what moves our village forward while maintaining the original vision that we have for Volente.”
Nace referenced recent actions within the community. The council has not met regularly since mid-January, with a member and the village mayor resigning. The city secretary also resigned and a temporary secretary, Nanette Akinleye, is now in place. Mayor Pro Tem Chris Wilder has taken over the duties of Springer for months, while the former mayor was in New York with an ailing family member before resigning from the position in June.
Nace said her focus for the upcoming administration includes efficiency, continuity and integrity. She said Volente needs to use its resources to better its management, organizational skills and communication with citizens. Nace advocated a new plan to maintain the village’s financial records, an issue when a different council member serves as the record keeper every two years.
She said the financial records “need to be taken out of the hands of the volunteer citizens that are elected” and pushed for Volent committees to be revitalized, encouraging citizen involvement in civic actions.
“I don’t think it is in the best interest of this village to continue all of the controversy regarding how the city financial practices are managed,” Nace said. “I believe it is important to be objective, unbiased and legally in compliance with state laws.”
She advocated accountability for council members, with the dais acting responsibly and honoring commitments “to ensure what happened six months ago never happens again.”
“In our vision, it says we are dedicated to remaining united and working together as friends, neighbors and citizens for the protection, preservation of the natural beauty and uniqueness of our country village and family way of life,” Nace said. “This is the village’s vision then and it still is now and it’s mine.”
Nace’s backers, including Ryan, Wilder and Council Member Cynthia Metro, boasted about the extreme time and effort she has devoted to Volente, taking on responsibilities that remained after other officials and staff resigned.
Baker, a long-time resident who served the village as its mayor pro tem from 2015 to 2017, applied July 1 for the mayoral position. He said he initially toyed with the idea of running since it seemed like “a bit of chaos to be jumping in the middle of.”
“Council has been really constrained from accomplishing a lot over the last six months, mostly due to the quorum problems and disagreements with the mayor, legal bills and those sorts of things,” Baker said. “I think maybe there’s a chance here to actually turn the corner.”
Baker and his supporters touted his extensive city and financial experience, with Baker citing his top priority was to revise the city’s budget for the current year due to overspending in several expenditure categories, with the revision needed to cover those overages. He said the city is behind on developing its 2020 budget and also sought to reinvigorate Volente’s administrative committees to provide community input on the city’s future direction.
According to Baker, Volente is also about two years behind on the codification of its ordinances in an online publication so residents would be able to find them.
He called for the village to “clean up” its financial records that reflected a major misstatement for sales tax revenue for the year and an erroneous property tax record calculation.
The village just completed a 2016 audit of its books, with the 2017 and 2018 audits underway, council member Sean Ryan said.
Council passed two resolutions on June 5 requesting the resignation of both Springer and Connors. The measures cited Springer and Connors for not fulfilling the duties of their offices, with Springer’s 11 absences from regular and special called council meetings together with Connors’ nine absences as preventing the city from having a quorum. The matter has been referred to the Travis County District Attorney’s office.
Although Springer resigned the following day, Connors said he doesn’t intend to leave the dais.
“I think it’s ridiculous what they’re doing and I do not plan to resign,” Connors told the Four Points News on July 2.